Enter to Win Miessence GIVEAWAY & Meet Sustainable Personal Care Guru Lacey Swartz

March 15, 2012 in Environment, Giveaway, Interview, Personal Care, Sustainability by Heba

Get excited, My Life in a Pyramid fans and friends; today I’m hosting my first giveaway on the blog! Enter at the bottom of this post.

As you’ll learn through this interview with my friend, personal care consultant Lacey Swartz, what you put on your body, and what you clean your surroundings with are just as important as what you put in your body. To enter this giveaway, simply go through the Rafflecopter widget at the end of this post. Every step through the Rafflecopter at the bottom of this post affords you one entry, and you can get a total of 6 possible entries (failing to comment on this post disqualifies you). So, what can you win? Here’s the exciting part: you get to choose between a free 30-minute consultation ($25 value) with Lacey or a voucher for a $25 Miessence gift certificate good towards any Miessence product(s). So, to be clear, the winner will be guaranteed $25 worth of awesome personal care advice (in the form of a label reading workshop or personalized suggestions) or in the form of Miessence certified organic products.

The Importance of Natural Personal Care

I wrote a couple of posts in the past about personal care: What a lot of people fail to realize is that our physical health is partly concerned with how much we expose our bodies to unnecessary toxins. Even if you already eat mostly organic foods with the least processing so that you’re avoiding a lot of toxins there, what about the personal care products you use – soap, lotion, deodorant, shaving cream, cologne/perfume, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, etc? What kinds of chemicals are used to make these products? Evidence has shown that ingredients slathered on the skin do get absorbed into the bloodstream over time (think about it: some women apply a simple patch to the skin as a birth control method!) I believe that it’s very important to seek out the most natural and least toxic brands of personal care, cosmetics, and cleaning products available. (And if all else fails, you can learn to easily make some products yourself at home).

But, even if you try your best to seek out these products, you will likely face some challenges. Since there is no governmental regulation of these products, people remain confused. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:

The FDA does not review – nor does it have the authority to regulate – what goes into cosmetics before they are marketed for salon use and consumer use. In fact, 89 percent of all ingredients in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. Ironically, most consumers believe the U.S. government regulates the cosmetics industry the same way it regulates food and drugs sold in this country to make sure they’re safe. The truth is, no one’s minding the store when it comes to shampoo, skin moisturizers, baby products, lipstick or any other personal care product.

(You can learn more about the issues with the personal care industry in this short video “The Story of Cosmetics” made by Annie Leonard.)

These days, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decipher whether or not a company is honestly committed to being more eco-friendly. The practice of greenwashing, or painting a misleading picture of environmentally-friendly activities and ingredients, is becoming a prevalent reality, with more and more companies trying to literally ‘cash in’ on the green market. However, a handful of companies have sprung up in recent years that have been promoting a rigorous approach of using only the most environmentally-safe and health-friendly ingredients in their products. One such company is Miessence, a personal care company that is heralded as carrying “the first and most comprehensive range of certified organic skin, hair, cosmetic and body care products on the planet.”

Interview with Lacey Swartz, Miessence Representative and Eco-Friendly Mom of Four

Eager to learn more about Miessence, I chatted with Lacey Swartz, a Miessence representative and a staunch believer in eco-friendly products, to get her take on the personal care and cosmetic industry. Lacey is a mother of four, ages 7 and under, who started becoming passionate about safe products shortly after having her first child. You can read more about Lacey’s “green” journey on her website.

1. Tell me a little about your story and what you do. How did you get interested in working in the area of personal care?

When my daughter was 7 months old, I became aware of the questionable ingredients in the baby shampoo and lotions we were using. Around the same time, a friend introduced me to a safer semi-natural line of products that allowed me to build a home-based consulting business in the field of healthier personal care options. Today, I help people learn to evaluate the health and environmental impacts of personal care product choices in general, and for those who are interested, I offer various client services on behalf of the particular organic brand that, after 7 years of research, I personally find to be the best choice for the health of my family and the planet.

Miessence - Our Bodies

Miessence concealer and lipstick on the Organic & Natural newsletter

2. When did you realize that you are passionate about safe cosmetics and products to focus your career around this important issue?

