clean green eco friendly beauty
Clean Beauty Guide

The Ultimate Guide to Clean, Green & Eco-Friendly Beauty: Tips, Best Brands, Dos and Don’ts

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Are you looking to make the switch over to clean, green, and eco-friendly beauty?

If so, you are in the right place.

I created this guide specifically for you…

… to empower you to become a more discerning, informed and educated shopper

… to navigate the clean, very crowded clean beauty space with confidence

… to reduce frustration, overwhelm and confusion

… to guide you through the vague, hollow (and sometimes contradictory) claims made by some brands, confusing ingredients, and brand vetting process

The clean beauty movement is a recent trend that has exploded in popularity over the past few years. It seems like a new clean beauty brand is born every day. You can find clean beauty products at retailers like Walmart, Target and even Aldi. Not to mention Ulta, Sephora, Online Marketplaces and DTC brands (direct to consumer). Even celebrities are getting in on the action.

With so many brands vying for your dollar…

The question is…

How can YOU determine which claims are legit or just slick marketing?

And even more importantly, how can you find brands that are truly ethical, sustainable with high quality products that are effective and do not harm you or the environment?

The good news:

You CAN have products that will give you amazing results while still being safe for you and the environment.

There are lots of emerging and innovative brands creating safe, eco-friendly and effective skincare and personal care products for you to choose from. Look for recommendations in the individual categories (starting with skincare) below.

I should let you know that I’m not a medical professional or a skincare expert. I’m just an everyday woman trying to do the right thing for my skin and to reduce my impact on the planet. I’ve been researching conscious, non-toxic beauty for a few years now and have compiled quite a list of clean, green brands that I’ll organize into a printable pdf for you.

I can’t stress enough how switching to eco-conscious beauty/personal care products is beneficial to your health and our fragile ecosystems. This guide will give you the tools and resources to find the brands and products that are just right for you.

See the table of contents below for what we will cover.

But before we get into all that, we’ll cover five common mistakes that could keep you from making a successful and less stressful transition to clean beauty.

Common Mistakes When Switching From Traditional to Clean Beauty Routines

Trust me when I say you won’t be making this switch overnight and thinking that you will is just one of these common mistakes made by beginners.

  1. Learn your skin. As with purchasing standard beauty products, your skin type matters. Find out if you have dry or oily skin so that you can match yourself with appropriate products.
  2. Don’t assume that natural is always good and synthetic is always bad. Many synthetic chemicals are not only better for you and the environment, but also more effective than their natural counterparts.
  3. Make the switch slowly. Replace your standard beauty products one or two at a time, preferably as they run out. This will both reduce waste and give your body time to adjust.
  4. Be wary of buzz words. We’ll cover this in more detail later, but certain labels like clean, natural and organic are often used inappropriately. Just because a product lists that it is organic or all-natural, doesn’t mean that it actually is.
  5. DIY is not necessarily for beginners. There are a lot of factors to consider when making your own beauty products. A lot of beginners may inadvertently make a contaminated sample and get small infections with every use.

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Key Takeaway:
Don’t just jump in and buy the first product you see from a “clean beauty” company. Take time to talk to a dermatologist about your skin type and make the swap from traditional to clean slowly.
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What Is Clean Beauty?

While there is no single or standardized definition for clean beauty, it generally encompasses a range of products that aim to reduce harm to the majority of consumers and the environment.

Clean beauty aims to offer products that are just as effective as standard cosmetics and requires companies to be transparent about the composition and origins of their products.

It is important to note though that every brand will have their own definition and interpretation of what clean beauty is which can lead to greenwashing; a concept we explain below.

A good way to think of clean beauty is that it is…

  • safe for you
  • safe for our ecosystems
  • does not cause pollution
  • does not treat unfairly, communities or people in the supply chain
  • full ingredient transparency and sourcing

Clean beauty is more than just formulating with safe ingredients, it involves the entire product lifecycle… from sourcing all the way to the end user

Key Takeaway:
Clean beauty is associated with products that are safe to both people and the environment, while being transparent about their ingredients and where they are sourced from.

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Why The Need for Clean, Green, And Eco-Friendly Beauty?

As we become more educated about what ingredients go into the products we use, more and more consumers want to get away from known behavioral toxins, carcinogens, and developmental toxins. For instance, substances like paraben and coal tar dyes, which have been banned in Europe, are still found throughout the US [1].

