A Complete Guide to Clean Beauty & 3 Tips for How to Transition
I dream of a world where clean and safe beauty is the gold standard. But, for that day to actually arrive, we need to vote with our dollars and support businesses that are pushing the cosmetic industry forward. Skin is our largest organ and our protective barrier from illnesses and disease, so what you put on it matters, just like the food you eat matters. Is beauty really worth the cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting toxic ingredients? Nope. It really isn’t. And I betcha, you’ll find that these clean beauty alternatives work just as well, if not better.
My Road to Clean Beauty
Many people think yoga was the start of my wellness journey, but in actuality, it began with coconut oil. In 2012, I started using coconut oil on my skin to heal my cystic acne. From there, I was motivated to clean up other areas of my life. I switched to a non-toxic skincare and beauty routine (and wrote about it in this article). I adopted cleaner eating habits. I let go of toxic relationships. I started to love and appreciate my body through the practice of yoga. And alas, my wellness journey began.
Source: Credo Beauty
The Reality of the Conventional Beauty Industry
Since the cosmetics industry is quite unregulated, companies are free to throw around the words natural or green with no government reinforcement or clear definitions. All the while, they are filling their products with toxic chemicals that over time can f*ck with our hormones, irritate our skin, and contribute to infertility and cancer. Not to mention, our planet is suffering (read this).
“The European Union bans 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics that are known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects. In comparison, the United States has only banned or restricted 30 chemicals from cosmetics.” - The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
As consumers, we must exercise our due diligence and read labels. Don’t let luxurious branding or a high-dollar product fool you. Just as you would read labels on food products, I recommend you read every new skincare product you purchase moving forward.
The Dirty Dozen
Sulfates - It's the foaming agent and was used as an industrial degreaser. You don’t want to strip your skin of all it’s moisture anyways.
Phthalates (aka Fragrance) - In almost every product with an artificial scent like shampoos, perfume, moisturizer, and more. May smell like roses, but it's a carcinogen and hormone disruptor.
Parabens - Makeup, body washes, deodorants, shampoos, facial cleansers, and even our food. These type of preservatives keep bacteria and yeast from growing in your foundation, but they are also linked to an increased risk of breast cancer when soaked into your skin.
Formaldehyde - Nail polish, nail polish treatment, body washes, conditioners, shampoos, cleansers, and eyeshadows. At its best, formaldehyde causes allergic reactions. At its worst, this chemical was deemed a human carcinogen by The International Agency for Research on Carcinogens (IARC) linking it to occupational related cancers.
Sunscreen chemicals (benzophenone, PABA, avobenzone, homosalate and octyl methoxycinnamate) - Products with an SPF and in most sunscreens. These products are easily absorbed into the skin, in turn, cause damage to your skin and cancer in your body. Yuck.
Coal-Tar Dyes (Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) or naphthalene) - Shampoo, hair dye, lipsticks, and cosmetic products Derived from chemicals that occur naturally in coal, crude oil, and gasoline, making them undesirable to swallow or absorb in your skin.
BHA and BHT (butylated hydroxyanisole and butylated hydroxytoluene) synthetic antioxidants - Lipsticks and moisturizers. These chemicals mimic estrogen causing infertility, can cause allergic reactions in your kidney, thyroid, and liver, and can be cancer causing.
DEA Compounds (diethanolamine) - Foundations and cleansers to make products creamy and foamy. These babies can f*ck with your hormones and cause fertility issues.
Petrolatum (also known as petroleum or liquid paraffin) - In products that make your hair shiny and/or moisturizers. Deemed a possible carcinogen in Europe.
Triclosan - Antiperspirant deodorant, cleansers, hand sanitizers, laundry detergent, facial tissue, and classified as a pesticide. If it being a pesticide didn’t give it away, this chemical can interfere with breast development, thyroid hormones, which regulate metabolism and overall hormonal issues.
Propylene glycol - Moisturizers, sunscreen, makeup products, conditioners, shampoo and hair sprays. It's a skin irritant known to cause hives and allergic reactions.
Toluene (may be listed as: benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene) - Nail polish, nail treatments, and hair color/bleaching products. This stuff is used in paint thinner and can severely affect your respiratory system and cause major damage to an expecting mother and her baby.
My golden rule of thumb: the fewer ingredients, the better. Aim for at least 90-95% natural for items you use on your skin every day. But, don't sweat it if you want that not-so-natural winged eyeliner for the occasional night out. Baby steps.
How to Make the Transition
This kind of transition doesn’t happen overnight, so remember that before you go and chuck everything you own. We do not support being wasteful regardless of the intention. So, here's a good place to start:
1. Find a clean beauty source you trust.
My go-to is Credo Beauty, which is basically the Ulta or Sephora of clean beauty. The staff is so knowledgeable and will help you find brands you’ll love. You can also find clean beauty products at Whole Foods, Target, Madewell, Free People, and more. Download the Think Dirty App to check items before you buy them or familiarize yourself with the ingredients mentioned above.
2. Swap one item at a time.
Swapping out all of your products at once is overwhelming and expensive. Stress isn’t good for your health either, so let’s minimize that. As you run out, replace it with a cleaner option.
3. Don’t let fancy branding fool you.
Cruelty-free or vegan does not mean clean. A luxury price point doesn’t mean clean. Don’t let branding mislead you. Read the labels, the fewer ingredients the better.
^Featuring Credo Beauty’s selection of clean makeup brands that I use regularly.
Brands I Love, Trust, and Support
It’s incredibly intimidating to memorize a scientific list of ingredients to avoid. The secret? Find brands you love and trust, and become a loyal customer.
My Current Favorites:
*Please note this list is always growing and changing. As a wellness blogger, I’m often testing out new products to share with you all. Anything I mention below is tried and true products I’ve used regularly.
Biossance // love the Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil, Squalane + Peptid Eye Gel, and the Squalane + Mineral SPF 45 (more about this brand down below). Biossance sets the bar high by banning 2000+ ingredients.
bioClarity // it successfully clears acne without the harsh chemicals and yucky ingredients. It completely cleared my hormonal acne I was experiencing post-birth control pill. So, now I only use it as needed! Get 50% off with the code: OMCITY
Cocokind Skincare // very reasonably priced. I love the matcha stick for moisturizer (I even put it on my eyebrows, which helped them grow!), chlorophyll mask, maca beet lip tint. I'm obsessed with this brand and the badass founder Priscilla. You can find it all at Whole Foods!
100% Pure // I've been using this brand the longest. I recommend absolutely everything from their site. They have literally everything clean beauty you can imagine.
Highlight: Biossance, a clean beauty brand raising the bar
I've been using Biossance’s Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil since July of last year (see blog post about it here), and it's still a staple in my daily ritual. My mom has also been using it since then and loves it!
Our bodies naturally produce a version of squalane, but the amount we make and retain decreases over time. So, Biossance has created a 100% plant-based squalane that is sustainably harvested from sugarcane. It can reduce the signs of aging because it helps replenish the natural moisture that is lost. Biossance has a free sampling program so you can give some of their products a try by clicking here.
If you made it this far...
Thanks for sticking with me! At the end of the day, striving to make cleaner choices with greatly benefit you in the long run. Remember, little by little one walks far, so if you can make just one tiny change you're already making progress.