Becoming passionate about this was a gradual process. The more I researched, the more passionate I became about raising awareness about the negative effects that toxic synthetic chemicals can have on our health and the health of the planet. For me, this goes way beyond just personal care and cosmetics; however, I have found that this is one of the easiest places to start toward living a less toxic, less environmentally-damaging life. As opposed to equally important but often more difficult habits to break such as food choices, energy consumption, or trash disposal, committing to non-toxic, eco-friendly personal hygiene is a simple matter of finding safe and environmentally responsible products to replace the ones you already use.

3. What are the top three easiest ways to start making a transition to a greener home, free of harmful chemicals and  abrasive solvents? 

Personal care is definitely the simplest place for most people to start – and especially important because the products are used in direct contact with the body, often 2 times a day.  Whether high or low maintenance, most people have established routines and it becomes a simple matter of choosing safer products.  Choosing safer household cleaners is another important step that is simple for the same reasons personal care is – swapping out products – but more challenging because on most cleaners, there isn’t even an ingredient label to be read and evaluated.  There are a lot of good DIY cleaning options out there, and you can find ready-made products nowadays that don’t say ‘hazardous’ and ‘warning’ all over the label.  And the third thing I’d recommend is to stop using chemicals in your yard – which is a whole ‘nother topic itself!

4. What is special about Miessence? How are the products set apart from others in the industry?

I spent nearly a month researching Miessence and testing the products before deciding to represent them, and what impressed me most was their staunch commitment to truly natural ingredients and sustainable business operations. As the world’s first line of personal care products to achieve certification to organic food standards back in 2001, Miessence offers the widest range of certified organic products on the market, with fully recyclable packaging and bio-degradable packaging under research. Certified organic products offer the purest possible options for your health and ensure that zero pesticides, GMOs, or other synthetic chemicals were released into the environment to create your products. By powering their manufacturing facilities with wind power and offsetting more than their share of global shipping emissions through global reforestation work, Miessence is also the world’s first carbon-negative personal care and wellness company. I love knowing that the box arrives direct from the manufacturer to my doorstep in 5-7 days not only with zero net negative effect on the environment, but actually with a net positive effect – even all the way from Australia. The products are just excellent in every way.

5. What products in personal care and home cleaning would you say are the “worst offenders”? In other words, what conventional items would you say people should definitely stop using right away, and which products, Miessence or homemade, would you recommend instead? 

Ditch the antibacterial hand soaps and cleaning products.  They are contributing to the rise of super germs and weakening your immunity to fight the germs at the same time.  Plus, antibacterial ingredients cause serious problems in the waterways.  For hand soap, I love the refillable hand soap and its concentrate from Miessence.  For hand santitizer, you can make your own with some aloe gel (2/3), water (1/3), tea tree oil (2-5 drops depending on bottle size), and your choice of eucalyptus, peppermint, orange, or lemon oil (also 2-5 drops).  You can also make natural antibacterial cleaning solution with water and essential oils.

Also ditch the chemical sunscreens – I really need to do a blog post on this one this spring.  Long story short – again, the chemicals are not good for you or the waterways.  If you go to Mexico, they won’t let you wear chemical sunscreens in the water near the coral reefs – it’s toxic to the eco system.  Look instead for a physical sunblock ingredient, such as non-nanoparticle zinc oxide.  We are super pale in our house and were really impressed with the Miessence Reflect Outdoor BalmIt made the EWG’s best sunscreen list back when there were only 30+ options that ranked. It works really well, and stays on really well. It’s pricier than some, but we found, because it stayed on so well that we didn’t have to keep reapplying a ton and so it lasts a long time. And unless you have a serious skin cancer risk, give yourself a bit of sun first before applying a sunblock. Vitamin D deficiency is a huge issue, and too much sunblock is contributing to this problem.

6. What are your favorite Miessence products?

I have not tried one yet that I didn’t like, though a couple took some getting used to at first. For example, having been so used to the slick, lathery feeling of semi-natural shampoo, the Miessence shampoo felt very strange in my hair – like a bird’s nest. But boy, did it work (and after a few weeks, the nest feeling while shampooing went away). The shampoo lady where I get my hair cut always used to say to me, “Well, you have some build-up…” But after switching to Miessence, she said, “Did you just wash your hair? It’s so clean.” Yay for detoxing the hair and getting all the dimethicone and other synthetic junk out of it! If I had to pick my absolute favorites: the basic skin care products, the shampoo and conditioner, the toothpaste, the deodorant, the lip balm… Oh, and it’s a special treat, but I love ambrosia essence serum… And the blemish gel, though I don’t have to use it often… And the probiotic and antioxidant superfoods …

A few Miessence products, from left to right: Certified Organic Jaffa Lip Balm, Concealer, Mascara, and Lipstick

7. It is often said that many companies participate in greenwashing these days, and give off a false impression about their products. Do you feel that the words ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘fragrance-free’ are sometimes stamped haphazardly and dishonestly on products that don’t deserve these labels, and for the sole sake of marketing and advertising? Also, how do you promote awareness about these issues?

