Don’t use products that you wouldn’t eat: Clean beauty, and why it matters

Katy Sunshine

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Clean beauty is big right now, as it should be. But even more companies are coming under fire for “greenwashing” their products -- pretending that they’re sustainable and cruelty free when they’re actually not. Isn’t it a good thing, that including morals in our consumption is a trend right now? Here’s hoping that it’s more than that, that it influences our behaviors and buying habits as we go forward.

I’ve always prioritized using clean beauty products, and all other types of clean products when I can find them. But for the sake of this blog post, let’s chat specifically about skin, body, and makeup products.

WHY IT MATTERS TO YOU

Um, did you know your skin is an organ? We know it on a surface level, underline-in-your-science-textbook, but rarely stop to mull over what exactly that means. It means that your skin will soak up anything you put on it.

Think about it: if you’re wearing makeup for several hours, that’s several hours of harmful substances sitting on your skin and absorbing into your bloodstream. Scary, right?

Many brand name shampoos use sodium lauryl sulfate, a foaming agent which is also found in household cleaners…

According to the FDA, “products that stay on the skin [for a long time] shouldn’t exceed 1 percent concentration of SLS.” It’s an irritant that can bother your skin -- which is enough of a reason to avoid it.

If you’ve ever seen the term “food grade” on body wash packaging, it means that you could literally eat whatever you’re using on your skin. (It probably wouldn’t taste too good.)

Why does that matter? Because if it’s safe enough to eat, it’s definitely safe to use on your skin. When we buy shampoo, or moisturizer, or foundation, we forget that we’re absorbing all the toxins used in its formula into our bodies. It enters your bloodstream, and affects your health. If you’ve been prioritizing eating well and green, but haven’t been using clean beauty products? You’re not actually keeping your body pure and clean of toxins.

WHY IT MATTERS TO ANIMALS

When I’m camped out in a beauty aisle at Target or wherever I’m buying my toiletries, here’s how I look for the products I want to buy.

First and foremost, I look for the tiny bunny icon on the packaging. That means that it’s cruelty-free. That the company and product does not test on animals. That classification is important to me for a whole host of reasons. I won’t go into detail, but these labs do some pretty horrific things to cute little bunnies and monkeys, and even dogs! At this point animal testing is completely unnecessary, as demonstrated by the multitude of cruelty free brands selling safely non-animal tested products.

I apologize for being the one to spoil your favorite makeup brands, but here are a few that ARE NOT (as of me double-checking) cruelty-free. These companies still test their products on innocent animals:

  • Bobbi Brown
  • Clinique
  • Essie
  • Estee Lauder
  • Garnier
  • Lancome
  • L’Oreal
  • Mac
  • Mary Kay
  • Maybelline
  • NARS
  • Revlon
  • Victoria's Secret

And the list goes on. Honestly, most of the big drugstore names. I am disappointed every time I research these brands and find out that they STILL support animal testing.

On the flip side, here is a list of well-known brands that ARE cruelty-free! Kudos to these brands for standing up for animals!

  • Anastasia Beverly Hills
  • ColourPop
  • ELF
  • Glossier
  • Jordana
  • Lush
  • Milani
  • Pacifica
  • Physicians Formula
  • Sonia Kashuk
  • The Body Shop

However, sometimes it gets tricky. Although a company can be marked as cruelty free, they might be owned by a parent company that does test on animals. Here are a few examples of those questionable brands:

  • Becca (owned by Estee Lauder)
  • Bareminerals (owned by Shiseido)
  • NYX (owned by L’Oreal)
  • Urban Decay (owned by L’Oreal)
  • Too Faced (owned by Estee Lauder)
  • Tarte (owned by Kose)

Your money talks. While individual behavior isn’t wholly (or even mostly) responsible for our global crises like climate change, sustainability, and animal testing, corporations make these decisions based on how they think they’ll make a profit. Which means that the most power that you have as an individual is how you spend your money.

It’s not that we’re actively supporting these practices. It’s that many people legitimately do not know how widespread and how harmful these practices are in the beloved bottles sitting in their shower caddies.

So now you know.

If you see the little bunny icon, you’re on the right track. If you want to be 110% committed, it may take a little extra research. While shopping for shampoo should be a two-minute errand, it sometimes takes me longer because I will lean against the shelves and literally Google whether or not the brand & any parent companies test on animals.

WHY IT MATTERS TO THE EARTH

You’re not only using your makeup or toiletries on your skin; you’re also using it on your pipes, and therefore, the water system.

Think about it. Any cleanser you use washes down the drain. Your conditioner becomes runoff into your local rivers and oceans, which are dealing with enough due to pollution. Even though water goes through a treatment process, there’s a margin of error, and that treatment usually isn’t good enough.

You should also consider finding products that are low-waste in their manufacturing process. Don’t only think about the jar in your hand, but what the companies do to create everything that goes into that jar. As I said, money talks. You’ll feel better, and be doing more good, by supporting companies who have their values in the right place. Many brands are leaning more towards eco-friendly packaging, so we’re headed in the right direction -- but not there yet.

BEWARE OF GREENWASHING

Okay, being green is big right now. Hopefully it continues to be, as it’s the lifestyle we should all adopt! That being said, brands are savvy to it. You have to be aware of their marketing strategies so you can cut through the noise and watch for the keywords that mean that it’s an accurate depiction.

Keywords to Look for: clean, green, nontoxic

Keywords to Avoid: fragrances, synthetic, parabens

According to Google, “greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.” If a product isn’t transparent about their ingredient list, beware! Just because a company advertises that they’re green doesn’t mean they actually are, so do a little research when you can.

THE BOTTOM LINE

  • Your skin absorbs everything, so be good to it.
  • Don’t use products that you wouldn’t eat. (Sounds funny, but it’s a great rule of thumb.)
  • Using green products is excellent for your health, for animal well-being, and for the Earth around us.
  • Consider ingredients more so than marketing campaigns. Google is your friend!

What are your favorite clean beauty products? Drop a comment below!

Photo by Linda Prebreza from Pexels

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I write about mental health, holistic living, and how to find joy and meaning in your life.

Honolulu, HI
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