Environmental Activist and DIY Master Gill Deacon Talks About Her New Book, “There’s Lead in Your Lipstick”

After giving an eye opening speech at the Center for Social Innovation
(215 Spadina Ave.) last week, we got a chance to find out a little
more about Gill Deacon’s green philosophies. She’s one of the few
Canadian writers / speakers / broadcasters who makes a mean organic
face scrub. Her brand new book
is quickly attracting
a long waiting list in my social circle, and for good reason.
De-bunking one beauty myth at a time, Gill Deacon is the go-to gal for
info on the harmful chemicals in personal care products we use

SDTC: Your book was chosen as David Suzuki’s book of the month. How did
it feel to find that out?

Gill Deacon: I was thrilled. I mean, he had already given me his blessing when he
put the endorsement on the front of the book, so I knew he appreciated
it. But having his organization, which I’m such a fan of, choose it
was a pat on the back for my hard work. It’s exciting, because they
have a big following, so the idea of spreading the word anyway is
really good. I’m thrilled they’re spreading the message.

You mention in your book that 85% of the 85 000 – 100 000 chemicals
in our personal care products haven’t been tested for health impacts.
Do you have any general rules for how the average girl can arm herself against
being duped into buying the product that’s full of garbage?

My number one rule is read the labels. We tend to base our shopping
decisions on what’s on the front of a label of a package. We get
distracted by pretty packaging and the images that we associate with
successful marketing. Even claims like hypoallergenic or all-natural,
even organic, make us think “great” when we look at front of a
product, but what we have to do is turn it over read the back. The
book helps educate you as to what to be alarmed by and what to be
reassured by. Part two is don’t be fooled by green wash, that is, the
suggestion of healthy green qualities is not enough be aware as your
looking at products. There is an increasing amount. You have to ask
yourself “am I being hoodwinked here?” You have to be pretty judicious
when making those choices, and sometimes that involves significant
changes to shopping patterns. The third rule is to be conscious of
anything that has a fragrance in it, including perfume. I know that’s
not popular to hear because people define themselves by their scent.
Wherever possible, switch to unscented. Phlalates are the chemicals
that are used to secure a fragrance and anytime you see fragrance in a
product, that’s a problem and you know there are phlalates in the mix.

While you were researching for your book, you were diagnosed with
breast cancer. How did surviving that impact your outlook on chemicals
in beauty products and activism?

On one hand, after going through cancer I didn’t feel drawn to the
angry aspect of being an environmental activist because I just felt a
bit more drawn to positive optimistic serene way of living with
gratitude kind of thing. I am so grateful to have gotten through that
bad scare and I try to appreciate the little things and not focus on
the negative. But at the same time, I was also very aware of how
important it is for this info to be out there. If anyone can be spared
the anguish of a cancer diagnosis I’d like to do anything I can to
help. So I guess I felt a mixture of things, I felt different in how I
wanted to approach the subject but still committed to it. I just
didn’t want to get into heavy dark material, but I really wanted all
my girlfriends and my family to know this so they can make their own
decisions. Of course, I can’t change their decisions, but I can share
what I’ve learned.

What are some good staples to stock up on if I want to ease into
making my own beauty products?

Some basic things you may have already around the house include sugar
and salt, for starters. Brown sugar is great with a little oil for a
nice cuticle – pushing hand scrub, it’s like an at home manicure
without the colour. Salt is good with essential oil for an exfoliating
body scrub in the shower or bath. Generally, stock your cupboard with
sweet almost oil. It’s affordable and multipurpose. Grab some
essential oils of your choosing, there’s always a tester in the health
foods store so you can see what your drawn to and pick a couple. Witch
hazel is excellent; if you get the unscented kind it’s nice in toners,
and on its own as a makeup remover. If you’re moving up a little bit
into more complicated stuff you can buy some beeswax. When you warm
oils and beeswax together you can start to create thicker textures for
things like lip balms and even creams. I’ve made some great lotions
with beeswax. Coconut oil is also great to have, you might have it in
your pantry anyway for cooking, but it is great moisture for a dry
scalp, and gets rid of brown spots on the skin. Mixed with cornstarch
and lavender oil it’s a natural deodorant.


What are some of your recommendations for throwing a sweet DIY
personal care product party?

One suggestion you can do is one person makes something they like and
you assign different people to different things and then you can do a
swap. I had a lot of fun doing this with a few girlfriends. Other than
that, just pulling out the blender and getting creative in the kitchen
on a rainy Sunday afternoon together can be fun. I have a big box that
I started and whenever I want to make something, I pull out my box and
get started and I know all my stuff is in one place. Another tip is to
buy a coffee grinder that is just for this stuff,  you don’t
want your face scrub to smell of coffee – well, it might be
invigorating, but the coffee drinker night not want their coffee to
smell like lavender. Making your own products is a great activity
because it’s so satisfying. You come away with great stuff that hardly
costs anything and hardly takes any effort.

~Kait Fowlie 

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