Yes, this is a huge issue. If you don’t understand what’s really in the product, it’s hard to find one that lines up with your values for natural or organic. Many of the products out there today are just marketing ploys: adding a few “natural” ingredients here and there, or developing a natural line alongside their conventional lines just to gain market share on the ‘natural’ personal care industry (which is not as natural as you’d probably hope). Since everyone values different things, I work to educate people on how to decipher the marketing claims, ingredient lists, and environmental impacts of any product they consider so that they can find what lines up with their values. For example, some people are okay with semi-natural and don’t mind non-recyclable packaging (unfortunately), while others want truly all-natural and as beneficial to people and the planet as possible.

8. You lead label-reading workshops as part of your effort to educate people about what they’re putting on their bodies or using in their homes. Tell us a little bit about label reading. How can we learn to understand what’s safe on an ingredient label? (Some of those long scientific names are hard to pronounce, let alone figure out what they’re made of!)

Heba, great question, but this is really hard to answer quickly.  The super short version of our workshops is 10-20 minutes and the long version is close to an hour.  One quick tip I can give you is to type an ingredient you’re unsure of into a Google search with “MSDS” after it.  That will bring up the material safety data sheet and you can see for yourself what’s going on with the ingredient.  A good example is the MSDS for phenoxyethanol.  We do have a recording of one of our most recent label reading webinars availabe on my website if your readers would like the whole scoop.

Ingredients on the Miessence Lemon Myrtle Shampoo and Anise Toothpaste

9. The fashion scene is infiltrated with countless ads about personal care products and cosmetics, which oftentimes contain many artificial ingredients. How do you envision shifting the focus in fashion circles to more natural products that are also more healthy?

Information, empowerment, and encouragement to spread the word are key. Many people simply don’t know what are in these products and why they should be concerned. Many people are confused and frustrated by the misleading marketing terminology and greenwashing. Very few people realize the huge impacts something as seemingly trivial as personal care product choices can have on the environment. And among those who have an awareness of the concerns, many don’t yet realize that advancements in green chemistry have reached a point where synthetic chemicals are not necessary in these products anymore. You can get great products with great results and a great shelf life, without the synthetic tradeoffs.

10. How do you see yourself using social networking to market Miessence to the general public?

Social networking – online or offline – is the most effective way to get the word out for any message these days. People ignore impersonal ads that just pitch products but are devoid of any truly valuable content or genuine face and mission behind them. But if you have a valuable message to share that a growing number of people actually want to hear, with a product or service that truly lives up to those standards, then a beautiful win-win situation is created. In the case of my work with Miessence, my clients find products they can trust for their health and the health of the planet, and I get two major joys out of it all: 1) I love helping people live less-toxic, greener lives, knowing it is contributing to a better future for all, and 2) it is such a blessing to have my own, home-based eco-business to balance both my family and professional goals.

Who is Lacey Swartz?

Lacey Swartz is a mom of four and a believer in sustainable, eco-friendly products. In April 2005, she began using personal care products with fewer synthetic chemicals, but she had no idea there actually existed a truly chemical-free option that would stay reliably fresh against dangerous microbes or rancidity and also deliver great results. Then she found Miessence. She was a very happy customer for a while before she decided to become a representative. She holds label reading workshops to promote awareness about ingredients in personal care products, and consults on how to transition to a more eco-friendly, sustainable and toxin-free lifestyle. She will happily help you select personal care products, cosmetics or superfoods during a consultation. There are several ways to save on Miessence products; contact her for more information!

Contact Lacey here, or give her a call at 609-504-1802.

To enter the giveaway, carefully follow these instructions through the Rafflecopter widget. Failing to comment on this post disqualifies you. Winner will be announced by Sunday, March 25, 2012. 

*Post shared on Real Food Freaks Freaky Friday, Butter Believer’s Sunday School, The Healthy Home Economist’s Monday Mania, and Real Food Wednesday

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