The Clean Routine – Melissa Arostegui
“Sustainability Consultant, London”
I am from the Dominican Republic and had worked in Sustainability projects before I moved to London. I knew that was what I wanted to do here but the big firms mostly were looking for people with a different previous experience. So I just decided to go on my own and do freelance work. While starting out, I found that in London there’s a lot of everything, and through all of these events around natural products and social enterprises I found a lot of projects. Now I mainly do Corporate Sustainability for Start-Ups trying to improve companies’ social impacts.
“OK, I will have to completely detox now.”
I got into natural beauty through a friend of mine – she had suffered from bad acne and started out doing clean eating, then moving to natural skincare and it helped her immensely. She was the one who told me about Imelda Burke’s book, The Nature of Beauty. While reading that I immediately thought ‘OK, I will have to completely detox now’. So I started reading labels and thinking about ingredients a lot. I’m very curious about these things by nature, and love to do my research. Maybe I was a chemist in my past life? But when I decided to completely go natural I found that I reached a point where I didn’t even need to read labels anymore because I knew the brands I bought from aligned with my values.
“I wrote a super long e-mail to all my friends listing ingredients they should look out for and really stay away from.”
I wrote a super long e-mail to all my friends listing ingredients they should look out for and really stay away from. I didn’t tell them all to go completely natural because that is just not realistic for everyone. Most people need something that’s easy to buy! I researched everywhere from EWG to Pinterest and in the end focused mainly on parabens and perfumes, because by avoiding them you can already dodge so much harmful stuff. If a cheap item has ‘perfume’ as an ingredient and it costs 3 dollars, one has to wonder how the smell got in there. Why would you want nondisclosed cheap scents in your body?
“The ingredients in conventional lipstick are damaging to the thyroid, hormone-disruptive and affect fertility.”
When I first went natural I asked myself ‘What are the items that I really can’t do without?’ For me the answer is eyes and lips!
I’m someone who’ll either wear no lipstick or very red lipstick. There’s nothing in between. Once you know about it it’s so obvious that you literally eat your lipstick, and because the ingredients in conventional lipstick are damaging to the thyroid, hormone-disruptive and affect fertility, you really shouldn’t. But when I started out buying natural lipsticks, I couldn’t let go of everything yet. My Nars lipstick for example I held onto for a long time and thought I would treat it like alcoohol – I don’t drink every day but when I go out I’ll have some drinks! So I thought maybe I could use a natural lipstick every day and then use the Nars one as a treat. But I realised that I couldn’t – because the ingredients are honestly that bad. Actually, the first natural lipstick I bought just melted in my face. I looked like dracula. I think it’s an exciting time right now to be buying natural products – formulas have improved a lot and are actually amazing now. Five years ago, all this didn’t exist. I love french brand Absolution – their lipsticks are great!
Jane Airedale’s eyeliner is my favourite because it’s so easy to put on – love that it’s natural, but I probably would even buy it if it weren’t. Once I started using it I caught myself thinking ‘Wow, my eyes look so insignificant without it!’. I also curl my lashes every now and then, but with moving so much, things get lost. Sometimes I’ll find my lash curler and remember to curl them. But only if it happens to be in the right bag!
I’m a big concealer person and prefer it to foundation. RMS’ ‘Un’ Cover-Up will probably be a staple for me forever! It’s so easy to throw in a bag and use while travelling, but the one place I cannot get away with wearing it is the Dominican Republic, because it is coconut oil based and will literally melt on my face in the heat. So I’ll just use powders when I’m there, like the Inika one.
“if I can get a product that does a lot of things at once I love that.”
Since I travel and move all the time, naturally I don’t like having a lot of stuff. I’ve tried to make a routine within my chaos – MUJI travel sizes are my best friend, and if I can get a product that does a lot of things at once I love that. Coconut oil for example I can use for making scrambled eggs, put it in my hair, and then moisturize my face with too. How amazing! I can also buy it anywhere, and moving around a lot, I need things that are easily accessible.
“Paris has a huge offer of natural beauty.”
I find it so fun to source beauty products in different places, and will always go searching for them when I’m somewhere longer than a couple days.
Paris is great. It’s funny, I would say Paris is the place I love most for beauty inspiration, but the women there don’t actually wear anything. It’s curious. They just put on a great red lipstick and that’s it. I lived in Paris for three months and expected them to have very conventional stuff but they have a huge offer of natural beauty. Mademoiselle Bio and Oh My Cream are very cool, beautiful stores and in the department stores like Bonmarché they have all the natural beauty brands like rms. My favourites are these small independent co-ops that sell quirky stuff – I would drive my friends crazy because whenever we met up I would want to check out all these stores. They’re so fun.
In Amsterdam I love to go to a natural wholesale store called ‘Unlimited Health’. They have a yoga studio and a cute cafe as well as a beauty section. That’s where I found my favourite deodorant. I read that when you’re detoxing from aluminum deodorant you go through a phase of sweating even more, so you just have to make your peace with being smelly for a couple weeks. I rode through that, but then it took me a while to find a natural deodorant that I liked – after trying out a ton, at some point I had to admit that I was ruining my clothes. The lavender Schmidt one I bought there solved that, and smells amazing. I have to use the sensitive version, which doesn’t contain Sodium Bicarbonate. Oddly I found out that my skin is allergic to.
