With the growing awareness of how harmful chemicals can be to our health, clean beauty products have started to become a popular choice for consumers. While the clean beauty business began over 20-years ago, only in recent years has it gained a lot of traction. So much so, that major retailers like Sephora are now devoting shelf space to products deemed “clean”. Sephora even recently announced in WWD that it is now “beefing up its clean beauty initiative with a program called Clean Plus.”
While all this movement towards offering consumers healthier alternatives is awesome, there’s still a lot of confusion about what clean beauty actually means. So much so, that a major magazine editor even called it a “dirty word” (in a recent Clubhouse chat I was in).
Clean Beauty, Non-Toxic Beauty, Organic Beauty, and Natural Beauty
To shed light on this important topic, this guide will explain the differences between clean beauty products, non-toxic beauty products, organic beauty products, and natural beauty products. Find out why each term varies depending on the ingredients used and the production process, plus learn about some of my favorite beauty brands and products that contain better-for-you ingredients.
What are clean beauty products?
By definition, clean beauty products avoid the use of synthetic ingredients that have been linked to various health concerns such as allergies, cancer risk, and cellular damage. Clean beauty products are free of ingredients that have been banned or restricted for use in certain countries due to health concerns. As an example, in the EU (European Union), they have already banned over 1200 ingredients; whereas, in Canada, 100 ingredients are banned, and in the USA, only 12 ingredients are banned.
Specifically, the term clean beauty is typically used to describe products that are free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, and other harmful ingredients. They also don’t contain artificial dyes or fragrances – which can cause skin problems such as rashes and allergies. Examples of a few clean beauty brands I love include Purlisse, bareMinerals, Biossance, and Tarte Cosmetics.
What are non-toxic beauty products?
Non-toxic beauty products are free of any artificial ingredients, colors, or fragrances. They are also free of harmful chemicals such as parabens and sulfates.
The dirty truth is that many of the world’s most popular brands (including many leading luxury beauty brands and beauty brands that are found in your local drugstore) contain toxic ingredients that are not only harmful to your long-term health but can also irritate your skin, causing further skin problems. That’s why it’s important to read labels and get familiar with ingredients so you can make smart purchases.
What are organic beauty products?
Specifically, organic beauty products contain natural plant-based ingredients which have been grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or synthetic fertilizers. Organic beauty products use plant-based formulas filled with vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and other nutrients.
As reported in a Byrdie article, “This term—which means that ingredients are organically farmed—is regulated by the FDA, but here’s the hitch: A product only has to contain a certain percentage of organic matter to declare “made with organic ingredients” on its label. (This amount varies from state to state—in California, for example, it’s 70%.) Spotting a USDA Organic seal is ideal since that means the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients.”
A great example of an organic beauty brand I love is ĀTHR Beauty. This line of gorgeous eyeshadow palettes, body oils, and lip cremes is certified organic. Not only do they produce high-quality makeup with organic ingredients, but they also pride themselves on using sustainable, eco-friendly packaging as well. Their Summer Solstice Palette is my go-to eyeshadow palette, as it contains the most beautiful, highly-pigmented eyeshadows in a range of flattering shades.
What are natural beauty products?
Natural beauty products contain ingredients that come from nature. They may use plant-based formulas, organic blends of oils and butters, or recipes inspired by traditional people’s herbal remedies. Oftentimes, natural beauty products contain active botanicals (which can offer many of the benefits of synthetic man-made ingredients, without the harsh side effects).
As an example, a new natural beauty brand I love is called Alpyn Beauty. Their PlantGenius Survival Serum has become one of my absolute favorite natural beauty products in recent months. This powerful formula contains Bakuchiol, which is a plant-based alternative to traditional retinol. The upside is that it helps to minimize fine lines, wrinkles, and signs of aging without causing redness, irritation, dryness, or flaky skin (like retinol typically can do). It also gently exfoliates the skin, which leaves it looking healthy, radiant, and dewy.
The benefits of switching to clean beauty products
Having been a beauty blogger for the past decade, I’ve not only tried hundreds of beauty products, but I’ve also interviewed countless beauty industry experts. As a result of my growing knowledge, I’ve become a clean beauty advocate.
Earlier this year, I dumped thousands of dollars worth of toxic, chemical-based beauty products (including makeup and skincare from popular brands), and completely switched over to clean beauty products. What surprised me the most from this transition is that my skin not only looks younger than ever, but it’s also acne-free, more even-toned, and looks fresh and radiant. I get so many compliments on the appearance of my skin that it goes to show how effective and powerful that clean, natural, and organic beauty products can actually be.
A smarter & easier way to research clean beauty brands
I highly encourage you to use the EWG Skin Deep website to look up beauty brands and products. This interactive database contains hundreds of products that are ranked by factors like cancer risks, toxicity levels, potential allergens, and more. It’s a very helpful free tool to use when researching all types of beauty brands, including clean beauty products. It also can shed light on how potentially harmful the current beauty products that you use, which is why it’s an invaluable resource if you care about your health and well-being.
If you’re interested to learn more and discover clean and natural beauty products, check out the previous articles on Inspirations & Celebrations. Since knowledge is power, my hope is to inspire you to make mindful choices about the beauty products you use.
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[Disclosure: Affiliate links included.]