Clean beauty products are made without ingredients shown or suspected to harm human health. For years, I had been naively using beauty products that contained toxic chemicals. I was ignoring the ingredients in my beauty products because I was fed up with trying new products and yoyo dieting to reduce how many spots I had or redness around my nose or itchy skin around my jawline. Now, having found clean beauty products that don’t surprise me when I read the ingredients, I’ve finally reached a place where I’m confident about my skin and the products I use. However, avoiding knowing what is in your beauty products and how it could be affecting not just the outside but the inside of your body too, is part of the problem with the beauty industry. Due to the current social media landscape, we are programmed to buy products based on their reviews over researching what goes into them and whether they actually work at all. There’s no compromise to be made any more—the tech has gotten that good—so there’s even less of an excuse for conventional beauty companies to keep making products with potentially harmful ingredients.
While it’s hard to believe that conventional beauty companies would ever include such ingredients in their products, the fact is that they do—it’s still common practice and perfectly legal. The conventional beauty and personal care industry is minimally regulated in the U.K. To give you an idea of where we are, consider that there are 11 cosmetic ingredients currently banned by the FDA, while in the EU, over 1,300 ingredients are banned. Companies operating in the UK face much less stringent regulations than those in the EU. So they continue to pack the products that we use every day (mascara, face wash, shampoo, et al.) with potentially harmful ingredients that can include known carcinogens, irritants, and endocrine disruptors.
Greenwashing and clean washing
Even with FDA and CTPA (CTPA’s Cosmetic Product Rules and Regulations), companies continue to use many adjectives to market and greenwash these potentially harmful products—”natural,” “green,” and “eco,” for example, have no clear definition.
What to avoid in your beauty products
Here are some of the ingredients to avoid: parabens, phthalates, PEGs, ethanolamines, chemical sunscreens, synthetic fragrance, BHT, and BHA.
Or try this educational post on Instagram about the dangers of using products with Fragrance/Parfum in.
The most important things to know about clean beauty
- One of the most disturbing revelations is the illusion that the FDA have any real power over what goes into our beauty products and the transparency they lead with in terms of ingredient labels. Alarmingly, cosmetics companies aren’t required to disclose what’s inside ingredients that are considered trade secrets, like parfum/fragrance. This loophole means that any skin-care, makeup, perfume, hair, or bath product can contain many potentially harmful ingredients with no mention of them, so long as they are included in the fragrance formula. So trade-secret label terms like “fragrance,” “perfume,” and “parfum” serve as Trojan horses for thousands of potentially harmful ingredients that conventional cosmetic companies include but don’t want consumers to see. Here’s a story that goes deeper into the issue.
- ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS AND HOW TO AVOID THEM: Chemicals that have the ability to mimic the body’s hormones are classified as endocrine disruptors. They include parabens (a routinely used class of preservatives; look for words ending in “paraben” on labels, like “butylparaben,” but remember, of course, that these ingredients could be hidden under the term “fragrance”), and chemical sunscreens (also often included in makeup and moisturisers and also often hidden under the term “fragrance”). As the name suggests, endocrine disruptors mess with the endocrine system, which regulates our body’s essential rhythms (like metabolism, mood, and reproductive processes). The reason endocrine disruptors are particularly dangerous is that they are so small and are able to impersonate our own hormones, effectively altering the production levels of our hormones and the way they behave. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to severe, long-term health damage, including reproductive issues, birth defects, metabolic problems, and cancer. (Parents take note: Endocrine disruptors are even more of a concern for little ones with developing systems.)
- KNOWN CARCINOGENS ARE LEGAL IN BEAUTY PRODUCTS: Ingredients that are known carcinogens are ingredients that can cause cancer and many more that are considered possibly carcinogenic are frequently put into beauty and personal care products, and unfortunately, it’s completely legal to do so. So, we have to do the leg work to uncover what we are really putting on our skin and how it could affect our health. The main carcinogen to be aware of is formaldehyde, which can be used as a preservative in makeup, hair, body, fragrance, and skin-care products. The annoying thing is, formaldehyde is never listed on labels; what is listed (if not hidden under “fragrance”) are the chemicals in formulas that release formaldehyde (when added to water, they slowly decompose, forming molecules of formaldehyde). Here’s what to look for: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, quaternium-15.