I’m a big soap bar fan and I travel with them. It’s one thing that I source everwhere I go. Right now I have an Italian one that is based on olive oil – whenever I’m in a market somewhere soaps are the one thing I look out for. I just throw them in the bottom of my bag or suitcase, and sometimes I just randomly stumble upon one I’d forgotten about. The French actually have amazing soap, natural ones with lovely smells and obviously the famous Marseille soap. Once I found one in the Dominican Republic that actually was based on cacao, and had scrubbing particles in it. There’s something about bars that I really love. It’s such a nice treat to buy yourself a beautiful and unique soap.
“I’m very inspired by Dominican women.”
I’m very inspired by Dominican women. The city I come from is not very walkable, and a lot of people don’t have access to private transportation. The women are amazing, you see them walk over puddles with their heels, impeccable make-up and sunglasses. It’s such a contrast to London. Even when you go into a fancy place here, you’ll see someone in sweatpants because they just can’t be bothered. I really admire the Latin American women for that.
My mother was always into using oils instead of creams and has amazing skin and hair. She just didn’t need that many products and I always wanted to be like that – but even when I followed her advice I still had frizzy hair and I still got pimples. I just do need a bit more, especially in the kind of climate there. The sun in the Carribean takes such a toll on your skin. If you are from there, it can sort of withstand it, but I suffered a lot. I get discoloration within my freckles, so I have to wear a clinical, strong SPF when I am there.
In the Dominican Republic I would get my nails done every week. It’s cheaper there, and they always do a great job. Women really struggle with their hair in the heat and moisture, so there’s a huge barber shop culture and you go and get your hair done all the time. You pay very little, they know your name, and it’s very common to go for a hair mask at your local beauty parlor once a week or even get your hair blown out every morning before work. So while you’re sitting there, you also get your nails done. Now, I like to sometimes go for a good manicure but it’s hard to find the right place in London. Even some of the expensive places I’ve been to here were terrible. In New York, there is a better standard – you know when you go into a salon that they’re going to do an good job, but it also will cost you something. It’s funny, really. They have one at every corner and you can pretty much go into any of them without thinking about it. Here in London it’s much harder and I mostly do my nails myself. Beauty without Cruelty have a 80% plant based nail hardener that I in Amsterdam and always put on. Their red nail polish is great, too.
“Your hair looks BEAUTIFUL today, what are you doing?”
My one friend – she’s always had pretty hair, but one day I just went ‘Your hair looks BEAUTIFUL today, what are you doing?’. It was Jojoba Oil. I was in New York at the time and just went into Trader Joe’s, bought some and realized it’s also good for acne becase it imitates the oil your skin produces. And it’s also fabulous for hair! Only put a little bit in and leave it. I find that in London the water really dries out my hair – I have to use one specific shampoo with London water, otherwise it’ll either get greasy, sticky or super dry. When I wash it with that, it’s happy! I noticed that when I went to Paris. My hair felt fabulous there, but maybe I just had good luck.
I use oils for removing my makeup, because otherwise I’ll wake up with mascara on my face. It’s very travel friendly because you can also use the same oil in the morning to moisturize. Jojoba oil I can use to remove my mascara by massaging it around the eyes. Then I take it off with either a towel or cotton wool and follow up with face wash. If you cleanse with oils, it naturally moisturizes your skin in the process.
When in New York you can really feel the dryness from the radiators and you have to moisturize so much. I used to have a bucket of water next to my bed when I lived in Boston so my skin wouldn’t dry out too much. The Weleda Skin Food really helps with that, too.
Being in an airplane a lot definitely affects your skin, too. On the last couple long-haul flights I’ve been on I actually took a face mask with me and at some point in the plane I put them on. I also cannot travel without Dr. Bronner’s chapstick. Regular chapsticks’ ingredients like petroleum actually dry out your lips and I used to put on a lot all the time. Now, I rarely have to use the Dr. Bronner one. I’ve had this one for more than a month and you can barely tell.
“Eating well makes me see the biggest changes in my skin.”
I also completely stay away from airplane food. Yes, I’m that crazy person that goes around with an avocado and boiled egg in my purse. Plane food is just full of salt and when you are dehydrated already that doesn’t help. Eating well makes me see the biggest changes in my skin. Good fats and greens make all the difference. If I’m travelling for more than a couple days I always take my flax seeds and chia seeds with me in a jar.
I really love supplements to keep healthy on the go. Spirulina and chlorella are the best for me because they are high in vitamin B and proteins and I can tell a difference when I take them. They actually clean the ocean so I like to believe they can also do something for my body and skin.
Until a while ago I used to drink fizzy vitamin C drinks because I have a lot of freckles and vitamin C helps protect them. Then I talked to a friend of mine who has a juice bar and just asked her what had the most vitamin C. It’s kale! So now I put that in my morning juice instead of buying it in processed form.