5 Reasons Behind the Demand for Clean Beauty

  1. Women of Color – Studies have shown that all American women appear to be exposed to toxic chemicals more often. However, there is a disparagingly large gap in the concentrations of these toxins between Caucasians and Women of Color [2].
  2. Harmful to the Ecosystem – Plastics and harmful chemicals make their way into the environment, disrupting and damaging ecosystems.
  3. Exploits People and Communities. Companies tend to prey on ignorance, selling products based on the concept of getting the job done without focusing on how the job gets done. This could also mean exploiting people in the supply chain including the use of child labor.
  4. Pollution and Waste. Harmful chemicals, non-recyclable plastic packaging and harmful emissions are a common byproduct of standard beauty products.
  5. No Ingredient Transparency. Many companies withhold what goes into their products for fear of them being reproduced by a competitor. Now, consumers are discovering that some of these withheld chemicals have been harmful to their health.

What is Being Done About Traditional Cosmetics?

As a consumer, you should never have to compromise your health just to use beauty products.  Here are several ways the clean, beauty movement is pushing the entire industry forward.

  1. More brands are moving away from traditional cosmetics and are moving towards offering clean, beauty alternatives that are cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, and come in sustainable packaging.
  2. California’s new Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act makes the state the first to ban 24 toxic chemicals, including mercury and formaldehyde in both beauty and personal-care products. This is huge as the banned chemicals contained known carcinogens, nervous-system, and reproductive-system disruptors.
  3. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2019 (H.R. 4296) which is sponsored by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) looks to amend Chapter VI of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to strengthen the regulatory framework around both the production and sales of cosmetics. More can be read
  4. Cosmetic Safety Enhancement Act of 2019 (H.R. 5279 – Pallone) requires cosmetic companies to substantiate the safety of their products and notify the Food and Drug Administration of any adverse health effects.
Key Takeaway:
The future of clean beauty is so much more than using safe ingredients in product formulation. It takes into account the entire product lifecycle from sourcing, manufacturing to the end user.
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What Does Clean Beauty Mean to You?

It is important to determine what clean beauty means to you, as there is no strict definition. By using the checklist below, you can figure out which components of the movement are most important to you. This will help you when you go to vet brands or choose products to try.

  • The product is vegan – uses no animal products or by-products
  • The product is not harmful to health and is safe to use
  • There is full transparency around ingredients
  • How effective the product is
  • Cruelty-free certified
  • Free from ammonia
  • Paraben-free
  • Sulphate-free
  • Silicone-free
  • Phosphate-free
  • Is all-natural or free from ingredients which have been associated with health risks
  • Microbiome-friendly
  • Environmentally friendly or sustainable
  • Is organic certified
  • Comes from an established brand
  • Has third-party certification from a reputable organization
  • The brand offers customized or personalized options
  • Exotic ingredients are used/not used
  • Ingredients are locally sourced
  • Palm oil free
  • Has zero waste packaging or refillable packaging
  • Ingredients and packaging are ethically sourced
  • Gives back via charitable donations
  • Does not exploit communities during ingredient sourcing and manufacturing

Key Takeaway:
Define what clean beauty means to you by using the list above. This will help you figure out what your beliefs are and it will assist you when you go to vet brands.
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Why Using Cleaner, Greener And Safer Beauty/Personal Care Products Matter?

A lot of individuals may wonder if making the switch to clean, safe beauty products really matters or makes a difference. The answer is, yes it does! Here are several ways that switching to clean beauty products impacts the planet.

  • You are supporting companies that are lowering their carbon footprint, which positively impacts greenhouse gas emissions. As more and more consumers choose companies that are lowering their energy use, we will see a direct and positive impact on climate change.
  • By choosing clean beauty products, you directly help reduce the plastics that hit our oceans.
  • By choosing to not purchase products that use palm oil, you are ethically choosing to avoid contributing to soil erosion and deforestation. You are helping the supply chain be more ethical.
  • There are low recycling rates for beauty and cosmetic items [3]. By choosing products that use sustainable, recyclable, refillable, or biodegradable packaging, you reduce how much waste goes to the landfill.
  • As you continue to buy natural and sustainable skincare products, you are contributing to the planet’s long-term health (as well as yours) and you are helping companies increase the effectiveness of their products while keeping them honest about their environmental responsibilities.
Key Takeaway:
Clean beauty products are poised to have a major and positive impact on the environment and your own health. Choose to support companies that envision a healthy planet, rather than companies that want to exploit it.
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Common Misconceptions Around Clean Beauty

  1. Is clean beauty a better option? Some individuals may question the efficacy of clean beauty, even though it is sustainable and eliminates harm done to the planet.  The answer? Yes, clean beauty products are just as effective as traditional options and it truly is a better alternative for individuals looking to reduce negative impacts on the environment.
  2. Clean beauty is more expensive. While clean beauty may be more expensive, the products tend to last longer, saving you money in the long run. Beyond this, you are investing into the health of the planet and yourself, while supporting companies that source responsible ingredients and ship with sustainable packaging. However, there are also plenty of ways to make clean beauty work on a budget and there is such a wide range of products that you can find many options that fit your financial position.

