Are Shailene Woodley’s Natural Beauty Hacks Safe? Here’s What Experts Say

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Shailene Woodley
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Out of everyone in Hollywood, Shailene Woodley is who we would least expect to enter a Sephora and walk out with a factory-made beauty product. For years, the 26-year-old has been surprising fans with the unusual natural beauty hacks she uses for her red-carpet glow. The “Big Little Lies” star takes natural beauty to a whole new level, from the clay-based toothpaste that she swallows instead of spits to the vegetables and fruits that she cooks to make lipsticks.

Though Woodley doesn’t make all of her beauty products from ingredients she can grow in her backyard, she does have a lot of natural beauty hacks and, for the most part, stays vegan and toxin-free. And while it’s fun to learn that the “Divergent” star uses algae as eyeliner or brushes her teeth with clay, the real question is: Is it safe? To find out, we talked to experts in beauty and health who determined whether Woodley’s hacks are safe for our bodies and if they actually work. See which hacks are worth trying ahead.

Using Roasted Beets to Stain Her Lips

Close-Up Of Beet Slices On Table

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The Hack: Instead of store-bought lipsticks, Woodley revealed in an interview with Bon Appétit that she uses roasted beets to stain her lips a deep-red color. Woodley praised the hack again in an interview with InStyle, in which she revealed that she roasts the beets for 30 to 50 minutes at 350 degrees before letting them cool and rubbing them on her lips. She also recommends raw cherries and pomegranates for a similar effect.

“Beets are amazing. If you roast them, you’ll get a better lipstick. They’re not as potent and they don’t stain the same way if they’re raw,” Woodley told Bon Appétit.  “So I roast them first and then just dab a little of the juice on my lips with my finger.”

What Beauty Experts Say: Though it’s inconvenient, Holly McWhorter, cofounder of PLANT Apothecary, admits that the hack does work and is better for your body than most store-bought lipsticks. One downfall is the relative short-term effect of vegetable stains. To combat this, McWhorter recommends finding lip products with beet powder to receive the natural effect but not sacrifice wearability.

“It’s a little inconvenient, but if you happen to have these fruits or veggies handy, why not?” McWhorter said. It’s much safer than the vast majority of lipsticks being sold in stores, most of which contain toxic substances that you end up swallowing as your lipstick wears off. An alternative to using veggie juice, however, if you want something a little longer-lasting, is to look for lip balms and sticks that contain beet powder as the pigment.

MORE: Gwyneth Paltrow’s 7 Most Controversial Wellness Tips

Eating Clay to Clean Metals Out of Your Body

Cosmetic clay for spa treatments

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The Hack: In an essay for Into the Gloss, Woodley revealed that she eats clay, specifically bentonite, to clean metals out of her body and improve digestion, a hack she learned from an African taxi driver who told her that women from his country eat clay when they’re pregnant. “I’ve discovered that clay is great for you because your body doesn’t absorb it, and it apparently provides a negative charge, so it bonds to negative isotopes,” Woodley said. “It also helps clean heavy metals out of your body. My friend starting eating it, and the next day she called me and said, ‘Dude, my shit smells like metal.’ She was really worried, but we did some research together and everything said that when you first start eating clay, your bowel movements, pee, and even you, yourself, will smell like metal.”

What Beauty Experts Say: McWhorter approves that clay-eating is safe for the body and improves digestion, though she warns against eating clay that isn’t food-grade. For Woodley’s hack, she echoes her choice in eating bentonite, while white kaolin clay is also known for its digestive effects. “People have been eating clay to help digestion, to clear out gunk in the colon, and just for the taste of it for thousands of years,” McWhorter said. “It’s important to specify which kinds of clay are good for these things, though. You don’t want to just run out and eat just anything, and whatever clay you eat needs to be food-grade. Bentonite is a classic for the purposes Shailene mentions, and a lot of people in the American South eat white kaolin clay (they call it “white dirt”) just because they like it.”

Likewise, Monastery founder Athena Hewett warns against eating something so heavy. She suggests eating a spoonful, waiting a day, and seeing how the clay reacts with you body.

