Ask Eartha Steward |

Ask Eartha Steward

EARTHA STEWARDHigh Country Conservation Center
High Country Conservation Center

Just because I pride myself on being (and feeling like) a natural woman doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy my share of lotions, shampoos and other beauty products. I may not shave my legs in the winter, but in our mountain climate I apply gobs of lotions year-round.Recently I read an article that recommended avoiding synthetic ingredients called parabens that are found in lotions and beauty products. At that point I didn’t quite understand what parabens were, but I was confident that the products I use don’t include anything that warranted a warning. So I decided to take a look on the back of my favorite ‘natural’ sunscreen. The sunscreen said it was “Chemical Free,” so when I read the ingredients I was surprised to find methylparaben listed on the label. Confusion set in and I thought to myself, “So what ingredients are truly “natural?”In the shampoo, lotion and makeup aisles I notice products labeled “natural” or “organic.” Those products always appeal to me, so after reading the article I started to turn them around and read the labels. I was confronted with names like “methyl-,propyl-, butyl-, and ethyl- parabens” or the even harder to pronounce name “imidazolidinyl urea.” On bottle after bottle there were names I couldn’t pronounce, and I’m the kind of person that feels anything I can’t pronounce shouldn’t be put on or in my body. Still, I didn’t quite understand what parabens were, so I did a little research. Parabens are a widely used preservative in cosmetics and lotions, especially those containing botanical ingredients. The parabens used in lotions and makeup are synthetically produced, though one of them, methylparaben, can occur naturally.The concern about parabens is that they mimic estrogen. Higher levels of estrogen may cause breast cancer or reproductive problems. While there have been studies done on parabens that link them to breast cancer, more research is still needed for solid scientific evidence. And most conclusions lead to the need for more studies.So, when scientists say that more studies should be done on parabens, especially on long-term effects, I like to exercise the “precautionary principle” because there are options for products without parabens. One product, recently recommended to me by local eco-mama Caroline Foley, is Aubrey Organics sun care products. She had done her research because Aubrey Organics sun care products do not contain strange ingredients and work wonderfully for protection against our mountain sun. Plus, Aubrey Organics is a completely paraben-free company and has been since the 1970s.The new Vitamin Cottage in Dillon offers almost the full line of Aubrey products and you can find more about the company at A couple other Aubrey favorites, used by Eartha’s Angels, are the calendula deodorant spray and the chamomile shampoo. But if you’re looking to support a local company, check out MyChelle Dermaceuticals, which is based in Frisco. MyChelle products are also available at the Vitamin Cottage or can be found online at And MyChelle products along with Aubrey products, are never tested on animals.Testing on animals is another important issue that should be considered when choosing a beauty product. Personally, it doesn’t make me feel very good to think about bunnies being mistreated just so a new shampoo can be made. Viable alternatives for testing ingredients are available, without the use of animals. A great resource for a list of hundreds of companies that don’t test on animals is As consumers we have the choice to say no to companies that test on animals because, as I mentioned before, there are viable alternative testing methods. Check out Caring Consumer’s list of companies that do test on animals as well and take a moment to write a letter. Its sounds super-grassroots but it really does work because a good company will value feedback from its customers.So, next time you reach for that delicious lotion that helps cure your mountain climate dry skin, take a look at the ingredients on the back. If you are looking at a favorite product you’ve been using for a while and you notice something you’re not quite sure about, take a moment to research it. Or, be totally wild and try something new. By supporting companies that use truly natural, healthy ingredients and that are cruelty-free, we can set a higher standard for beauty products in general. Who knows, maybe someday you’ll see Eartha Steward on a glossy magazine cover modeling the latest all natural, totally organic lipstick brand. Well, only if the magazine is printed on 100 percent post-consumer paper, of course.Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Holly Loff, and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.Submit questions to Eartha at with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, PO Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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