Key Takeaway:
Clean beauty doesn’t have to be more expensive and it definitely is a better alternative to a lot of traditional products you currently use.

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Know These Clean Beauty Buzzwords

When it comes to all-natural, beauty products, the cosmetic items you pick up will contain buzzwords like wildcrafted, organic, and cruelty-free. The problem with the use of buzzwords is that their definitions are subjective, both from company to company, and to the individual using the item.  This makes it nearly impossible to navigate whether a product truthfully reflects the labels it presents to the customer. To help you understand what each buzzword means, we’ve compiled a list below.

  • Clean Beauty.  This buzzword tells the consumer that the product is safe for humans and the planet alike. For a product to fit the “clean beauty” definition, it must consider both environmental health and the health of its userbase. It does this by using both non-toxic (no harmful chemicals) and plant-based ingredients. The idea here is to provide nourishing benefits while avoiding any harmful components.
  • Vegan Beauty.  For something to be vegan, it must not contain anything that is the product or by-product of an animal. For example, you may not know that honey and beeswax are not considered to be vegan. While being vegan does have the connotation that you are using products that are “cleaner,” these items can still contain harmful chemical ingredients.
  • Natural. When a product states that it is “natural” or “all-natural” or “naturally-sourced” it means that the product’s formula is 100% free of any synthetic ingredients, chemicals, or additives. Just because a product has natural ingredients, does not mean that it is good for you or the environment.
  • Organic. To be truly organic, a product must have an official seal, granted by the USDA. This shows that the product in question is at least 95% organic and complies with all handling and manufacturing specifications. This means that the product will only use plant-based ingredients that have not come into contact with pesticides or have not been genetically modified. Keep in mind that smaller brands may label their products as organic, even if they have not been officially certified by the USDA. So, always look for the official label.
  • Non-toxic. When a substance is toxic to the body, it will actively cause harm when ingested or topically applied in any dose, small or large. When a product is labeled non-toxic, it tells the consumer that the substance isn’t poisonous and is generally safe to use as directed.  For clean beauty products specifically, a product that is labeled as non-toxic is free of any toxic ingredients deemed potentially harmful by a third party. You should not have any adverse health effects when using this type of product.
  • Green Beauty. When a product uses the “green beauty” buzzword, they are referring to the fact that this product will do no harm to the environment and is made out of sustainable and/or renewable resources.  It is important to note here that this term tends to be a blanket statement to include any product that claims to protect the environment.
  • Blue Beauty.  This concept focuses on making beauty products that do more than just avoid impacting the environment negatively. Rather, they must have a positive impact instead, especially on the earth’s oceans. This is achieved by using sustainable ingredients, avoiding plastics and incorporating refillable containers. See sustainability below.
  • Cruelty-free. Any cosmetic item that says it is cruelty-free is stating that the product has not been tested on animals at any point during the manufacturing process. It can also denote that the product does not use any animal-derived ingredients or did not extract animal ingredients for the product at the expense of the animal’s welfare. Just because an item is cruelty-free does not necessarily mean that it is vegan though, so it is important to read the label carefully if you are looking for a product that does not contain any animal derivatives.
  • GMO-free or Non-GMO. A product that is GMO-free does not contain any ingredients that are genetically modified. If an ingredient is genetically modified, it means that its DNA has been unnaturally altered.
  • Hypoallergenic.  This is an unregulated term that is used by companies to claim that their product produces fewer allergic reactions than other products of the same caliber. Unfortunately, companies are not required to back up their hypoallergenic claims, so their validity cannot be confirmed.
  • Wildcrafted. As opposed to being cultivated on a farm, ingredients are taken from a natural environment that has remained untended by human hands. Many believe wildcrafted plants contain more antioxidants and anti-inflammatory due to their unaided upbringing.
  • Sustainable.  For a product to be sustainable, the ingredients in the product and the packaging itself, should not cause any harm to the environment. For example, any beauty product that uses exfoliating microbeads, preservatives, petroleum jelly, or plastic packaging are not sustainable as these items are either sourced from an industry that causes harm or does harm when used/thrown away. Instead, you want to look for items that have no-waste packaging or packaging that can be recycled such as biodegradable options, glass options, or post-consumer packaging.
Key Takeaway:
Is to take time to understand what each buzzword means, what to expect from a product making a specific claim, and what to look for in a product to verify its claims.
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Greenwashing: What Is It And How to Spot It?

