Years ago, as I was spring cleaning, I decided to embark on a serious makeup purge. It wasn’t that I had a massive, expired cosmetics collection that needed to be overhauled, or that I no longer liked the products I had (because I did). Instead, it was the simple fact that I had learned about the ingredients lurking in most of them — from lead and silicones, to phthalates and parabens — and how harmful these can be to one’s health. As a self-professed health nut, I reasoned that if I was concerned about the ingredients I was putting in me, then I should be just as concerned about the ingredients I was putting on me. After all, the skin is the largest organ and it absorbs all those lotions and cosmetics we slather onto it each morning — along with the not-so-clean chemicals those can be laden with.

Carcinogens, neurotoxins, and endocrine disruptors? Yeah, I’ll pass.

Yet, as convicted as I felt about replacing the toxic personal care products I was using, I was still reluctant to. First, I was skeptical as to whether or not non-toxic brands could live up to their original counterparts. And second, I didn’t know which “natural” brands to trust and which ones were just green-washing, because let’s face it: labels like “organic” and “free of” don’t mean much, and it’s tough to decipher what a product’s actual ingredients mean.

Reading a mascara label? It’s like reading something in a foreign language. How are we supposed to know what PEG-100 Stearate and Panthenol are, and whether these ingredients are harmful or not?

As a non-toxic newbie, I relied on niche boutiques like The Detox Market, Follain, Credo, and others to find alternatives to that certain $62 skin-perfecting foundation and HG glow-inducing highlighter I thought I could never part with. It was much easier to know a store’s ingredient standards and go from there, than to memorize a list of harmful ingredients or look each item up in the Environmental Working Group’s online database. However, with some trial and error, I was able to find some amazing new skincare and makeup brands that work for me and that I can feel good about — some that live up to (and even surpass) their “toxic” counterparts.

I’d love to end this feel-good KonMari story there, but if I’m honest, I have to admit: although I went 100% non-toxic after that first purge, I’ve since re-introduced some original products back into the mix (because as far as I’m aware, nothing comes even close to comparing to the cult-classic, Biologique’s Lotion P50).

In the end, it’s all about balance and finding what works, right? I mean, I don’t eat clean 100% of the time either. That might be the goal, but sometimes it’s just not worth being miserable over.

Most of us need a little wiggle room in our routines to avoid feeling restricted or becoming obsessive. Like our diets or our wardrobes, our personal care regimens should be flexible and able to evolve with our ever-fluctuating needs and circumstances.

It’s the reason spring cleaning exists in the first place; there are just some things we’re meant to come back to and improve as we grow, season after season.

What about you? How do you feel about non-toxic beauty?

Amy Cummins is a writer and marketing professional based in Los Angeles. She is passionate about creating meaningful dialogue and empowering others through her writing, which has been featured on The Huffington Post, Darling Magazine, and POPSUGAR, among other blogs and websites. You can connect with her on Instagram and her website.

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