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What To Look For in Clean Beauty Products

Your best friend tells you they’re switching to clean beauty, and once again, you feel lost as to what that actually means. You suspect that clean beauty is free of chemicals, but you aren’t sure which ones. Your friend swears her new clean serum and lip balm are her solutions for healthier, happier skin, but you aren’t sold.

We get it. Clean beauty isn’t, after all, a regulated term. 

Let’s clear the air about clean beauty. We’ll highlight what it is, what it does, and why it’s worth the switch. 

What is clean beauty?

The catchall term of catchall terms, “clean beauty,” can be hard to define. Because it isn’t a regulated class of products like vegan products or organic ingredients, companies that make clean beauty products have basically defined the term on their own. 

Each company that offers clean beauty products may have slightly different set of standards for their clean beauty products, but generally speaking, clean beauty is characterized by:

  • Clean ingredients. Ingredients that are as close as possible to their natural state before they are extracted or harvested for use—think minimal processing and refining.
  • Clear labels. Ingredient lists are easy to understand and transparent, and there’s a clear beneficial reason each component is included in a product. 
  • No toxins. The United States is home to a seriously under-regulated beauty industry. Clean beauty products don’t contain toxins that many traditional beauty products do. 

Other factors that a company may consider when developing a clean product are vegan ingredients, sustainable sourcing, and environmental impact. 

What are some ingredients that you won’t find in clean beauty products?

Ever heard of The Toxic Twelve? These ingredients are commonly found in traditional beauty products and have been found to be harmful to your skin and body. 

Here’s a brief overview of what these twelve are and what products often contain them. 

Parabens

A class of synthetic preservatives, these chemicals are used to extend the shelf life of everything from shampoo to face wash. Parabens are known hormone and endocrine disruptors.

Synthetic fragrance

Fragrance is proprietary in the United States. That means a company doesn’t have to disclose the exact ingredients of its “signature scent.” As such, you’ll never know exactly what your scent is made of. 

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

A synthetic antioxidant, this chemical is used as a preservative in lipsticks and some moisturizers because of its waxy texture. BHA is a known carcinogen and should be avoided. 

It’s worth noting that this BHA is different from beta hydroxy acid, which is also referred to as BHA and known more commonly as salicylic acid. 

Polyethylene (PEGs)

This chemical is used as a binding agent in products like eyeshadow pigments, blush, eyeliner, and much more. It’s a bit ironic that it should be included in eye products because it’s a known eye and skin irritant

Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde isn’t directly added to cosmetics products, but the chemical ingredients in these products release formaldehyde. Formaldehyde-releasing chemicals can be found in personal care products like nail polish, mascara, shampoo, conditioner, and hair color. 

Diethanolamine (DEA)

DEA is the ingredient that’s behind the suds and foam in bath and hair products like soap and body wash. This ingredient is a known eye and skin irritant

Chemical UV filters

Chemical sunscreens work to keep you protected from the sun at the cost of seeping deep into your skin and even passing into your bloodstream. No, thanks. 

Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

Another foaming ingredient, sodium laureth sulfate may cause reproductive harm, skin and eye irritation. 

Triclosan

Triclosan is often added to cleansing products because it can be used as an antibacterial and antimicrobial agent. Triclosan can interfere with thyroid function

Phthalates

Phthalates are used in nail polishes,  as well as in fragrances to help them last longer. They are known endocrine and hormone disruptors

Hydroquinone

This ingredient is found mainly in skin creams that claim to lighten the skin and fade areas of hyperpigmentation. It is a known carcinogen and can cause organ toxicity. 

Petroleum

Petroleum may show up in your products as mineral oil or paraffin wax. This ingredient is a carcinogen with known neurotoxicity and kidney toxicity concerns.

Micro-beads

Even though plastic micro-beads have been banned from use in cleansing products in the U.S., some companies are still using them. Be aware of any product that contains acrylate copolymer. These beads are vastly harmful to the environment.

What about PFAS?

