Recent years have seen a boom in easily accessible information empowering people to become more educated about the products they use and consume.
Part of that education entails the discovery of just how many harmful ingredients can be lurking in our everyday products. Since the skin absorbs everything you put on it, the products we use are just as important as the foods we consume. Even if you’re eating clean, the “natural” moisturizer you use every night could be infusing your body with toxic, hormone-disrupting chemicals. But more and more consumers are now prioritizing products formulated with pure and clean ingredients, and the beauty industry is taking note. Safe options and ingredient transparency should be a right, not a fight and clean beauty is the answer to that.
Unfortunately, the beauty industry is effectively unregulated thanks to a 1938 law that gives the FDA almost no authority to regulate cosmetics. That means companies can pack their products with toxic ingredients while branding them as “natural,” “organic,” and “pure” – labels which mean absolutely nothing. In fact, companies can market products as “natural” even if only 1% of the product actually is. Even when you think you’re making an informed product choice, you might be led astray by the green-washing and misleading marketing running rampant in the beauty industry today.
That’s where clean beauty comes in. The clean beauty movement is all about non-toxic, transparently formulated products. Clean products are less likely to cause health problems due to the use of nontoxic ingredients and are often sourced responsibly leaving a smaller environmental footprint. Clean beauty can also be cruelty-free, eco-friendly or vegan but it primarily means that the product is formulated without harmful chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption or other serious health problems.
What’s needed now is a major shift in the industry to green chemistry, aka the science of designing chemicals in ways that avoid dangerous substances. The knowledge is there but what’s lacking is the support of big beauty corporation to take it to scale. Many companies continue to use the same outdated, toxic chemistry because it’s easier and less expensive than making the switch. But times are changing. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Susan Collins have proposed the Personal Care Products Safety Act which would require companies to submit ingredient statements to the FDA. If the FDA determines that a cosmetic has a reasonable probability of causing serious health consequences, it may prohibit the cosmetic’s distribution.
For now, however, companies can still misleadingly label products as “natural”, “organic”, “green” and “non-toxic”. To make sure you’re really getting a clean product takes research. The best way to make sure you’re getting the product you pay for are is to shop brands that are fully committed to clean beauty. If you’re looking at a label, scan for parabens, phthalates, petroleum, formaldehyde, and fragrance. Companies often use the ingredient “fragrance” as a catch-all for ingredients they don’t want to list on the label. However, as with anything, it’s not black and white. Fragrance can be natural and use of the label can just mean that the lab producing it doesn’t want to release their trade secret. Natural fragrance is obtained through steam distillation of whole plant parts like the peel, bark, or fruit with no chemical alteration of the compounds. It comes down to buying from brands you trust who are committed to clean, nontoxic ingredients and doing your research. For a comprehensive list of ingredients to avoid, check out this list. Most importantly, shop your values!