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Clean Beauty - Why It's Important

by Valeria Cole |

Some people think that, so long as they are moisturizing or using some kind of sun protection factor (SPF) in their beauty routine, it's enough. In reality, there are many products people put on their faces and their hair that actually do more harm than good, and there's almost no legal protection for consumers.

Some beauty products can harm the environment as well. This has led to increased demand for beauty products without parabens, microbeads or slave-sourced minerals and oils. While there is very little regulation of the beauty product market, more and more consumers are demanding both ethical and clean beauty products to keep them looking and feeling their best. Thankfully, both manufacturers and retailers have picked up on this trend.

What Does Clean Beauty Mean?

The truth is that just about every v-logger, make-up columnist and manufacturer has a different opinion about what clean beauty really is. After all, terms like “natural,” “botanical” and “green” are completely unregulated, meaning anyone can use them.

At its most basic level, clean beauty focuses on products made only with safe, natural ingredients and less-harm business practices. From eschewing animal testing to committing to sustainably-mined mica sources, every company has a different approach to clean beauty.

For consumers and those who depend on beauty products to look great every day, clean beauty can help you feel incredible and look great without doing harm to your skin, your hair, your planet, or your sense of ethics. One of the best ways to know if a product is truly a clean beauty product is to read the label and see what ingredients are included.

Clean Beauty Products Support Health Instead of Compromising It

Clean beauty products should not include any ingredients believed to cause negative health effects. The safety of the ingredients should be a primary focus when you select the brands and products you choose to purchase. While truly natural products aren't the only clean beauty options, they are often the simplest when it comes to verifying the safety of ingredients.

Be on the lookout for known hormone or endocrine disruptors, including phthalates, some chemical sunscreens like avobenzone and parabens, in particular. Suspected or known carcinogens are another kind of ingredient that shouldn't be in beauty products but often are. One place that questionable items often hide in plain sight is "fragrance," which can be just about anything.

Also, seek to understand why an ingredient is considered bad and what usage scenarios can pose risk. An ingredient may only be considered high risk if exposed to certain materials for example, or only if used at certain levels or ingested vs. topical use. Know your own boundaries, but don’t just take the face value of certain evaluations.

There are great independent sources for ingredient info, a couple of our favorites are EWG’s SkinDeep. We also love the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. But once again, seek to understand and based on the info they provide come up with your safety net given your own needs and what makes the most sense to you. This is a key component to selecting safe ingredients that often times people tend to dismiss.

Look for Safe and Clean Products - Here is a Quick Guide

Nothing you put on your hair, skin or face should mess with your hormones, since it could potentially increase your risk of the growth of cancerous cells. That said, don't write off a product just because it has a chemical-sounding ingredient in the list. Many natural and effective ingredients are actually natural compounds, like vitamins. Salicylic acid, for example, comes from natural sources, like willow trees.

Many brands and options for skin or hair care may include a host of questionable ingredients. After all, the best, most natural and yet effective compounds cost more to source. When it comes to items you are slathering all over your body, it's best to err on the side of time to research, caution and cost when necessary. Natural butters, oils and vitamin complexes can be incredibly effective and good for your health, so investing in these options can pay off in the long run.

If you have not yet started cleaning up your beauty routine, here is an initial list of ingredients that you can avoid to get you started in the path to a CLEAN BEAUTY ROUTINE.

  • Ethoxylated Ingredients: Synthetically produced using Ethylene Oxide, known carcinogen, avoid ethoxylated ingredients including ceteareth-20, emulsifying wax, PEGs, polysorbate-20 and -40, steareth-20, sodium laureate sulfate and ammonium laureate sulfate.
  • Formaldehyde: Ingredient labels don’t typically list formaldehyde, although its ‘releasers’ are and often have formaldehyde in them: benzylhemiformal, diazolidinyl urea, dmdm hydantoin, glyoxal, imidazolidinyl urea, methenamine, polyoxymethylene urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, tosylamide/formaldehyde resin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, and 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3 dioxane.
  • Hydroquinone: This compound may cause discoloration or skin irritation, since it inhibits melanin synthesis. It’s also a metabolite of benzene, a known carcinogen.
  • Lanolin & Keratin: Both come from sheep; lanolin is an oil in sheep’s glands and keratin comes from sheep’s wool - although obtaining these materials doesn’t harm sheep in any way, farmers often use insecticides which can be toxic. Cupuaçu Butter is a great and 100% safe alternative to Lanolin and twice more moisturizing.
  • Methyl Cellosolve (2-Methoxyethanol): Already banned in the EU, this solvent can cause skin irritation but even worse, it may affect the central nervous system as well as the health of the kidneys, liver, blood and even bone marrow.
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone & Methylisothiazolinone: Also banned in the EU, these preservatives can be toxic to the nervous system and cause skin irritation and allergies.
  • Nanoparticles: These are synthetically engineered tiny particles that may impact your health and the environment. Be skeptical of beauty products claiming to contain “non-nano” zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, as this is often misleading.
  • Parabens: Anyone who’s mildly versed in clean beauty practices knows to avoid parabens in skin and hair care products. This is because they have been linked to hormone disruption.
  • Petrolatum & Paraffin: These ingredients make the ‘dirty’ list mainly because the sourcing practices associated with them are unsustainable and results in a cancer-causing risk of Polyaromatic Hydrocarbon contamination.
  • Phthalates: Most phthalates ‘hide’ under the label of ‘fragrance’, and have been linked to hormone disruption.
  • Resorcinol: Many hair dyes use resorcinol, which has been linked to many issues from irritation and allergies, to hormone disruption.
  • Retinyl Palmitate: Although it’s fine for use in night creams, retinal palmitate may increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun when worn outdoors.
  • Silicones: Although silicones can provide some plumping benefits to skin, silicones have a negative impact on the environment and may cause blemishes for acne-prone skin since they can clog the pores.
  • Toluene: This solvent is found in nail polish and is toxic to the immune system and may cause birth defects.
  • Triclosan & Triclocarban: Used in some personal care products as antibacterials, these ingredients may cause hormone disruption and cause environmental issues.
  • Synthetic Fragrances: Scents are added to many skincare products, and there are plenty of natural fragrances that are clean-beauty-approved. Avoid synthetic fragrances and phthalates.