PFAS, short for Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances, are a class of chemical substances added to everything from non-stick cookware to furniture and—you guessed it—even cosmetics. These chemicals make your products spreadable and water-resistant. 

PFAS are dangerous for both your health and the environment. Research is still ongoing about the exact impact of these “forever chemicals” that don’t break down in the environment or the body, but it’s Kinder Beauty’s stance to never offer products that contain them. 

What are common misconceptions about clean beauty?

As with practically anything, there are some common misconceptions about clean beauty. Kind of like the misconception that vegans always eat healthfully (potato chips are vegan, after all). Here’s what you should know.

It’s all-natural

Not necessarily. Some “clean” beauty products will be natural, but some may not be. Not all chemicals are inherently bad for your body, and some natural ingredients can cause you real harm. 

It’s organic

You’ll find many clean beauty brands that are organic, but some clean beauty products simply can’t be organic because they contain ingredients that aren’t grown. You can’t call something organically grown when it doesn’t grow in the first place. Minerals in your mineral makeup products, for instance, are technically inorganic materials.

It’s green

This is another loose term that isn’t actually regulated. Green typically means environmentally friendly, but one company’s environmental standards may differ from another’s. While some clean beauty products can certainly be sustainable and green, they don’t have to be to claim they’re clean. 

It’s vegan

Vegan products don’t contain animal byproducts or parts. Clean beauty products aren’t always vegan, though some are. It’s very common to find clean beauty products that contain animal ingredients like honey, beeswax, and lanolin. The same goes for cruelty-free—while many clean beauty products are cruelty-free, it’s not a given, especially when there are so many ways to call yourself a cruelty-free company while sneaking in very cruel practices during manufacturing. 

What are the benefits of clean beauty?

Clean beauty is generally safer for your skin and for the environment. Using clean beauty products means less interaction with toxins and less stress on the planet.

It’s good for your body

Clean beauty, like the products we offer in our beauty boxes, keeps you safe from toxic chemicals that could irritate your skin, increase your risk of certain cancers, and disrupt your hormones (as if you need help with hormone fluctuations as is!). 

It’s good for your mind

You’ll get peace of mind when you use clean beauty products, knowing the ingredients aren’t going to harm your body or irritate your skin. You’ll never have to second-guess whether a product is good for you or not.

It’s good for the environment

Clean beauty focuses attention on keeping your body safe, and the environment safe. The products you’ll find in the clean beauty category are less taxing to the planet and can often be found in sustainably sourced formulas. 

Clean beauty for the win

Clean beauty is ever-evolving. You can trust Kinder Beauty to keep you up to date with the most promising clean beauty products that hit the market. Everything you'll find in Kinder Beauty boxes are also totally cruelty-free and vegan.

With the Kinder Beauty Box, you get to try before you buy and decide if a clean beauty brand works for your skin and your lifestyle. From primer and lip colors to natural deodorant and face masks, we’ve got you covered. 

Clean up your act and your beauty routine with high-quality, clean beauty products that help keep you and the environment safe and beautiful. 

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Sign up for Kinder Beauty today.

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Sources:

US Laws | Safe Cosmetics 

Fragrances in Cosmetics | FDA 

Queen of Green Cosmetics and Body Care The Dirty Dozen: BHA and BHT | David Suzuki Foundation 

The Trouble with Ingredients in Sunscreens | EWG 

Hydroquinone | Safe Cosmetics 

Parabens and their effects on the endocrine system | NCBI 

Safety Evaluation of Polyethylene Glycol (PEG) Compounds for Cosmetic Use | NCBI

DIETHANOLAMINE HAZARD SUMMARY | NJ Department of Health

Human and Environmental Toxicity of Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): Evidence for Safe Use in Household Cleaning Products | NCBI 

Triclosan and triclocarban exposure and thyroid function during pregnancy – a randomized intervention | NCBI 

Endocrine Disruptors | NIH 

Hydrocarbon Toxicity: Practice Essentials, Pathophysiology, Etiology | Medscape