Making healthy decisions is paramount for wellness. But these decisions need to extend beyond staying active and eating healthy. Using healthy products is essential for health as well. However, clean beauty products do not always get the attention and focus they deserve.
The simple thing is this, choose safe products for your skin. But what makes a safe product?
Why is Clean Beauty Important?
On the plus side, the clean beauty industry is growing. New standards are being set to create safe beauty products. At the same time, these products need to educate and empower consumers.
The Hidden Dangers in Cosmetics
The endocrine system is essential for regulating the body’s essential rhythms. Parabens are included in micro-doses, however, it is precisely because they are in tiny doses that the endocrine system is rocked. As they impersonate hormones, the body will begin to change its own hormone production as well as change the way they behave within the body. Parabens and other endocrine disruptors are linked to several serious health conditions, and in some cases have resulted in long-term health issues. Many of the body's systems could be severely disrupted by these endocrine disruptors, including the reproductive system, metabolic system, and even cancer. The WHO released a shocking report on hormone disruptions in 2013. The report exposed the severe dangers of these chemicals, and their link to specific cancers such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer. But it did not end with cancer, as the report also stated how these disruptors can cause severe developmental issues, as well as non-descended testes in young males.
Avoid BPAs, perchlorate, arsenic, flame retardants, PFCs, dioxin, phthalates, dioxin, organophosphate pesticides, atrazine, and mercury.
Phthalates are amongst the most dangerous ingredients in cosmetics. Despite it being a severe hormone-disrupting chemical, it is also one of the most common. Phthalates are present throughout every crevice of the cosmetic industry. Hairsprays, nail polishes, creams, deodorants, and lotions contain this chemical. Studies found that phthalates are easily absorbed and can cause harm to the reproductive system, kidneys, lungs, and liver. And here’s the real kicker. Europe has banned the inclusion of Phthalates in cosmetics for the past decade already. And the US? Well, Phthalates can still be included in the USA and are often mis-labelled as “fragrance”.
Formaldehyde - the legal carcinogen
One of the worst villains of the beauty industry is formaldehyde. This is a chemical preservative and is a known carcinogen. Research shows that a fifth of the beauty products on the market contain this dangerous, cancer-causing chemical. What's more, the formaldehyde will not show on the label. Instead, companies use different chemicals that, when in contact with water, begin to release formaldehyde. This means that while formaldehyde is not inserted ‘intentionally’ as an ingredient, the companies can wilfully add chemicals that begin to form formaldehyde. Studies have shown that people can inhale this dangerous chemical when applying these products to their faces. So, how do you know which products contain this chemical? You can avoid formaldehyde forming products by avoiding the following ingredients:
3 diol (Bronopol)
Always read the ingredients list and if the product contains any of these ingredients, leave it on the shelf.
Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
These chemicals are often included in sunscreens, shampoos, eye makeup, lipstick, and hair products. There is a long list of associated health risks linked to SLS, ranging from simple skin and eye irritation to reproductive issues and cancer.
Coal Tar Dyes
These dyes are often included in darker hair dyes. They have been linked to some cancer types and they often contain heavy metals. Heavy metals like aluminium are often found in coal tar dyes and this is linked to Alzheimer's and other neurological disorders.
RegulationThe USA only bans 30 toxic chemicals and does not regulate makeup. And no, not even “natural” label makeup is regulated. The FDA does not outline specific ingredients or standards for companies to meet. This leaves it up to manufacturers to ensure their products do no harm and are safe to use. So, if it's up to manufacturers, then what it really means is that it is up to the consumer to check ingredients and discern the clean from the cleverly marketed.
Cumulative EffectsThe pro argument for the inclusion of chemicals in beauty products relies on the fact that these chemicals are often included in micro-doses. However, there are many holes in this argument. As mentioned for hormone disruptors, the fact that they are included in micro capacity makes it even more dangerous for the body as this helps the chemicals to mimic hormones. Secondly, while the chemicals may be added in tiny doses, these chemicals are added to plenty of products that are used daily. Research shows that this creates a cumulative effect on not just the individual chemicals, but of all the chemicals together. This cumulative chemical cocktail is ingested and absorbed daily and this is why we are seeing a modern society plagued with health concerns that we did not see in the past.
If the use of chemicals in the beauty industry remains unchecked, these health conditions will simply keep on rising.
How to Get Started with Clean Beauty
Discerning the “Natural” Label
There is no legal definition for natural products. This leaves a grey area accessible for many brands to market their products as natural. As you can imagine, this means that many chemicals can be included in an ingredient list and the product can still be called natural or clean.
Therefore, people must be armed with the knowledge they need to discern ingredients and know what is really behind the attractive labels and clever marketing.
Labels: What to look for and what to avoid
Natural makeup can be vastly different according to each brand. So that’s why you should always check the packaging and the ingredients. The following labels are indicative of a clean(er) beauty product:
- USDA Organic for US cosmetics
- Leaping bunny certified
- Soil Association
When a product has a USDA seal, it is an indication that the USDA has certified the product and that the product is one hundred percent organic. As for the “organic” term, it indicates that a minimum of 95% of the ingredients is organic.
If the label states “made with organic ingredients” it indicates that a minimum of 70% of the ingredients is organic.
Although you might be tempted to opt for the “unscented” option, these could potentially have as many chemicals, if not more. Unscented products are sometimes formulated with chemicals to mask any existing scents. Rather opt for fragrance-free options. This will help to avoid any potentially harmful synthetic fragrances.
- Synthetic Ingredients
And on the subject of synthetic fragrances, we have to mention synthetic ingredients. Natural and organic products tend to be free from synthetic ingredients like formaldehyde, parabens, and phthalates.
If you are prone to allergies or have sensitivities then be on the lookout for possible allergens. Even natural ingredients can cause allergies and reactions.
Although not clean in the sense of harsh chemicals, clean beauty should incorporate a clear conscience as well. If you want to upgrade your cosmetic cupboard then only cruelty-free products should make the cut. Look out for the bunny logo on the product packaging.
Because it's not entirely regulated in the US, you should always check the ingredients. Put the products back on the shelf if they have these types of ingredients:
Synthetic preservatives. No true natural makeup product contains any synthetic preservatives.
Artificial colorants. Regular makeup will typically use artificial colorants like synthetic pigments and dyes.
Artificial fragrances. Synthetic fragrances will be an assortment of chemicals. But, here is the catch. The US does not regulate this and a brand does not have to list this chemical cocktail on their ingredient list. Natural makeup will not contain these chemicals.
Heavy metals. Let's remember something, lead and arsenic are found in nature. But remember, not everything in nature will help you. When lead and arsenic are in high doses they have been linked to serious health problems. It's essential to ensure that the natural make product meets safety limits.
- Animal testing
- GM ingredients
- Controversial chemicals
- Parabens and Phthalates
- Synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances
- Sustainably sourced organic ingredients
- Using natural colours and fragrances from plants and flowers
- Transparent manufacturing processes
- Biodegradable ingredients
- Minimal packaging with maximum
- Protecting wildlife and biodiversity