Native Beauty, Naturally


First, I want to give all the thanks to Ashley at SMASH for inviting me to cover a topic of shared interest: locally made beauty products that don’t hurt the body or the planet. Disclaimer: I am not sponsored by any companies/brands mentioned in this post – I just fangirl over them on a borderline-inappropriate basis. All opinions are mine.

A few years ago, my acupuncturist was nice enough to point out the persistent redness and cracking around my sensitive eyes. “You’re too young for this,” she told me bluntly. Awesome! I blamed dehydration and the Denver altitude for my apparent middle-aged 20-something skin, the same skin plagued ironically by the cystic acne of a teenager absolutely raging with hormones.

Not long after that needling, with a little research, I became aware of carcinogens and other toxins found in an alarming number of cosmetics, even many parading as “natural.” SMASH has a great post on the subject, here. The more I dug into big beauty’s dirty dealings, the more disgusted I felt. Unlike how proplyparabens disrupt the endocrine system, the flood of information disrupted my skincare routine (and health) for the better.

For the last two years, I’ve relied on the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s Skin Deep resource to find products and vet ingredient labels. Their database is massive and they issue hazard rankings 1-10 based on a handful of terrifying categories (and a shit-load of science). They even have an app for geeking on the go! Thankfully, once the initial horror of discovering you currently apply neurotoxins directly to your eyes wears off, you can also use Skin Deep to restore your faith in humanity. A quick search reveals small-batch gamechangers around the world who are creating cosmetics with rosehips and papaya instead of phthalates and formaldehyde.

Recently, I’ve anchored my intentional skincare odyssey closer to home. In an effort to support small business, limit environmental impact, and use products geared for our Mile High climate, I now try to buy EWG-approved goods made exclusively along the Front Range. Fortunately, Colorado is thriving with innovators of natural, sustainable beauty solutions who totally get it, down to their zero-waste packaging. I present to you the local creators who have revolutionized my routine:

Spinster Sisters, originally based out of Golden and now with storefronts in RiNo and Cherry Creek, covers my daily regimen:

I also love Boulder-based Verbena, specifically their Sea Salt hair texturizer and Facial Grains scrub, which delivers all the benefits of exfoliation without shredding your face or clogging the ocean floor with plastic microbeads. 

Lastly, I have yet to try them, but am super interested in pretty much everything at Native Nectar and ZERO Market, both crafting sustainable, beautiful things in Denver. 

As for makeup, although they are not exactly local, I’m a big fan of Vapour Organic Beauty out of neighboring Taos, New Mexico. I particularly love their Atmosphere Soft Focus Foundation and multi-use Halo Illuminator for channeling that healthy, lit-from-within vibe. I’m still on the hunt for a Colorado maker of natural eye makeup, but in the meantime get my Mineral Fusion mascara and liner from Whole Foods.

In my two-year quest to invest in natural and native cosmetics, I’ve observed these developments:

  • I still get the occasional breakout, but very rarely get cystic acne. This is remarkable given where I started.
  • The redness and cracking around my eyes is completely gone. I now attribute that irritation to my old mascara, eyeliner, or makeup remover.
  • My skin feels consistently softer, smoother, and more hydrated.
  • Colorado is absolutely killing it in the eco-chic beauty department, and we’re only getting started.

What works for me doesn’t for everyone else. Like SMASH Beauty Bar, I encourage each person to find the right regimen for him or her. No matter where you shop or what your skincare goals are, though, it’s always worth learning what’s going on in your cosmetics cabinet and onto your body. In fact, go grab a product you use every day, head to Skin Deep and start deciphering that ingredient list. Warning, there is no going back!

Written by Kelly Magrath