How to Identify Clean Beauty Products

Parabens, phthalates, artificial fragrances… oh my! These dirty beauty words are things skincare nightmares are made of. If the shelter in place has been good for anything it’s been to allow me to really hone in on my skincare routine, and my acne-prone skin has been loving it. As more serums, creams, oils, and cleansers creep on to the beauty market we are becoming more and more aware of what we’re putting on our skin. And the last few months have allowed me to really dig into all the ingredients that may or may not be the culprits for my skin woes.

This is where the “clean beauty” movement comes in. But what exactly is clean beauty and how do I know my skincare isn’t hiding some sneaky unpure chemicals in it?

There is an obsession with wellness and detoxification in our society. Both in the diet (hello flat tummy teas) as well as our lifestyle products. We are hyper-aware of synthetic chemicals that could be potential irritants or have some kind of effect on our health. So this leads to more people becoming educated on the ingredients in their products. In 2018 the Global Wellness Economy Monitor reported growth in value of 12.8% from $3.7 trillion in 2015 to $4.2 trillion in 2017. Of that growth personal care and beauty accounted for more than $1 billion in 2017. That was four years ago, and I think people have only become more aware of the ingredients in their makeup. And this is where clean beauty is born. But we still don’t really understand what that exactly means, and probably won’t for a while…

The reason is the definition of “clean” is still up for interpretation. The beauty industry has not created an industry-standard when defining with “green” and “clean” and “natural” mean. This is in part because the EU and the US have very very different standards when it comes to the creation of products. According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the European Union has banned more than 1,3000 ingredients for cosmetics where the United States has banned a mere 30… because when creating a new product it is made up of chemicals the use of the term “chemical-free” is kind of silly. So with the potential of the label touting the claim of “chemical-free” or even “green” being a lie how on earth do we know what we’re buying is good for us?

Two key ingredients to look for on your labels are artificial fragrances and preservatives. When looking at your ingredients if you see the word fragrance or perfume on the label this should be a big red flag because it can be a catchall for up to 1,000 synthetic ingredients. To make sure your fragranced products aren’t harmful these natural fragrances should be listed as essential oils or spelled out on the label as their own ingredient.

Another thing to look for on your labels is synthetic preservatives (avoid anything with methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, propyl-) as well as ingredients like parabens and sodium laureth that can cause endocrine disruption. You should also avoid artificial colors because the can make skin more sensitive. mineral oils like petroleum, petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum are by-products of the crude oil industry and can clog pores as well as silicones such as dimethicone. Sodium lauryl sulphate can strip moisture from your skin

When reading your labels it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Because clean isn’t an industry defined it’s so important to do your research on the ingredients you want to avoid. When reading your labels remember anything over 1 percent has to appear on the label – starting with the highest percentage ingredient, and following in order of amount, from there anything under 1 percent can be in the order of the company’s choosing. It can be a tedious job to make sure all your products are clean but some companies are making it their mission to make sure all their products are safe and simple for their customers. Some of my favorites include:

Drunk Elephant


Kjaer Weis


W3ll People

Bite Beauty

Tata Harper



KORA Organics

Herbivore Botanicals



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