Greenwashing is the practice or marketing ploy that makes unsubstantiated claims that a company’s product, service, or technology is environmentally friendly. This usually involves a company spending more time and money on persuading consumers that they are doing more for the environment than actually minimizing their environmental impact.  It uses misleading information, deceit, and advertising gimmicks to trick consumers and distract them from the company’s unsustainable practices.

How Do You Spot It?

Before making a purchase, look for the following “tells” to spot any greenwashing practices.

  1. Unspoken Trade Offs That Mask Unethical Practices. Companies will commonly boast about a single aspect of their product or practice that has a positive effect on the environment. However, in doing this they will also gloss over one or more aspects that have a negative effect, sometimes an arguably worse effect on nature. These trade-offs are harder to spot as they require consumers to think about all aspects of a product rather than just what it advertises. For example, using sustainable paper products without revealing the substantial emissions that come from the manufacturing process.
  2. Lack of Proof. Statements that could be true, but lack any easily accessible evidence to speak to their validity. A company may claim that they do not test on animals during the manufacturing process, but do not offer any lab reports showing evidence of this. The safest way to avoid this is to always remember “no proof, no purchase,” as companies that don’t test on animals are more than willing to back up their claims.
  3. Vague Descriptions. Many companies are guilty of using language so vague that it leaves a lot of room for interpretation without indicating what the phrase is specifically alluding to. For instance, a company may use the recycled symbol on it without explaining either a) how much of the product is made from recycled material or b) what part of the product can be recycled. Keep an eye out for any messaging that requires you to make assumptions of its meaning.
  4. Irrelevant Statements. Companies may use irrelevant statements or claims that are honest but are entirely useless to the consumer because it has nothing to do with the product itself. For instance, a company that makes disinfectant products may state that they do not use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), but what they don’t tell you is that these have been banned for the past 30 years [4]. Research a company’s claims so that you can check whether or not they even matter in regards to the product.
  5. Minimizing Harm. A company may try to make their product look less “bad” by adding on clean buzzwords. The idea here is that they are trying to minimize the negative perception of the product. An example of this would be like adding “organic” in front of cigarettes. If you know a product is bad, changing one aspect of it will not make it better, so look out for this.
  6. Telling Outright Lies. A lot of the time, a company will misrepresent the certifications that they have either as a whole company or on a specific product to make their product look better in the eyes of consumers.  An example of this would be a caulking product is energy-star registered but taking a look at the official energy-star website suggests otherwise. To spot this, make sure to always double-check accreditations and certifications.
  7. Misleading Green Visuals. A lot of companies will use a particular green aesthetic, such as muted earthy tones and dark greens with pictures of flora and fauna, mountains or tropical animals to help subconsciously convey that their products are eco-friendly. Look out for this as the company may be trying to redirect your attention towards the natural elements rather than the chemicals being used.

Key Takeaway:
Research is key when trying to spot dishonest greenwashing practices. Always look up claims, statements, and labels through official sources. For instance, if a company says that they are certified fair trade, you can search for them or their products through the official Fair Trade International website.

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Sustainability, Sourcing, And Traceability

When it comes to sustainability, a product is only considered as such if it does not cause harm to the environment in any form throughout its life cycle. This means that from the harvesting of the raw materials, to the packaging, to the final formulation of the product, there should be no negative effects present.  It is important to note though that sustainability can mean many things, for some companies it means that the product is locally produced, and for others it means that the product is vegan.  While researching companies and products, be sure to look for whether the product is:

  1. Recyclable – can it be properly recycled?
  2. Returnable – can you return it to the company to be reused or recycled?
  3. Compostable – will the product break down in soil?
  4. Recycled – is it made from recycled materials?
  5. Refillable – can it be refilled when the product inside runs out?
  6. Reusable – can the packaging/product be reused for other means?
  7. Renewable – does the product use renewable resources?

Additionally, be sure to verify that companies don’t employ child labor at any point and avoid products that can potentially be linked to deforestation.

Key Takeaway:
Make sure to look for where and how the brand sources and trace their materials. Find out if they are using renewable resources so that farmland doesn’t become infertile and see if they use sustainable trade partners.

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Ingredient Transparency

Knowing what goes into what you are buying is arguably one of the most important parts of switching to clean beauty. In fact, the clean beauty movement has sparked some of the sharpest rises in ingredient transparency in the industry.

