The Truth About “Organic” Cosmetics

If you’ve been to the cosmetics isle lately, you may have noticed a new trend: Organic Cosmetics. What exactly does this term mean? Is organic really better? Most importantly, is it safer for you? This conversation is part of an on-going series about makeup safety. Other posts include Is Mineral Makeup Safe?,Lipstick’s Ugly Side and They Put WHAT?! in Your Lipstick.

Little Regulation for Cosmetics

Before we jump in, it’s important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT regulate makeup. The FDA’s authority over makeup is very specific and bars the use of harmful chemicals. Sounds good right? Well, most of the chemicals that are harmful in makeup are actually byproducts and are therefore not listed on the labeling of a product. On the FDA’s official website, they clearly state that the cosmetics industry has to self regulate the safety of their products.

What Makes a Cosmetics Product “Organic?

The FDA addressed this question: There is no definition under United States law in relation to cosmetics. While no definition exists, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does regulate the process through which agricultural ingredients are certified as “organic.”

For a cosmetic product to be certified organic, it must meet USDA standards for organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards (source). To receive an organic certification, the operators that produce the organic agricultural ingredients, the handlers of these agricultural ingredients, and the manufacturer of the final product must all be certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agent.

PHEW! That was a lot of government jargon so let’s break it down: There is no definition of organic. Products that are certified organic must go through a rigorous process that accesses every step of production.

“Organic” Does Not Mean “Safe”

Before getting too excited, the FDA clearly states that just because a product is organic does not mean it’s safe. Plants may still contain harmful toxins and allergens.

The cosmetics company will tell you that though, right? Wrong. While companies have to list ingredients, there are still health risks associated with makeup. Since the FDA tasks the cosmetics industry with self regulation, only a very small percentage of products are actually tested for safety.

Consumer Responsibility

Luckily, there’s resources out there that can make you an informed consumer. If you take nothing else away from this post other than this you’ll be in good shape: A product is not considered organic under law unless it has a certification by the USDA on its label. This label indicates that the product has gone through the rigorous testing mentioned above. If there is no label, you cannot trust that the product is organic. Here’s the label you want to look for on a product’s label:

Another powerful resource is the Cosmetics Database, a resource developed by a non-profit focusing makeup safety. You can research various products on this site and find out if there are any health risks associated with a particular organic cosmetic product.

AOrganic isn’t organic if it doesn’t have a label. And even if it is organic, it may still be harmful to your health. Do your research before laying down your hard earned cash on products that may be toxic.

How to Foster Shelter Dogs and Cats

Despite its ups and downs, fostering dogs and cats has been an amazing and trying experience for me. I’ve transformed in ways I could never have imagined. Most importantly, fostering has introduced me to a wide variety of characters in the form of cats and dogs. I started fostering dogs in August 2009 when I moved into an apartment that allowed animals. Originally I wanted to adopt a dog but never singlehandedly cared for an animal so I wanted to “test drive” dog ownership before diving in. I quickly realized that due to my financial and work situation, a dog was not right for me therefore making fostering the perfect opportunity to interact and care for animals I could not afford.

What is “Fostering”?

Typically fostering is a volunteer opportunity in which you take an animal into your home until it is adopted permanently by another person. Typically the animal is legally owned by a shelter, though this isn’t always the case. Fostering gives a dog or cat a sense of normality as well as the time to develop social skills through interaction with other animals and people. Through this process, the shelter learns the traits of an individual animal, therefore making it more appealing to adopters.

Piper, my first foster, is a two-year-old terrier/Labrador mix

Commonly Asked Questions

One of the most common questions I get from potential adopters of my foster animals is, “Why don’t you adopt them?” Some assume that there must be something wrong with the dog that I don’t want him or her myself. My answer? It’s not my job. My job as a foster is to provide an animal with emotional stability as well as a safe and happy home until they find a permanent family. If I adopted all the animals I fostered, I would have almost ten animals—not very realistic for a girl on a budget with a 40+ hour a week job!

Tristan and Floyd, adult male cats with FIV

Of course, I would be lying to say it was easy. I fostered Tristan and Floyd for seven months and in March before someone was seriously interested in adopting them. My stomach flipped but not because of happiness. I grew to love this duo, who are opposites in every way. I had made excuses why I couldn’t adopt them and it wasn’t until one of the shelter workers asked me, “Well, why don’t you just adopt them yourself?” that I really considered it a realistic option. Without much pomp and circumstance, I signed the contracts and took my two cats home forever.

Staying Guarded

With dogs, I’ve found it much easier to keep my guard up and not get attached. In some respects it’s easy because most dogs I’ve fostered inevitably end up exhibiting quirky yet bizarre behavior.

