“You are what you eat.” We’ve heard it all our lives, and sometime in the last couple of decades it started to mean much more to mainstream consumers than simply “eating healthy”. Widespread knowledge of what healthy food consumption is has evolved well past “increase intake of fruits and vegetables” and “avoid red meat and unhealthy fats” to a greatly-expanded and granular public awareness of food production in terms of ‘organic’ versus ‘conventional’ — what the differences between the two are, and why they matter. This is clearly evidenced by the steady acceleration of organic food sales year-over-year. According to the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), worldwide sales of organic food grew over 500% between 1999 and 2014. People are getting it: consuming chemicals is probably not good for you.
But what about the concept of, “You are what you apply”? (Ok, I know it needs work. It definitely lacks that roll-off-the-tongue stickiness of “You are what you eat”, but let’s go with it for now. Please? Thank you.*) Mass understanding of the truth that what we put on our bodies matters as much (or more) than what we put in our bodies, while growing measurably and steadily, is still in its nascent phase. Most people have yet to make the leap that our skin — not just an organ like our internal organs, but in fact our body’s largest organ — absorbs up to 100% of what we put on it, with the permeability of the face being particularly high. But every day more and more people are getting the message, and the green beauty trend is growing massively as a result, with global organic personal care sales expected to crest $15 billion by 2020. And within the green beauty trend is the “Farm-To-Face” trend (which, frankly, we prefer to think of more as a movement than just a trend).
So What The Heck Is ‘Farm To Face’ Anyway?
Farm To Face is a young concept (we’re hard pressed to find references to it that predate 2012) and, as such, its definition is imprecise and evolving. It means different things to different people but at its heart it’s about purity, sustainability, and transparency as they pertain to the manufacture of green beauty products.
To an absolute purist, Farm To Face means a manufacturer of skin care products (for example) has controlled every aspect of production, beginning with growing and processing all of their own ingredients. This is incredibly admirable, and there are companies that are doing exactly that. But it’s also a potentially over-rigid definition that can be counter-productive to the advancement of the movement as a whole, (and also, by definition, limits those products to ingredients that can be grown within a small geographic radius, resulting in sacrifices in product efficacy). Our various skin types and needs are best cared for and attended to using a wide variety of chemical-free ingredients that simply can not be grown in one region. So as the Farm To Face movement grows, perhaps it would be better for us to think of it more holistically, or rather globally.
Dispensing with the rigid definition that the skin care products in question must originate from the personal farm of the manufacturer opens up a broader definition with the power to do greater, further-reaching good while maintaining what people are really seeking from green beauty makers — purity, sustainability, and transparency. Under the global definition of Farm To Face, the responsibility of the manufacturer shifts from ensuring the purity of their products by growing them themselves to ensuring suppliers worldwide are following good practices, and encouraging them to continue to improve their communities by supporting what they are up to.
And what are some of these good practices? Ensuring ingredients are certified organic and/or wildcrafted is one important thing steadfast Farm To Face manufacturers do to protect their consumers. Ensuring supplies are cruelty-free is another (thankfully) growing aspect of the Farm To Face movement. In the same way that harmful chemicals are simply not needed to create effective skin care and cosmetic products, there is no reason animals need be subjected to tests, especially when the products are made from organic, plant-based ingredients.
Why Should You Choose Farm To Face Green Beauty Products Over Conventional Beauty Products?
Well, there are a number reasons why, but if you want to look at it broadly, by choosing Farm To Face green beauty you are, in a sense, saving the world. (Wait… what? Run with me on this one for a moment).
In the terrific and frightening documentary Food Inc. the filmmakers show how consumers vote with their wallets when it comes to food production. In an on-camera interview a buyer from Wal-Mart states that as long as people buy organic Wal-Mart will continue to stock more and more organic products. And because consumers have chosen to do just that (showing a willingness to pay a premium for cleaner, healthier food) Wal-Mart’s ever-growing organic offerings have put them in direct competition with the likes of Whole Foods.