According to research done by EWG:

On average, women use 12 personal care products a day, exposing themselves to 168 chemical ingredients.”

That is a lot, so you really need to be mindful of what kind of ingredients are in the products you are using on a daily basis.

When deciding on a product, consider:

  • Where is the ingredient(s) sourced from?
  • how was it extracted?
  • are plant-based ingredients tested for any pesticide residue?
  • how does it benefit your skin?
  • are there any negative side effects?

When reading product labels, keep in mind that ingredients are listed from the highest concentration (at the top) to the lowest concentrations (at the bottom), meaning that what’s at the beginning comprises the majority of the product.

What about preservatives, do you really need it in your products? Yes, as they preserve your product and protect against bacteria and mold. However, not all preservatives are safe. You want to avoid parabens, and instead look for preservative ingredients like sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate.

Consumers are being empowered with apps and intelligence platforms that are actively providing information on what components go into product formulation, and more importantly, what those components are.

We’ll discuss several of these apps below, and how each one helps you make an informed decision before buying.

Key Takeaway:
Always scrutinize the full ingredient list on the product and commit to looking up unfamiliar or questionable ingredients.

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Tools & Resources

Unfortunately, when it comes to clean beauty and the buzzwords used to describe the movement, there is no standardized and universally accepted definition. This is why a lot of companies will use third-party certifications to help instill trust in their brand and products. While certifications are important, there are some that matter more than others; here are the ones to look for.

  1. EWG Verified. When a product is EWG verified, it means that the product is free from chemicals of concern and meets their strict criteria.
  2. Cradle to Cradle. This is a globally recognized certification for products that are made for the circular economy and are sustainable.
  3. Soil Association. The soil association offers certification for organic and sustainable schemes across health, beauty, textiles, forestry, farming, and catering.
  4. COSMOS. This certification sets the requirements for organic and natural cosmetics in Europe, but it is recognized on a global scale.
  5. EcoCert. This is an organic certification organization that certifies food, cosmetic detergents, textiles, and perfumes. They are renowned for their impartiality, independent, and rigorous testing process. They operate in more than 130 countries and have the highest guarantee of traceability in all sectors.
  6. USDA. The United States Department of Agriculture has organic certifications for companies who want to operate, work as, or transition to using organic producers for their products. All USDA organic products meet organic federal guidelines.
  7. NaTrue. The International Natural and Organic Cosmetics Association protects and promotes natural and organic cosmetics worldwide. They have well over 7,000+ certified products, 300 brands, and over 450+ approved raw materials.
  8. Demeter. This organization is a predominant organic certifier for the biodynamic agriculture sector.
  9. Leaping Bunny. The leaping bunny program is a cruelty-free certification program that requires companies to pledge to end animal testing at all stages of their product development. These companies are also required to recommit to the program on an annual basis and must submit to third-party audits.
  10. PETA’s Cruelty-free & Vegan. For companies to be considered cruelty-free and vegan under PETA, they must have a strict ban on animal testing but also refuse to use any animal-derived ingredients in their products. This includes ingredients like beeswax, honey, and carmine.
  11. Choose Cruelty-free. This is an Australian Independent Body that certifies cosmetics, household items, and personal care items that have not been tested on animals.
  12. B-Corp. To become a B-Corporation, a company must meet the highest, verified standards for social and environmental performance, as well as, public transparency, and legal accountability.
  13. Fairtrade. Fairtrade works with businesses in the Global South, providing independent certification. It denotes that the item was produced under decent working conditions, local sustainability measures, and are reasonably priced.
  14. MadeSafe. A product that has a MadeSafe certification means that it is made with safe ingredients that are okay for both humans and our ecosystems.
  15. Climate Neutral. The Climate Neutral certification helps consumers find brands that have zero net carbon emissions

If you are looking for ways to check the ingredients in your favorite products, you can use the following applications.

1.    Detox Me. This is a mobile application that provides a reliable clean lifestyle guide, so that you can reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals. You can track your progress at eliminating toxic chemicals, scan barcodes of products, use their buying guides to find alternatives, and share tips with others.

2.    CosmEthics. This mobile application tells you what is in your cosmetics and provides healthy alternatives. Has well over 140,000+ cosmetic products in the database.

3.    Think Dirty.  This is another scanning application that allows you to determine if there are toxic ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care items. It also has a comprehensive rating system, a bathroom rating system, shopping lists, and the ability to buy products from Amazon in the United States and Canada.

