Perhaps you want to emulate the eco-lifestyle trend that’s already going around Hollywood. Or maybe you just want to start making healthier choices for your family and eating raw, organic and non-GMO food is just not cutting it anymore. Whatever your motivation, going the green beauty route is a noble—and often challenging—endeavor that demands a solid commitment. To help you make the switch, we sat down with Rachel Sarnoff, also known as Mommy Greenest and former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World. Here, she gives us the dirt on the natural and organic products she stocks in her pantry and her beauty cabinet, and how small, eco-sound swaps can go a long way in helping Mother Earth breathe easier.
ON HOW SHE STARTED MOMMY GREENEST
What made you want to start Mommy Greenest?
I was pregnant with my third child when I waddled into the Healthy Child Healthy World headquarters in Los Angeles to talk about helping them with public relations. I had grown up kind of a hippie kid and thought of myself as a progressive mom. I ate mostly organic and used natural deodorant, but I had no idea about the impact of toxic chemicals in cleaning products, cosmetics, decor, etc. That was my wake-up call. I realized that there was a huge lack of knowledge among women like me and decided to do something about it. So I cofounded EcoStiletto, which was one of the first “eco” beauty and style websites, and spun off the Mommy Greenest blog from a parenting column that I was writing there. In 2012, I brought both brands together at MommyGreenest.com.
How did you become an eco-lifestyle expert?
I have a master’s degree in journalism and really applied that methodology to my work with EcoStiletto. I looked into product formulations and exposed greenwashing tactics, but I also tried to break down—in really simple terms—the small shifts that we were promoting. I think that was the genesis of my work as an “expert.” For example, I went on the Today show and brought a measuring cup of flour to demonstrate the one-third of a pound of toxic fertilizer needed to make enough cotton for one T-shirt—the visual really drove the point home.
ON HER GREEN BEAUTY ROUTINE
Tell us about your morning skin care routine.
I rinse my face with water, but don’t wash it. If I’ve exercised, I use a cleansing wipe after rinsing—I like Burt’s Bees Facial Cleansing Towelettes in Pink Grapefruit. Day and night, I use a hydrating eye cream like Juice Beauty Smoothing Eye Concentrate. And I always—always—use zinc sunscreen in the morning. I like Suntegrity Skincare’s Natural Moisturizing Face Sunscreen and Primer SPF 30, which feels amazing on your skin and doesn’t leave white streaks.
If we opened your makeup bag, what products would we find in there?
I’m a pretty minimal girl, but there are a few I can’t live without. Juice Beauty’s SPF 30 Tinted Mineral Moisturizer. A light pink blush like Gorgeous from Mineral Essence, which I use on the apples of my cheeks—I’m not so great at contouring. A thickening mascara like Jane Iredale Longest Lash in Black Ice and a glossy nude lip gloss like Jane Iredale PureGloss in Bellini. From yoga to a night out, it’s really all I need!
What beauty products do you keep in your bag for touchups throughout the day?
Mineral Fusion Pressed Powder Foundation in Sand and a little push-up powder brush, plus a bottle of spray toner that I mix myself from rosewater and essential oils. Dust on some powder, then spritz to set and you’re good to go.
And for hair products, take us through your routine—from shower to styling.
My superfine hair is stick-straight no matter what I do. I’ve learned to embrace it, but there are a few things that make the difference—turning stringy and lank to full and shiny. Every other day, I use a sodium lauryl sulfate-free shampoo like John Masters Organics Lavender Rosemary Shampoo—it smells delicious! Because there are no harsh chemicals, it’s easy to comb through without conditioner, which can weigh my hair down. Maybe once a week, I also use conditioner—I love California Baby’s Calming Hair Conditioner, which I dilute in the bottle with one-third apple cider vinegar. The vinegar helps hold color and makes your hair super-shiny. I get out of the shower and wrap my head in a towel for a few minutes, then comb out and air-dry.
