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Sunscreen Protection and Nail Polish: A Green Approach

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As the country continues to debate concerns on ways to protect our environment and our natural resources, individuals are gaining greater recognition about how their lifestyle choices can make an impact. Retailers in the health and beauty arena are heeding the call to become part of the solution. Nothing could be more encouraging than two businesses developing safe alternatives for favorite summertime items -- sun protection and nail polish.

The W.S. Badger Company was started in 1995 by Bill Whyte, a carpenter who engaged in "green" building, using only non-toxic materials. When his work left him with dry and cracked hands, he developed what would be his first product -- a beeswax and olive oil balm. It was the springboard to the start of a product line committed to reflecting a philosophy of "spreading kindness and respect."

His ingredients are from "fair trade" sources and are USDA Certified. Recently, Badger was awarded Certified B Corporation status for supporting social and environmental standards.

Badger developed sun protection items as a reaction to chemicals commonly used in standard commercial items. Their sunscreen works on the premise of a "physical" barrier as opposed to a "chemical" one. I sampled the Unscented SPF30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun's UVB rays. After applying the white cream to my arm, it disappeared into my skin without a problem. I learned that a lighter formula is under development, specifically designed for facial use. It will be available in 2012.

Along with the artist's renderings of badgers, each item is illustrated with easy to understand icons referencing water resistance, biodegradability (meaning you can go into a lake or ocean without harming the aquatic life), animal testing (none), and UVA rating.

Their unscented SPF15 Sunscreen is a real winner. With 11 percent Zinc Oxide, it appears white on the lips when first applied. The creamy texture had me wearing it indoors as well as it is geared to replenish lip moisture. To put on over the lip balm -- or to wear alone--is the Lip Tint and Shimmer duo. I chose the Garnet color because it was close to my usual shade. The color comes from mineral tints and the formula included aloe, olive oil, and herbal antioxidants. After wearing it exclusively for several days in a row, my regular non-allergic lipstick felt dry by comparison.

Badger can be purchased online, at health food stores, and at Whole Foods markets. A store locator also gives merchants based on zip codes.

For those who love nail polish, as well as those who have given up on the whole cycle of solvent-based colors and removers, Acquarella's "safe nail care" is a viable solution. Their tagline states that their polish is based on "the most prevalent compound in the human body -- water." A phone conversation with Mark Deason, a company owner and technical expert, gave me a full-scale primer on the system.

The firm was started in 2004, by a woman who wanted to create a non-toxic polish for her pre-teen grandchildren. The mission dovetailed with a large potential customer base. It included those who didn't want to be exposed to substances like acetone and formaldehyde, pregnant women, cancer patients, asthma and allergy sufferers, and environmentally conscious women. Deason told me, "There is a whole subset of women who don't wear polish for a reason--and won't until they have another option."

I tested four colors, along with a conditioner and remover. Two sets of buffing boards are included when ordering over $20 online (you must place them in your cart). Once I got the protocol down, the process for applying the polish was quick and easy. Knowing the new method was moisturizing my nails and letting them breathe was a big motivation. Essentially, you have to check your old polish routine at the door.

Deason advised, those coming off of a long-time regimen of traditional polish should use the conditioner (which reads as a clear gloss) for a short period to "detoxify the nails through hydration" while removing oils that could "interfere with polish adhesion."

The procedure entailed taking off old solvent-based polish, washing hands and nails with soap and warm water, buffing to remove ridges to create a smooth nails surface, and applying the Acquarella remover. After it foams a bit, you must rinse your nails thoroughly with water.
Then it's polish time. Two thin coats are all sufficient. Each coat is dry "to touch" in 3-4 minutes, and "to use" within 15 minutes (it seemed quicker to me). Deason elucidated, "The more you use the product, the better it wears in terms of adhesion." I sampled two natural colors in line with my personal taste -- Demure and Bliss, the latter which had a touch of shimmer. They both looked and wore well. I checked out the semi-opaque Cameo and opaque Brave, geared to women who like a definitive color statement. Cameo read on my nails as coral. Brave, which seemed much darker in the bottle, resulted in a subtle dusty rose. If I didn't like the way I had applied the polish, I just washed it off immediately.

The Acquarella line is an entirely different ball game than the traditional polishes on the market. Ease of application and safety were a major draw for me. Comments on their website showed that there was somewhat of a learning curve for usage.

When I questioned Deason about the price points ($16.00 per bottle), he gave me a "Total Cost of Ownership" answer -- determining that Acquarella was actually a less expensive, complete alternative. Not needing base and top coats, cuticle creams or nail hardeners, he estimated the total cost of conventional polish as close to $40 or $50. He also pointed to getting full usage out of a bottle of the Acquarella polish.

Adoption of water-based polish by more consumers will drive demand for facilities that offer non-toxic nail treatments. Currently, the Tierra Mia Organic Nail Salon in Philadelphia is leading the way with presenting a different model. Owner Justin Mitchell told me by telephone, "Water-based polishes are totally viable. People are booking two weeks in advance."

With the awareness that there are other options that can successfully meet their needs, consumers could be on a new road.

This article originally appeared on the women's health site EmpowHER