4.    EWG Healthy Living. This application has ratings for more than 120,000 food and personal care products. You can scan products, review the rating, and use the rating to determine whether it is a good product to pick up or not.

5.    Chemical Maze. This application helps consumers identify dangerous food additives and cosmetic ingredients which could potentially cause discomfort or ill-health.

6.    The Good Face Project.  This is a “beauty matchmaker” application which helps you choose skincare products based on your skin type, needs, and lifestyle. It also helps you check ingredients for safety so that you can build a personalized and clean skincare routine.

7.    Clearya. This application helps those who are shopping online and want to know if their cart has any products with unsafe ingredients in it. It can be added to Chrome or is available via the Apple App Store or Google Play.

8.    CodeCheck. This is another scanning application that helps bring you transparency on what is in your food, drinks, and cosmetics. You scan the product barcode, see the ingredients and ratings, and discover healthier alternatives. You can also adjust the ratings to see preferences based on certain standards such as vegan, microbeads, palm oil, and so on.

Key Takeaway:
Use the resources in this section to learn about ingredients and to verify certifications of any brands you are considering doing business with.
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How to Vet Brands For Sustainability, Quality, And Safety?

When it comes to vetting potential companies for their sustainability, quality, and safety measures, you might not know what to look for right away. As you explore the clean beauty movement, it will become easier to spot clean and sustainable brands.

For now though, you will want to ask the following questions.

  • Do their values and mission statements reflect sustainable practices?
  • Are they transparent about their environmental footprint/carbon footprint?
  • Are their ingredients sourced from sustainable or renewable origins?
  • Do they provide full transparency in their ingredients lists? This should include full transparency on fragrances used.
  • How many ingredients are listed on their products? Having a longer list may not necessarily be a bad thing but it does mean they are using up more resources.
  • Can you trace their ingredients to their source?
  • What is the company’s energy consumption like?
  • Do they have credible certifications that you can verify?
  • Do they provide eco-friendly packaging or packaging that can be repurposed, recycled, or is completely biodegradable (as in it breaks down to nothing)?
  • Do they follow good manufacturing practices?

Write down how many times you can say “yes” to these questions. The more “yes’s” you have, the more likely it is that you are dealing with a high-quality and sustainable brand.

Key Takeaway:
The best advice I can give you is to look at the brand as a whole (their ethos, mission, values, sustainability and impact on our planet) versus only looking at the product ingredients.

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How Can You Make Cleaner Choices?

With hundreds of thousands of products available, it can be overwhelming at first to figure out how to go about making cleaner choices since several components make up clean beauty products.  However, there are a few things you can do right off the bat to help ease yourself into making better, healthier choices.

  1. Educate yourself on what ingredients you want to avoid.  There are many unsafe ingredients added to cosmetics, skincare products, and even household items. These toxins can cause allergies, are known carcinogens, and may even disrupt hormones and negatively impact reproductive health. Stay away from parabens, phthalates, synthetic colors, heavy metals, petroleum-based ingredients, sodium laurel sulfate and sodium laureth sulfate, as well as triclosan and formaldehyde.
  2. When reading through product ingredients, find your deal breaker.  Find that one toxic chemical that you will absolutely not purchase. Make note of this chemical and ban it from your cupboards.
  3. Don’t focus on hollow buzzwords.  Try not to focus on hollow buzzword claims and instead focus on scientific statements that are backed up by evidence. Don’t rely on a company’s word just because they say their product is natural, non-toxic, paraben-free or cruelty-free.
  4. Check your products!  Use mobile applications to verify what is in your products. You can find out whether a product has toxic chemicals in it and see what kind of rating it has.
  5. Read the ingredients list!  Always read through the ingredients list and not just the buzzwords listed on the front. Make sure you understand what every ingredient is, how it impacts your body, and what its use is in the product. Make sure to always look up questionable or unfamiliar ingredients to see what they are, it’s the best way to be informed.
  6. Figure out what ingredients you do want in your products.  Take some time to decide on whether you want ingredients that align with your beliefs and preferences. You may want to only buy vegan-based products, cruelty-free products, or products that focus on benefiting the environment.  In determining this, you can then list out what products you want to try

Key Takeaway:
Be thorough in understanding both negative and positive ingredients and make sure to check your products against well-known toxins.

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Where Do You Start Your Clean Beauty Routine?

The easiest place to begin the journey of switching to a clean beauty routine, is with understanding what the movement is all about. While a clean beauty routine can mean different things to different people, the core characteristics to embrace are non-toxic ingredients, transparency, and healthier choices that support yourself and the environment.  By gaining clarity on the ingredients used in clean beauty and what the clean beauty movement is trying to achieve, you can gain a clear path forward on what you need to look for in your products.