Ashton. The Jack Russell mix, was an escape artist and got out of his crate numerous times—twice with a cone on his head.


Squirt, the pit bull puppy, though sweet was a menace to humans and animals and tried to have interspecies “relations” with my cats. With crazy behavior like that, it’s easy to let them go once they get adopted.

I do have to admit that I often choose not to attend adoption events as I have found it hard to say goodbye to the animals. Sometimes I’m judgmental of their potential adopters, who fill out a four page application and have an interview before taking an animal home. The dogs also become distracted by me and often pay me more attention than their potential family, so I just prefer not to be there when they find a home.

The best way I can tell you to get started with fostering is to utilize to research local shelters in your area. My next best advice would be to do some online research of your region and what organizations exist.

If you have more than one shelter as an option, contact them and ask questions. Does the shelter provide you with the necessary supplies like food, a crate and some toys? If not, are you willing to incur this cost? What does the shelter require of you? What is expected if the animal has to go to the vet?

Ask your friends who have animals. Every shelter is different and will have an unique reputation in your community. Find people you want to work with since you will be getting to know the shelter staff as well as you know the dogs and cats you foster. From my time fostering, I can honestly say that those who volunteer and work for shelters will be the most interesting, compassionate and opinionated people you will ever have the pleasure of knowing. Choose wisely.

Rosie the Riveter Halloween Costume

I dressed up as the iconic vintage Rosie the Riveter for Halloween from the 1940s.It was a huge hit and I surprised by the amount of people who guessed it right away.I originally wanted to do something in the 1940s to 1950s theme and, more importantly, I didn’t want to spend a single dime! Everything you see in this photo, I already owned.

What I used to achieve the makeup look:

MAC Studio Tech Foundation in NW 20
Pixi Lumi Lux Lip Palette – a mix of the darkest red, purple and clear gloss (similar)
Prestige Liquid Eyeliner in brown/black
ELF Mascara in Clear
Maybelline Pressed Powder in Fair (similar)
Lancome eyeshadow in white, dark brown and light brown from Lancome Absolu Voyage Complete Make-Up Palette
Wet’n’Wild Eye Expressions eyeshadow in pearly white (similar)
Maybelline Define a Line Brow Pencil in Brunette

10 Facts About Me

10. I spent four months in Italy in 2006.

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Ethical Ways to Buy Makeup

I’ve decided to become more ethical  and aware of what makeup products I purchase. The following is my plan of attack for finding quality products at low price that are well made, good for your skin and not tested on animals. This process may seem like a lot of work but over time it will save you money.

Narrow Your Search by Ruling Out Companies that Test on Animals

Visit a website with a reliable list of cosmetics companies that do and do not test on animals. I prefer PETA because I find them to be trustworthy. On their site you can search for companies that do and do not test on animals as well as companies listed as “Cruelty Free.”


Don’t worry! You will have a lot of options since there are many mainstream brands that do not test on animals including Revlon, Almay, Rimmel, Prestige, Wet ‘n’ Wild just to name a few. And those are just the ones found in the drug store!

Find Out Which Products are High Quality

Locate the latest edition of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me by Paula Begoun, a book that rates products from the majority of cosmetics lines. Items are rated from Poor to Excellent, so you’ll know where your item stands and why it received that rating. Jot down a list of products you may be interested in based on the description, your interest and skin type.

Visit Makeup Alley and Create an Account

Makeup Alley is an invaluable resource to makeup lovers as it allows users to give feedback on cosmetics products. This site serves two purposes in your search: It provides information on products Don’t Go may not review and it gives you an idea of how the product works on a wide variety of people. Got an oily t-zone? Have dry skin? Users with these skin types give reviews on how the item worked for them. Consider this your virtual department store cosmetics counter.

Is it Toxic?

Now that you have a more defined list of products, the next step is to find out if there are any harmful chemicals or by-products that may be damaging to your health. This step can be taken at any time in this process before you go to the store. Visit The Cosmetics Database to find out if your potential purchase is harmful. Products are rated from Low to High Risk.

Check the Sales

Target stores that have sales for products you’re interested in. You can do this through visiting a store’s website directly.

Hit the Store With List in Hand

Now that you have ruled out companies that test on animals, products that don’t live up to their promises as well as products that won’t work for your skin type, it’s time to the store where the sales are! This is your chance to view the products in person and make our decision. If you can, take advantage of stores that allow you to test the product. Keep in mind to ask about the store’s return policy as you should be able to return items that just aren’t quite right.

This process seems involved, but it’s very much worth it. If you follow these steps, you should end up with a product that suits you, your skin and your values.