To be clear… This is a good thing. As The New York Times and other news outlets have reported, a massive decline in pollinators (not just bees, but birds, butterflies, bats and others) is threatening our global food supply, and a significant cause of this is the widespread use of pesticides and herbicides in agriculture. With global population projected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, any threat to the world’s food supply will have catastrophic consequences.
So what does this have to do with Farm To Face and green beauty? One of the great things about Farm To Face products is that they tend to use a lot of certified organic, food grade ingredients (in the best of cases they only use these certified organic ingredients). The above-mentioned pollinators are affected just as much by what is (or is not) sprayed on an apricot orchard that puts fruit on your table as they are by one that puts apricot oil in your favorite face oil.
And even if you don’t think of whether or not a field of French lavender has anything to do with the salad on your plate, don’t forget those pollinators travel (sometimes over vast swaths of territory) from one field to another. Protecting them is, quite literally, protecting our very survival. And when you vote with your wallet and buy an organic Farm To Face beauty product you are actively promoting their survival, potentially on a global scale since a single jar of organic cleansing balm can contain ingredients from all over the world.
As with Wal-Mart in Food Inc., Sephora, Nordstrom, and other large-scale purveyors of beauty products are taking notice. Nordstrom has even begun holding pop-ups in which they partner with green beauty manufacturers like Goop/Juice Beauty. Success stories like this are happening because, as with the organic food movement before it, the green beauty movement is exploding due to consumers’ willingness to pay a premium for cleaner products. (Yay!) Taking it a step further, choosing to support organic Farm To Face products will only continue to grow the availability these products which, in turn, will result in a global ripple effect of growing total acreage of organic farms. (See what I meant about saving the world?)
What’s Another Good Reason To Choose Farm To Face Green Beauty?
To be frank, if threats to the global food supply don’t freak you out enough, well… there’s nothing like personal, immediate self-interest to get people to sit up and take notice. In addition to whatever chemicals might get sprayed on the plant-based ingredients in your cosmetics and skin care products, conventional beauty products tend to be chock-full of unpronounceable, unregulated whack-a-do chemicals that your skin absorbs directly into the bloodstream. With repeated (often daily) use of these beauty products many of these chemicals accumulate in your body’s organs. This is especially true in the United States where, unlike in the EU where over 1300 chemical ingredients have been banned from use in beauty products, the FDA has only partially banned 11. Think about that for a moment. Freaky, no?
In addition to exposure to these individual unregulated chemicals, very few studies are done to show what happens when these chemicals are combined. Some scientists have even postulated that absorption of these chemicals through the skin could be worse than consuming chemicals in food because, unlike food which passes through the digestive tract, the chemicals in beauty products pass directly into the bloodstream and travel to organs without having first encountered the enzymes and acids food-based chemicals do.
Given that the average woman comes into contact with over 500 chemicals per day (many of them in her beauty regimen) it should come as no surprise that the average woman also absorbs nearly five pounds of chemicals per year through her beauty products alone. Many of these chemicals have proven to be pretty horrible, ranging from ones that are known skin irritants to others that are linked to cancers and even DNA alteration. Farm To Face organic green beauty has never sounded more like something you should get behind, has it?!
And As If Those Reasons Aren’t Enough?
Keep in mind also that when you vote with your wallet to support Farm To Face organic green beauty manufacturers (as well as retailers who sell their products) you are also helping to take potentially harmful chemicals out of the lives and communities of the people who handle the ingredients that go into your beauty ritual. It’s a choice you can make that is good for you and sets off a chain reaction for good quite literally throughout the world. Pretty cool, no?
*(Incidentally, I definitely want to be the one who coins the elusive phrase that perfectly encapsulates the concept, but in the interest of expediency just work with me on this one.)
Kasting and Kretsos.Skin Pharmacol Physiol 2005;18:55-74
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