Some other things to keep in mind, which are not necessarily harmful, but need to be used in moderation and you should be aware of your own limitations.

  • BHA: Butylated Hydroxyanisole is a preservative that is sometimes used in cosmetics and has been linked to skin irritation, disruption of hormone balances and even cancer.
  • BHT: Butylated Hydroxytoluene is another preservative linked to skin irritation, and is toluene-based.
  • Animal By-Products: Animal oils, musks and fats. We have chosen to be 100% Vegan, so we never include animal by-products in our formulation, but it is important to understand if you are looking for Vegan products that many animal by-products can be hidden in ingredient names and also that many traditionally animal sourced ingredients can now be substituted by plant sources, so be aware of the source and ask.
  • Beeswax & Bee Products: Although honey, pollen, beeswax and propolis are all safe and effective cosmetics ingredients, assurances should be made that ingredient suppliers are treating the bees humanely since bee populations are struggling.
  • Carmine: Derived from scale insects, carmine is a red pigment that is often used in color cosmetics. Also known as cochineal, crimson lake, and Natural Red 4, carmine is generally allowed but should be clearly noted on ingredient labels.
  • Chemical Sunscreens: Some chemical sunscreens have either been understudied or have been linked to hormone disruption. Instead, look for natural mineral sunscreens with titanium dioxide and zinc.
  • Cyclical Silicones: Studies have shown that some of the chemicals in cyclical silicones may develop toxicity or disrupt reproductive and endocrine functions.
  • EDTA: The different variants of EDTA do not break down naturally in the environment and may pose a harmful risk to aquatic life.
  • Ethanolamines: Cancer has been linked to chemicals like nitrosamines, which sometimes contaminate cosmetics ingredients such as ETA/DEA/MEA/TEA.
  • “Glycols”: Some glycols, such as butylene, dipropylene glycol, polypropylene, and propylene are okay and don’t pose safety risks for most people, but propylene glycol may irritate skin and polyethylene glycol (PEG) is not a clean ingredient.
  • Heavy Metals: Many cosmetics contain trace amounts of heavy metals in synthetic colorants and even natural mineral pigments. Although there is little immediate health risk, these metals can build up over time and cause problems. Ensure your cosmetics companies work with their ingredient suppliers to obtain consistent batch testing on their colorants to minimize exposure.
  • Microbeads and Glitter: make sure to look for microbead free exfoliants that use natural exfoliating agents (seeds, pulps, coffee). Stay away from synthetic glitter, make sure that any glittery materials are derived from Mica (a mineral).
  • When using products that come in plastic containers, make sure they are in PET 1 packaging vs. HDPE Plastic, PET being post-consumer recyclable and the least harmful and whenever possible (non-shower and smaller weights), choose glass. Large glass containers, anything above 8 oz. can have a huge carbon footprint impact to the environment that could be worse than recyclable plastic.

Information about the safety of ingredients changes often as new evidence is found. The safety of some ingredients often times can also be related to your own needs and limitations, so staying informed is key. In fact, don’t trust either brands nor retailers to do the homework for you. There are a lot of retailers who claim to have “Clean” assortments that oftentimes still utilize PEGs as preservatives as an example and often times even worse. 

There are great independent sources for ingredient info, a couple of our favorites are EWG’s SkinDeep. We also love the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. But once again, seek to understand and based on the info they provide come up with your safety net given your own needs and what makes the most sense to you. This is a key component to selecting safe ingredients that often times people tend to dismiss.

Having the knowledge will help you Clean Up your beauty routine and make safer choices. After all, your skin is your largest organ. It’s also important to make choices that are good for you, but also safe for the environment.

Love yourself, find your joy, share your passion.

Cheers, Val

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