I used to shop based on how pretty the bottle looked or what was popular on the shelves and in the adverts. I’d carry around a basket and throw things in it with products that were on offer or ones that I usually wouldn’t be able to afford. I was also the ideal shopper the beauty industry looks for…I only read half the label!
Back then, beauty products were attractive because they said ‘bio’, ‘botanical’ or ‘natural’ that on their labels. I didn’t think about synthetic ingredients, let alone parabens or how they could have an effect on my skin. I assumed that one word on the front of the label meant that the whole list was natural as those words suggested. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I began to research what was in the beauty products I was putting on my skin and how they could attribute to such things as acne, random dermatitis and other odd things that I just assumed were part of the transition into womanhood.
What is green beauty?
Green beauty is an umbrella term that refers to totally natural skincare made with true-to-nature or naturally derived ingredients. As it suggests in the name, ‘green’ beauty is also sustainable and renewably sourced and often called ‘eco beauty.’ I also try to purchase green beauty products from brands that are ecologically conscious with their packaging too, so, green brands are likely sustainably packaged.
What is natural and organic beauty?
Natural beauty products are supposed to use ingredients that are pure, synthetic-free and sourced from nature (land or sea). For example, plant oils (botanicals) and sea salts. However, “natural” does not necessarily mean it’s 100% natural (unfortunately, beauty products often mix only one natural ingredient along with synthetics and can still be label their products as “natural”). Companies can get away with this because the term is not regulated by the FDA. Crazy…I know! This is why we have to read the ingredients as most brands can’t be trusted by what they advertise on the front of the labels, you have to read the back of them too!
Organic beauty products are supposed to involve the use of organically farmed ingredients, avoiding the use of potentially harmful substances like Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. But again, sadly you can’t always automatically trust the label. Like with those supposed “natural” ingredients, a company can say their products are “organic” even though there is only a single organic ingredient in there.
To help you spot a real from a fake, you can look for certifications such as “USDA Organic” which means the ingredient or brand was certified by the USDA. This certification is enough to give you peace of mind that almost all of the ingredients in the product have been grown and processed in regulated conditions that mandate cleanliness and that it does not contain pesticides, synthetic preservatives, petrochemicals, GMOs or ionizing radiation.
Other certifications to look for
Another certification to look out for is ‘ECOCERT’, which requires, in their words, “the absence of GMOs, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEGs, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them: milk, honey, etc.)” and “a minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 10% of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming” to be able to use the label, “natural and organic”.
‘Clean beauty’ is best known for avoiding ingredients that are considered toxic (whether the ingredient has been scientifically confirmed as toxic or is still controversial), carcinogenic or harmful to the environment (whether they are natural or not). However, the general belief of “clean beauty” is that not all synthetic ingredients are harmful, and a small amount may still be used to act as binders, stabilizers or to mask natural odours. Overall, “clean beauty” tends to be less stringent with natural-ingredient selection.
In comparison, a true “green beauty” brand ensures that its ingredients are not only absolutely natural, organic, safe and effective, but are also completely free from controversy. In other words, if science is unsure or unclear if an ingredient is safe, it’s still not used to err on the side of caution.
Indie beauty versus green beauty
Many people assume that “indie beauty” means “green beauty” since many brands are both, but the two are not interchangeable. Indie beauty generally means the brand was founded and/or is operated by an entrepreneur—and there is typically no funding or backing from cosmetic corporations. Financial investment is provided by either the entrepreneurs themselves or through ethical funding sources like female VCs or funds. Indie beauty brands sometimes focus on quality, sustainability and pro-community, while others aim to create products that are both luxurious and artisanal but again: not all indie brands are exclusively focused on totally green beauty.
Why should you swap to green beauty brands?
Our skin is like a sponge and absorbs up to 70% of what we apply topically (face, arms, bum and everywhere on the body!). Although there are plenty of ingredients that still require further study, there are many that are confirmed as harmful or controversial for the human body and the environment.
The good news is that there are plenty of helpful websites that can explain what the ingredient is and how it can affect your body. You can use websites like the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a non-profit activist organisation involved with research and advocacy to search for a specific ingredient or product to tell you how dangerous they are using published studies and academic research.
According to Organic Consumers, women put up to 515 synthetic chemicals on their bodies every day. In 2002, a survey conducted by EWG found that women use an average of 12 products a day, with men using an average of 6 products a day.
Also, several medical studies have pointed out that chemicals such as phthalates can be potential hormone disruptors. And in July 2018, the state of Hawaii signed a bill that will ban the use of chemical sunscreens by 2021, as they have been confirmed in causing harm to the delicate coral reef eco-systems and other marine life. These are just some of the reasons why committing to green beauty is a smart decision—for your health and the earth.
Making the switch
Many blogs hail this brand is the best and this product is the best but honestly, everyone is different, and products work differently for others. Switching to cleaner, healthier beauty brands is a process and shouldn’t be rushed. Also, you might prefer one brand’s hair product and another brand’s moisturiser, it’s okay to mix and match. Also, there are different brands that focus on different areas than others, so it’s good to research and then try before you really invest. I’ve been wanting to find a cleaner haircare products for a while now and am happy that I’ve finally made the switch to shampoo and conditioner as it can be so tricky to find the right shampoo or conditioner for your hair type.
Here are some of my favourite beauty brands that you’ve probably seen me blogging about.