  1. What Is Your Motivation – Your Why? Carefully consider why you want to make the switch to clean beauty products. Are you looking to reduce your impact on the planet? Maybe you’re simply looking for healthier options. Knowing why you want to use clean beauty products will help you determine what properties and benefits to look for in them.
  2. Find Vetted Products From Companies You Trust. Before you can begin the actual, physical switch, you will need to take some time to find vetted products from companies that you trust. Products that have official seals, are mindfully and ethically sourced, are effective for their purpose, and are free from known endocrine disruptors, toxins, and carcinogens is what you are aiming for here.
  3. Add One Product at a Time. Not All or Nothing. If you’ve been using traditional beauty products for a long period of time, switching over everything at once can not only leave you with a lot of garbage to get rid of, but also be a substantial shock to your health. Traditional products may contain harmful components, but your body grows accustomed to them over time. So, just like weaning yourself off of coffee, make your transition slowly to avoid any pit falls. Start with products you use the most of and most often, like moisturizer, face creams and sunscreen.
  4. Replace Products from Most Toxic to Least With Safer Alternatives. Look carefully at the products you already use and determine which ones contain the most harmful chemicals. This could mean that they contain either a higher quantity or a stronger concentration of toxic chemicals. Additionally, a product that has fewer toxins in it but is used far more often than one with more toxins, should be replaced as soon as possible.
  5. Only Replace Conventional Products Once Used Up. Throwing out a product early is potentially more harmful to the environment than using the rest of it first. This is because more of the toxic ingredients can leach into nature than they would if otherwise used. If you are truly uncomfortable with continuing to use a product, research safe disposal actions to limit any negative impact.
  6. Get to Know Your Skin And Learn Its Needs. Everybody’s skin is different, so knowing what your skin needs can save you and your bank account from a lot of stress. This will still take some trial and error in order to fine tune your beauty routine, but at the very least, knowing your base will offer you a strong start.
  7. Add Products According to Their Purpose. Determine what exactly you’re looking to improve: skin, makeup, hair, body, nails? All of the above? Remember that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all,” especially when it comes to beauty products. Your hair will have different needs than your nails, and so you will need to adjust your search accordingly.

Key Takeaway:
Think about what you use the most on a daily basis – products like deodorant, makeup, hand and body soap, sunscreen. Swap those out for cleaner, greener products. For example, you can switch from liquid soap to solid soap bars (just make sure it does not have any questionable ingredients like triclosan, SLS or synthetic fragrance).

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How to Find Clean Beauty Brands?

Clean beauty and personal care products are everywhere, from online marketplaces to your local grocery and drugstores. Nevertheless, you still have to due your due diligence and vet products to make sure they truly are good for you. Here are a few tips you can use to differentiate the real brands from the imposters.

  • Pull up all “clean beauty” companies you are interested in and compare what their definition of clean beauty is. Since there is no standard definition, you may want to look for a company whose definition aligns with your understanding of clean.
  • A clean beauty brand is going to disclose all of their ingredients, including any fragrances they use (not just generically say fragrance). Transparency is a key cornerstone of the clean beauty movement.
  • How a company defines clean beauty, and how it works to achieve it are two different things. Make sure your chosen company lives up to your standards, whether that is using sustainable resources or never testing on animals.
  • Look at the values of the company and make sure that they align with yours. You want to support a company that is true to its ethos.

Key Takeaway:
Take what you believe in and compare that against brands you are considering.

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Making Clean Beauty Work on a Budget

Just because you may have a tighter budget, doesn’t mean that you can’t participate in the clean beauty movement. There are plenty of ways to make a clean skincare routine work. Try out the tips below!

  • Look for products that have multiple uses, like these lip-to-lid balmies that can be used on your eyes, cheeks, and lips.
  • Pair down your medicine cabinet to only essential needs. This will help you simplify your beauty routine by allowing you to focus on everyday use products, such as deodorant or facial cleansers.
  • Focus your dollars on the most important swaps first. This will help you remove the most toxins from your clean beauty routine, while still stretching your money as far as possible. Focus on items like mascara, foundation, and moisturizer. Then look at shampoo, conditioners, deodorant, and sunscreen.
  • Research affordable clean beauty brands that don’t compromise quality for cost.
  • If you can get samples, do so! This is a great way to try out products before spending a lot of money on them.
  • Watch for sales on your favorite products and use coupons.
  • Consider purchasing clean beauty subscription boxes. Sometimes you can get a great deal for a small monthly payment. For instance, the Detox Box from The Detox Market sends you a single clean brand each month, and you earn points for their site which has a ton of amazing, clean beauty products.
Good Brands to Try: Cocokind | Sally B’s Skin Yummies
Key Takeaway:
Only buy what you need and focus on high use items (daily use) and full-body use items such as cleansers or deodorants.
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Ingredients to Avoid, Alternatives + Brands

