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Interview with Summer Rayne Oakes on Sustainable Beauty and Fashion

Model-Activist, Discovery Correspondent, Sustainability Strategist and Author


Summer Rayne Oakes

Summer Rayne Oakes "Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion & Beauty"

Image provided by Summer Rayne Oakes

I had the pleasure of working with Summer Rayne Oakes to help bring easy to understand information on becoming a more earth-friendly shopper. Summer is a model-activist, Discovery correspondent, sustainability strategist and author of "Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion & Beauty". (buy direct)

"What's totally cool is that all of my work is aligned with values-based, cause-related modeling, which means that I work with companies, brands, programs, and projects that seek to be environmentally- and socially-conscious in their practices and messaging." Can you share with us some of your favorite causes you've worked with? It is hard to choose. I love being involved though. Every year I head to Mozambique to work on some sustainable development projects. I got to experience what it is like to press extra virgin coconut oil for an all natural personal care product line my colleagues are developing called BOM and currently selling in the South African market. But then there are others - like Powershift 09- a climate change lobby day put on by Energy Action, which I'm all about too.

So is there a formula for what you get involved in? If there were a formula, I suppose I have to really have a personal and spiritual connection- whether it was to the person, the place or the cause. That's the most important. But the other qualities that they all have include being,

  • Solution-based as opposed to problem-based
  • Unconventional in approach
  • Connected to the big picture, yet have successful on-the-ground programs that empower individuals
  • Capable of evolving and growing...I like to be part of the creative development process.

Your first book, "Style, Naturally: The Savvy Shopping Guide to Sustainable Fashion and Beauty", launched February, 2009. What can we expect to learn? Yes, I'm so excited. It launched this February 2nd on Amazon.com, Better World Books, Barnes & Nobles and all other major locations. I simply wanted to show women how what they wear and what they put on their bodies connect with their health, their beauty and the larger world. Style, Naturally is informative, but it's not daunting or too "did you knowish?" because it's balanced by a cool, slightly irreverent tone, over 500 color images, great girl-on-the-street style profiles, designer and beauty profiles, product reviews, cool design, tips of the trade, and personal vignettes.

In many ways, it's for a woman who LOVES style, but may not have "green" or "environmentally-conscious" in her lexicon, which is totally cool. The book really goes back to the core ethos of my work, which is pushing the conversation forward to people who may want to know about this stuff, but would not know where to start. Style, Naturally takes that woman on the journey.

So if we're new to environmentally responsible beauty shopping, what tips can you teach us?

Good question. Here are my Top 5 Tips:

  • Beauty Shop like You Food Shop. Shop for your personal care and cosmetic products like you would the food you eat. Make an effort to shop for the freshest, most nutritious, naturally-derived ingredients on the market.
  • Keep it simple. Simplify products and look for simple ingredients with no or less synthetic ingredients. Some synthetics to steer clear from include: Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), parabens, propylene glycol, phthalates, formaldehyde, synthetic colors and fragrances.
  • Buy what you reapply. We don't have unlimited budgets to spend on beauty, so if you have the money to only purchase a few natural or organic products, purchase the ones that you use most often on a daily basis, like deodorants, body washes, soaps, toothpaste, foundation and sunscreens.
  • Look at the labels. There has been a big shake out in the beauty industry between different "organic" and "natural" claims, but for the most part you can still use organic and natural logos as a guide. These labels include: Natural Product Seal, USDA Organic and Ecocert, just to name a few.
  • Filter it out. One of the biggest beauty secrets is a water filter - for both your drinking water and your shower. Filters help eliminate heavy metals that can make your skin and hair dull, dry or filmy.

Many people want to shop from more earth-friendly companies, but are scared off by high prices. What are your favorite budget-friendly companies that fit the bill? On the fashion front: Levis has a great line called Levis ECO that is cost-conscious but with the same Levis-fit that everyone loves. H&M has upped their organic content and they have some great basics, like tees and undergarments. I'm also developing a line of sustainable shoes and accessories called Zoe & Zac with Payless ShoeSource, which will be all on-trend and under $30.

On the beauty front, you can get a lot of great natural products from Burt's Bees that are all fairly budget-conscious. I love their scrubs and the honey lip balm. Some pretty nail polishes by Zoya (without chemicals like formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate) are only $6.00 and available at Futurenatural.com. Giovanni also has some pretty amazing products-ranging from creamy lotions to chocolate body scrubs that are Oh-so-decadent.

Do you have any at-home beauty tips you can share with us? I do love doing an apple cider rinse for my hair. In fact, I just did one after I came back from London last week because the old water pipes in the house I was staying at left my hair filmy. Pure apple cider vinegar, when rinsed through the hair helps remove dull layers and restore a natural sheen.

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