A chemical-free recipe for beauty

05.11.2011

Former model turned blogger is a hit with her message about natural beauty

By Janet Wilson, Postmedia News May 9, 2011


Charmaine Cianciullo isn't a singer or an aspiring actress, but the organic esthetician is making waves in social media. Since she began blogging in 2008, she has become a leading voice in the movement for safe, natural cosmetics, garnering 15,000 followers on Twitter, 250,000 YouTube views and a recent feature in the Huffington Post.

"I have a great message and people want to hear it," said Ottawa-based Cianciullo, who is a recent convert to the green movement. She is behind Manotick's Peppermint Organic Spa, where she offers handmade skin care, nail and hair removal treatments free of synthetic ingredients created for each client's specific skin type.

Cianciullo had a life-altering moment three years ago while reading the book, Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry by Stacy Malkan.

"I was in the process of trying to get gorgeous to fit into my wedding dress by losing weight and eating healthier. I was given the book as a Christmas gift and what I read made me want to quit my job. I didn't want to work in a toxic environment or expose customers to chemicals," said Cianciullo, who was working in an area spa at the time.

The former model has long been an advocate of positive body image for young girls. In 2008, she started the popular YouTube video blog Glamology.com, which is a guide to natural and organic makeup, skin care, fashion, and nutrition, and is the owner of Mintand-Berry.com, an online eco-beauty boutique.

"The media want women to look like celebrities," she says. "We bake our skin in the sun and apply cosmetics laced with chemicals wanting to look beautiful. It's like going to McDonalds for a meal. You get instant satisfaction, but you feel lousy 30 minutes later. The same can be said about your skin."

Cianciullo opened a spa in her home and began networking with others in the green movement. Two years ago, she went to Los Angeles to visit the women behind the website Greengirls.com to pick up tips on how to craft a successful message. She is now a contributing editor on the site.

"In a single visit to a beauty or nail salon, a woman can easily be exposed to thousands of potentially harmful chemicals," she says. "The biggest organ on a human is our skin. The big brand names are the most guilty when it comes to using chemicals."

The 30-year-old esthetician prefers to work with "the simple stuff found on the Earth" such as Manuka honey from the New Zealand bee, shea butter, beeswax, essential oils for fragrance, vegetable glycerine, argan oil to hydrate the skin and pure aloe gel with no preservatives or alcohol. Corn starch is used in favour of talc powder and walnut husks and raw sugar for exfoliants for pedicures.

She carries an array of product lines, including Cocoon Apothecary, Trillium Organics, Pomega5, Zosimos Botanicals, Urban Forest, Suncoat nail polish.

"The most important thing for everyone, especially women, is to realize that there is a lack of governmental regulation with respect to ingredients in personal-care products, and it's up to each of us to personally determine if a product is safe."

A key resource for learning about the potential health risks associated with cosmetics is the Environmental Working Group's website, cosmeticsdatabase.com.

The site features a collection of personalcare product ingredient listings with more than 50 toxicity and regulatory databases.

"Conventional creams, scrubs, and nail polishes used in most spas contain a cocktail of synthetic chemicals, including parabens, petroleum by-products and phthalates; all of which have been linked to health issues from headaches, eye, nose and throat irritation, nervous system disorders, skin conditions like eczema, birth defects, hormone disruption and damage to the liver and kidneys," Cianciullo said.

FIVE NATURAL BEAUTY TIPS

- Get rid of your conventional nail polish and opt for a water-based solution.

- Include mineral makeup with your beauty regimen.

Don't use products with colour additives. Earth Beauty mineral makeup is a favourite of Cianciullo's.

- Drop petroleum-based lip balm in favour of natural options. Badger and Eco Lips are Cianciullo's top picks.

- Natural facial oils such as argan oil are an ideal way of hydrating the skin.

You can put a few drops in bath water, on your face and on your hair to control frizz.

- Baking soda can be used to whiten your teeth and sprinkled on the palm of your hands, patted onto your arm pits for protection against sweating.

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