Companies know what language to use on their products that will get you to buy them. Don’t be fooled by claims such as:

  • natural
  • organic
  • hydrating
  • antioxidant
  • vegan
  • paraben-free
  • cruelty- free
  • free from harsh chemicals
  • hydrating
  • antioxidant

While there is nothing inherently wrong with these terms, the spotlight should not be on what’s left out of the product, rather it should be on what’s INSIDE the container. That’s the only thing that matters.

Learning what ingredients are and what they do can be a daunting task due to the sheer number of them in use. In light of this, here is a quick reference guide, including some clean alternatives.

Clean Skincare

Ingredients to avoid: aluminum, diethanolamine (DEA), monothanolamine (MEA), trithanolamine (TEA), imidazolidinyl, mineral oil, parabens, polyethylene glycol (PEG), phthalates, propylene glycol (PG), butylene glycol, siloxanes, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), synthetic fragrance or parfum, and triclosan.

Safer alternatives: aloe vera, cedarwood oil, chamomile, green tea, hemp seed oil, squalane, rosehip oil, peptides, bakuchiol, hyaluronic acid, plant oils, niacinamide, sea buckthorn

Clean Hair Care

Ingredients to avoid: parabens, denatured alcohols, coal tar, silicones, para-phenylenediamine (PPD), sodium laureth sulfate (SLS)

 

 Safer alternatives: avocado oil, coconut, vitamin E, macadamia nut oil, glycerin

Clean Bath/Body

Ingredients to avoid: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), propylene glycol (PG), cocamidopropyl betaine, triclosan

 

 Safer alternatives: aloe vera, green tea, shea butter, virgin coconut oil, organic hemp.

Clean Oral Care

Ingredients to avoid: artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), carrageenan, propylene glycol, tricolsan.

 

Safer alternatives: neem oil, peppermint, cinnamon, bentonite clay, baking soda, calcium carbonate, activated charcoal, xylitol.

Good Brands to Try: Olas | Davids | Dr. Bronner | Nelson Naturals

Clean Deodorant 

Ingredients to avoid: aluminum, parabens, perfume, triclosan, propylene glycol, alcohol, phthalates.

 

Safer alternatives: baking soda, charcoal, starch, coconut oil, shea butter.

 

 Clean Makeup

 Ingredients to avoid: synthetic fragrance, parabens, tricolsan, formaldehyde-releasing preservatives, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), retinyl palmitate/acetrate/retinol, petroleum distillates, cyclic silicones, coal tar.

 

Safer alternatives: argan oil, manuka honey, avocado oil, coconut oil, olive oil, rice starch, corn starch.


 Clean Fragrance

 Ingredients to avoid: acetone, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, ethyl acetate, limonene, linalool, methylene chloride, parabens, stearates, phthalates.

 

Safer alternatives: essential oils, plant oils


 Clean, Non-toxic Nail Polish

 Ingredients to avoid: formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP), camphor, ethyl tosylamide, triphenyl phosphate, xylene, benzophenones, styrene, glitter.

 

Safer alternatives: bamboo extract, nitrocellulose, titanium dioxide, glycol anhydride.

 

Clean Sunscreen

Ingredients to avoid: oxybenzone, benzophenone, cyclomethicone, formaldehyde, homosalate, methylisothiazolinone, microbeads, nano particles, octocrylene, parabens, phthalates, oxtinoxate, quaternium-15. Retinyl palmitate, zinc oxide, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium laureth sulfate (SLES).

 

Safer alternatives: Titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, shea butter, aloe vera, rose hip, calendula, green tea, licorice root, black current, peony-root extract, vitamin C.

 

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To Recap

We’ve explored how to navigate the complex, ever expanding world of clean, green and eco-conscious beauty.  This eco-friendly trend continues to grow, it is here to stay.

Granted, it may not be the key to saving the world, but every step counts when it comes to our environment and well being. As brands continue to listen and provide more sustainable and healthy options, we can continue to work toward a healthier planet and lifestyle.

Now that you know how to sift through misleading claims and inaccurate labels, you’re well on your way to diving headfirst into clean beauty.

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