Clean beauty: What it actually means
You don’t need to be a skincare genius to care about the ingredients in your beauty products. From parabens, phthalates, sulphates and artificial fragrances, these dirty words may cause you to purge your entire bathroom cabinet. While there’s more than enough research available stating what ingredients are bad, the problem is there’s no common definition of what’s considered “clean”. Everyone wants to use clean beauty, but do we know what clean beauty really means? During quarantine, we took the time to dive into our skincare routines and understand clean beauty. In this blog, we’re sharing everything we learned, debunking myths, providing ingredients you should steer clear of and how to adapt a cleaner beauty routine!
What does clean beauty even mean?
You’ve likely seen beauty products state that their clean, green, organic, vegan & cruelty-free, but just know that when it comes to beauty products, the FDA has yet to regulate how brands can use these words. What’s wild is that the US has banned only 11 additives from cosmetic products whereas the EU has banned 1,300 ingredients! Sadly, since we’re Canadian and most of our beauty products come from the US, this also applies to us. You just need to be cautious with these labels as they very well may possess what they're stating but definitions of “clean” beauty are subjective to change from company to company. Which makes the clean beauty space hard to navigate. So let’s break down these common buzzwords:
What does clean mean?
Clean means it’s safe for people and the planet, it’s considered human and environmental health, using nontoxic and plant-based ingredients. Much like clean eating rejects processed foods and focuses on nourishing whole foods, the same is true for clean beauty.
What does green mean?
Green means that a product does zero harm to the environment. This should involve the production process as well as usage but this term can be broadly used for any product that claims to protect the environment.
What does organic mean?
Personal care products that are 95% organic will bear a USDA Organic Seal. Products with this seal must comply with strict handling and manufacturing procedures and the use of GMOs is prohibited. The clean beauty industry has begun to use organic, plant-based ingredients wherever possible to avoid pesticides. However, this USDA seal is expensive, so it’s common for smaller brands independently label products as organic.
What does vegan mean?
A beauty product is vegan so long as it doesn’t contain any animal by-products or ingredients sourced from animals. Vegan does not always mean clean, a product can be vegan yet still contain toxic ingredients.
What does cruelty-free mean?
A beauty product is cruelty-free if it doesn’t test on animals. It can also mean that any animal-derived products we’re not extracted at the expense of the animal's welfare. Not to be confused with vegan, as a product can be cruelty-free, but still not vegan.
Clean beauty brands
Since there has been little government regulation around cosmetic regulations, small clean beauty brands have been popping up everywhere in recent years to try and step in where the government has been lacking. Below we highlight some of our favourite clean beauty brands (and some of them are local, yay!).
Volition is 100% clean and cruelty-free and they’re super unique because they allow their customers to have a say in product formulation! You can go on their website and vote for your favourite products for your most authentic needs and if you don’t see a product for you, tell them! You can submit any idea you have to them and who knows, maybe your idea may be a winner. Our favourite product from Volition is the Celery Green Cream, it’s super hydrating with hyaluronic acid yet lightweight, perfect for us combo skin girls. (Sephora, $79)
We love Good Molecules, they believe in a nothing to hide ingredient list and are 100% transparent about everything ingredient and the amount used, large or small. We love the transparency and their products are simple, yet effective. We have a few of their products in our skincare routine, but our fav is the Pure Cold-Pressed Rosehip Oil (Beautylish, $14) which we apply after moisturizing every night.
essentials by temi
This is one of our favourite brands as it’s plant-based, Toronto-based and black-owned! We love the Radiance Complexion Mist (essentials by temi, $20); the smell is predominantly comprised of lemongrass and is so uplifting and refreshing. Just a couple of sprays left our skin moisturized and nourished.
This is another staple in our routine because how can it not be? Skin Drama is Toronto-based, organic & cruelty-free and black-owned. We’ve been using their Camu Camu + Sweet Orange Acne Cleanser (Skin Drama, $35) a lot recently cause maskne… It’s so amazing on stubborn blemishes and the scent is super nice, especially in the AM.
There are so many clean beauty brands out there now that it can be overwhelming. Our best advice we can give you is to do your research to understand what ingredients work best with your skin type and concerns and go from there to find brands that align with your needs. You can find lots of other great clean beauty brands on the detox market.
Ingredients to avoid
We get it, skincare can be expensive especially if you’re doing a haul. If you don’t want to revamp your current routine, it’s best if you understand at least what ingredients you should 100% avoid. These ingredients are just no’s and definitely not something you want to be putting on your skin:
Parabens, fragrances, aluminum compounds, ethoxylated agents, formaldehyde, refined petroleum, hydroquinone, talc, triclosan, silica & oxybenzone.
How clean are your products?
One last thing and maybe the most valuable point in this blog. If you’re reading this, you likely really care about your skin and we’re sure your current skincare routine is great, but how great? Nobody wants to read extensive ingredient lists to ensure products are clean, that’s why there is this resource from EWG SkinDeep!
You can input your products into the search and it will tell you how good or bad your products are on a scale of 1-10. 1 being amazing and 10 being hazardous. We were super surprised to see that some of our products weren’t as great as we thought they were.
It’s hard to imagine clean beauty will be regulated anytime soon when traditional cosmetics have such lax standards. But that doesn’t mean change won’t happen. We’ve become super passionate about clean beauty and as an informed customer now, we get to decide what ingredients we like, what products to buy, and what brands philosophy we want to support.
Disclaimer: Always spot test any new products or speak to an expert before making the switch.