Maybe you consider yourself a bit of a green goddess. After all, you recycle, you haven't taken a sip of bottled water in years, you buy your sweaters from an all-female Guatemalan knitters' co-op and your shoes are made from recycled tires.
But hold on a minute. Have you checked your makeup bag? What you use to look naturally beautiful just might be chock-full of chemically enhanced cosmetics encased in large, nonrecyclable plastic containers.
But, you say, what choice do you have?
What woman doesn't want to put on a little luscious lip shimmer or glam eye shadow from time to time, even if there could be a cost to the environment, nevertheless your health?
This dilemma has many beauty buffs wondering if it's possible to be green and still look good.
"There are no definitions or standards in terms of what's organic and what's natural, so for consumers right now, it's buyer beware," said Jane Houlihan, vice president of research for the Environmental Research Group.
It comes down to "buyer beware" because the Food and Drug Administration doesn't set standards on ingredients manufacturers are allowed to use in beauty products. Your lipstick could contain petroleum-based preservatives, hormone-disrupting benzophenone, or your foundation might have a formaldehyde-based preservative, and mascara could contain mercury.
More cosmetic companies are making an effort to go green, offering environmentally friendly products that contain natural and organic ingredients, fewer chemicals and preservatives, and recyclable packaging.
Kiehl's, the New York-based skin and hair care company, has been using natural ingredients for about 150 years, ever since the company began as a small apothecary selling tonics and salves to Manhattan locals.
The company Web site, Kiehls.com, shows a lengthy list of natural ingredients, from sweet almond oil to avocado oil to yerba mate tea. Recently, the company began a fair trade initiative with a woman's cooperative in Morocco.
"Argan oil is known to have really high levels of antioxidants. Someone from our global product development team was on vacation in Morocco and found these beans and brought them back to us and said, 'What can we do with these,'" said Betty Kim-English, Kiehl's assistant vice president of marketing. From those beans, Kiehl's developed a skin salve, a body lotion and a restorative oil, and made a commitment to help sustain the Argan forests.
The company also uses almost no secondary packaging. You know the kind — the pretty, but environmentally unfriendly, cardboard boxes that surround most beauty products. When you buy from Kiehl's, your body lotion comes in a simple, recyclable bottle.
They even use soy ink in their mailings.
The San Francisco-based beauty giant Bare Escentuals was one of the first cosmetic companies to introduce a mineral-based line of products. Mineral-based products are believed to be better for you because the finely ground minerals are lighter on your skin and don't contain talc, oil or chemicals. The full bareMinerals makeup line is a hot seller for the company.
"We stay away from preservatives, waxes and fillers. We keep it simple and use the minerals in their purest form," said Staci Reilly, senior vice president of brand awareness and development for Bare Escentuals.