If I have time, I flip my head over and blow-dry. I love that Harry Josh Pro Tools Dryer—the mint green is so cute! Finally, I use a product like Intelligent Nutrients Certified Organic Hair Care Volumizing Spray. I spritz close to my scalp on the areas where I need more volume, and then use it on my fingers to smooth down any flyaways on my crown. But the real secret ingredient? I henna my hair—in the salon—every six weeks. It makes it fuller and turns my scattered white hairs into a deep red, kind of like a tiny highlight. It took a bit of experimenting to get the color right—I documented the process on Mommy Greenest—but now it’s the perfect shade of my natural dark brown.
Can you share any tricks for extending the life of your beauty products?
Choose multitasking products, and only buy what you know you will use! I like to use products that have little or no preservatives, so their shelf life isn’t very long. But I’ve honed down my routine to elements that do double duty: I use the same eye cream day and night, for example, rather than choosing a separate night cream. If I need more hydration, I’ll add a little pure argan oil to the mix, like the one from Steam Creams and Oils, which is fair trade and organic. I only stock what I really need, so I use them up in no time. This is a great money saver too!
I hear that you make your own natural perfume. Can you tell us how you do that?
Yes! Choose three or four essential oils that you like the smell of. To make the scent last the longest, you need an alcohol base. I like organic cooking vanilla extract, but you can also use rosewater or even plain distilled water. Take a clean spray bottle—try recycling one you already have—and fill it three-quarters of the way full with your base. Then start with the strongest scent, and add five drops of that essential oil. Add five drops of the remaining essential oils and then shake to mix it well, spray and sniff. At that point, you can start adding more of the essential oils that you feel should be stronger—five drops at a time—until you get to the mix you like. I’ve done several mixes for my YouTube audience, but my favorite is probably the one that smells like warm roses in a sunlit kitchen where somebody I love is making vanilla cookies. Heaven.
What’s the best beauty advice you’ve ever gotten?
Wear sunscreen! I really didn’t get the importance until I was about 30, because I thought that sunscreen clogged my already-oily skin. But actually, if you cleanse properly at night and make sure to use toner, you don’t have to worry about that. I have a lot of sun damage because I didn’t follow this advice in my 20s. You’re welcome.
ON EATING CLEAN
If we took a look inside your fridge, what natural staples would we find in there?
My fridge is usually pretty full—I have three kids! Our staples are always organic: free-range eggs, romaine lettuce, red onions, tortillas, salsa and grated cheese. With those ingredients you can whip up a whole bunch of different meals—including a packable lunch.
Do you have any favorite natural condiments?
I love organic peanut butter. Preferably smooth and extra salty.
What are your go-to beverages that aren’t overly processed?
I mainly drink regular filtered water—my whole house is filtered with LifeSource, which I love. But I’m kind of obsessed with organic coconut water, especially after yoga.
Coffee or tea, and why?
I adore coffee. It just doesn’t love me so much. So a few years ago I switched to tea twice a day—after breakfast and lunch. I found that tea gives me more consistent energy and doesn’t leave me jittery. But sometimes if I know I’m going to be out late, I’ll have a cappuccino. And it tastes like heaven.
What’s your favorite eco-friendly lunch to pack for work?
I work from home, so there’s not a lot of packing for me. But my favorite easy lunch is avocado toast, preferably on thick, whole-grain bread that I spread first with a little organic butter. Add a dollop of salsa and a sprinkle of salt and you’re good to go!
Where do you do your food shopping in person and online?
I regularly shop at Trader Joe’s, occasionally shop at Whole Foods, and have just discovered the online Thrive Market, which is like Costco for natural foods: You pay a small fee and get wholesale prices. Plus, for every household that signs up, they give a membership to a family in need. I love that!
What’s the best ingredient to scan for on the label when shopping for natural foods?
High-fructose corn syrup. Last year, the Mommy Greenest community did a 30-day detox, and the response was amazing! It’s the devil, people. Put it back on the shelf.
READERS—What do you think of Rachel’s beauty advice? Are you ready to make the switch to natural beauty products? Share your thoughts below or keep scrolling to Rachel’s skin care routine.