“It would be wise to tip toe into this one. You could feel really gross if you put something so heavy into your body, it might feel like eating a thanksgiving dinner,” she said. “If I were thinking about doing this, I would start with a spoonful and wait 24 hours to see how I felt. “

Swishing Coconut and Sesame Oils to Make Your Teeth Whiter

Overhead view of spoonful of cold coconut oil on jar

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The Hack: Oil pulling to whiten teeth is nothing new, but Woodley’s choice to use sesame oil, as opposed to olive or strictly coconut, is different from what most oil-pulling purists are recommending. “I love a natural way to heal. You can do something called ‘oil pulling’ where you swish coconut or sesame oil in your mouth when you wake up and spit it out,” Woodley told Into the Gloss. “It’s amazing! It really makes your teeth whiter, because the plaque on your teeth is not water soluble, it’s fat-soluble. So the lipids have to dissolve in fats, which is why oil works in your mouth.”

What Beauty Experts Say: McWhorter agrees that oil pulling has been clinically proven to whiten teeth and clear plaque, but she specifically recommends Woodley’s choice of sesame oil, which has shown better results than coconut and olive. “Oil pulling has been proven in clinical studies to work, but sesame oil has been shown to work better than either coconut or olive,” McWhorter said. “Coconut and olive are fine though, and better than nothing.”

Hewett also recommends this hack, though for cleaning plaque in our mouths. Though she doesn’t recommend spitting the oil into the sink, as it can clog drains.

“Oils are attracted to oil, so oil pulling does a wonderful job cleaning oil soluble plaque.  Facial cleansing oils work the same way,” Hewett said. “Our face is made of oil so oil properly removes the build up on the skin.  Just remember to dispose of your oil safely!  Don’t spit it down the sink or you’ll be using Draino constantly.”

Making Your Own Toothpaste with Clay, Peppermint Oil, and Cinnamon Oil

Kid cleaning toothbrush in the bathroom.

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The Hack: In addition to eating clay, Woodley makes her own toothpaste out of it, adding peppermint oil and cinnamon oil for added freshness. In an interview with InStyle, the actress revealed that she creates her toothpaste by mixing safe clay, such as bentonite or zeolite, with coconut water and adding one or two drops of peppermint and cinnamon oil. After brushing, she swallows the paste “to get a dose of minerals.”

What Beauty Experts Say: Like McWhorter said earlier, eating clay works to clean out the body, including the mouth. Before you swap out your store-bought toothpaste, she warns that Woodley’s DIY toothpaste isn’t the best tasting. This is likely why Woodley often forgoes the peppermint and cinnamon oil if they’re too “overpowering.” “This works. Not so tasty, but that’s another thing,” McWhorter said.

If you’re looking to try this hack, Hewett also recommends ditching the essential oils, as they can be painful on the skin in your mouth, especially if you have any cuts. If you do want to add a scent, she suggests lavender as gentle alternative.

“I wouldn’t use the essential oils, it’s not safe to swallow essential oils and they don’t taste good,” Hewett said. “Oils like peppermint, wintergreen, cinnamon or camphor are all very active ‘spicy’ oils that will sting pretty badly if you have any issue in your mouth. Lavender might be a bit safer.”

MORE: LOL: You Need to See Shailene Woodley’s Crazy Hair Evolution Since 2006

Using Spirulina as Eyeshadow and Eyeliner

Close-Up Of Spirulina Bacterium With Serving Scoop In Bowl Over White Background

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The Hack: For natural green eye makeup, Woodley revealed to InStyle that she uses powdered spirulina, a superfood algae rich in antioxidants, as a toxin-free eyeshadow. The actress also mixes the powder with water for a DIY eyeliner. “When wet, it works as a liner,” Woodley said.

What Beauty Experts Say: Though green isn’t the most versatile color, McWhorter admits that the hack does work. She also recommends the algae for its lack of toxins and highly pigmented color. “Why not, if green is your color? spirulina and other algaes have super-intense color and aren’t toxic,” McWhorter said.

Though Hewett admits that the wearability of  algeas isn’t the best, she recommends the hack for a natural temporary look. For other colors, she suggests powdered acai, blueberry, turmeric, and beet.

“There are so many natural plants and fruits that are turned into powders these days to be added as supplements to smoothie drinks. You don’t have to stop with spirulina.  Try, powdered acai, blueberry, turmeric, beet.  All of these are beautiful natural powders.  Again, the staying power may not be so great, but for a temporary look, it will be great.”

Making Deodorant Out of Baking Soda, Coconut Oil, Arrowroot Powders, and Essential Oils

Woman applying underarm deodorant

Photo: Getty Images

The Hack: For a natural deodorant, Woodley makes her own out of baking soda, coconut oil, arrowroot powder (a starch that absorbs moisture), and essential oils. In an interview with InStyle, Woodley revealed that she uses three tablespoons of baking soda, one to three tablespoons of coconut oil, one to two tablespoons of arrowroot powder, and a couple drops of her favorite essential oils for scent. “I like lavender, sage, pepper, tea tree, and bergamot,” Woodley said.

What Beauty Experts Say: If you’re looking to try the hack, McWhorter recommends ditching the baking soda, which is known to irritate the skin after continual use. “This works for a lot of people, though many people’s skin is irritated by baking soda after a few weeks of use. This kind of blend can also work without baking soda, so it’s worth a shot,” she said.

Before you try this, Hewett recommends making sure that the essential oils are mixed into the deodorant, otherwise the product will sting. Likewise, she suggests waiting a day if your underarms (or wherever you put deodorant) are recently shaven. “Be careful that the essential oils are diluted into the mixture quite well.  Especially if you have recently shaved.  If you are recently shaven I would avoid it, and wait a day.  The essential oils could sting or burn the freshly shaven skin,” Hewett said.   

Using Olive and Coconut Oils to Condition Your Hair

Close-Up Of Olive Oil In Bowl On Table

Photo: Getty Images

The Hack: Those who swear by coconut oil shouldn’t be surprised by Woodley’s hack. In an interview with InStyle, the actress revealed that she lathers her hair in a tablespoon of coconut or olive oil before bed and rinses it out in the morning for silky-smooth locks. “I’ll put 1 tablespoon on my thick hair for a few minutes before bed and rinse out. It will leave your hair oily if you use too much, so start with small quantities to find out how much works best for your hair type,” she said.

What Beauty Experts Say: Emily Cunningham, cofounder of clean beauty brand True Moringa, not only backs Woodley’s hack for a natural way to soften the hair, but she also touts the oils’ effect in keeping the scalp healthy. She warns against using the oil for thinner and oilier hair though, as olive and coconut oil might be too heavy for it. Instead, she recommends lightweight oils with behenic acid, such as moringa oil.

“Natural carrier oils are the simplest way to nourish and protect hair and keep your scalp healthy. It’s important to find an oil that works well with your hair. For thicker, dry hair, we’re all about olive and coconut oil. For thinner or oilier hair, we recommend a lightweight oil rich in behenic acid,” she said.

Exposing the Vagina to Sunlight to Increase Energy

Close-Up Of Woman On Beach Against Sky

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The Hack: To increase her energy and prevent yeast infections, Woodley recommends exposing your vagina to sunlight every now and then. In an essay for Into the Gloss, the actress revealed that she spreads her legs outside for an hour to bring in vitamin D. “Another thing I like to do is give my vagina a little vitamin D. I was reading an article written by an herbalist I studied about yeast infections and other genital issues,” Woodley said. “She said there’s nothing better than vitamin D. If you’re feeling depleted, go in the sun for an hour and see how much energy you get. Or if you live in a place that has heavy winters, when the sun finally comes out, spread your legs and get some sunshine.”

What Beauty Experts Say: In an interview with Shape, Lisa Bodnar, PhD, MPH, RD, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert in vitamin D and women’s health, warned against the hack. She explained that there is no scientific evidence that proves that vitamin D prevents yeast infections or bacteria in the vagina. If you really want to increase your vitamin D levels, Bodnar suggests exposing your arms or legs or taking vitamin D supplements, as an hour with your legs open won’t be enough for a significant change.

“There is no scientific evidence proving that being deficient in vitamin D causes yeast infections or bacterial vaginosis,” Bodnar said. “But even if you wanted to increase your vitamin D levels, exposing your vagina to the sun won’t do it. Taking a vitamin D supplement or exposing your arms and legs to moderate sunlight will improve your vitamin D status.”

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