Clean Beauty: The Basics of Non-Toxic Personal Care


Ugly truth: cosmetic & personal care companies in the US are outrageously under-regulated. In fact, legislation controlling the safety of products we expose to our bodies hasn’t been reformed in decades. Yes, decades. Without legislation reform, cosmetic & toiletry companies are, to a certain extent, allowed to put whatever they want into their products and market them however they want. And we all know that when a lot of money is involved, moral compasses are often compromised, which leaves customers in the dark and without an agency looking out for their health & well-being when it comes to personal care products.

Just take a second to think about how many products you expose to your body on a daily basis. If those products contain harmful toxins & chemicals, even in small amounts, daily exposure means those small amounts build up overtime until the amount is large enough to have a serious impact. Some negative effects of common toiletry & cosmetic toxins include harm to reproductive & immune systems, cancer development, tumor production, allergic reactions, hormone disruption, birth defects, kidney/liver/lung/brain damage and more.


If you’ve looked into transitioning to a completely clean & non-toxic personal care routine, I’m thinking you’ve felt the same frustration & confusion as I have. Why? Because you can’t simply rely on a product’s name, tag line, product-highlights or packaging to determine it’s clean-factor. Just like in the packaged/prepared food industry, companies slap key words onto their products to distract customers from digging deeper into a given company’s business practices and a product’s ingredient list.

With so many brands using various forms of the word “natural” in their name, or labeling their product with “cruelty-free, paraben-free & sulfate-free”, it’s easy to fall for their marketing techniques and believe that their branding and packaging reflect the truth behind the product.

As I transition to clean & non-toxic personal care products, I’ve learned that it requires tedious research along with trial-and-error in order to find products that are not only good for me, but that also perform well. It’s pretty overwhelming because there are so many products to think about – shampoo, body wash, face wash, deodorant, toothpaste, makeup, moisturizers, perfumes, etc. But I’m excited for you to follow along on my journey and to learn from my successes and failures.

So where to begin? My first step was to turn to resources I can trust in order to get informed and to fuel my mission. Much of my base-line information comes from either the Clean Beauty section of Goop or from Kristen Arnett, the leader in healthy & green beauty. I highly recommend checking out both of these sites to learn more about why conventional products are so toxic, and how brands get away with it! Side note: you can see Kristen’s list of toxins at the end of the article, click on the “see details” link to learn specifics about each toxin.

My techniques for finding genuinely clean beauty & personal care products? Well this is one of the reasons why I love instagram. It allows me to learn from my community. I take cues from other clean beauty lovers, whether friends or public figures I trust. My cousin recommended using the app called “Think Dirty” which gives products a score (1-10) based on how clean they are. Amazing resource. I use this app constantly when searching for a new product. Cross-referencing the app with research or advice from friends, product-user reviews and clean beauty experts, allows me to be confident when determining whether or not a product in question is actually clean and whether I should give it a try.

Now, I’m not trying to be an expert on each toxin and the specific effect it can have on a person. Being able to rattle off these toxins isn’t as important to me as finding a personal care routine that not only performs to my standards, but also doesn’t disrupt my endocrine system or contribute to illness. So my focus is less about knowing everything about each toxin and more about sharing the non-toxic products I’ve been using and, more importantly, loving.

Lucky for you, I’ve been on this mission for quite some time now, so I’ve been able to stock my bathroom with mostly clean products that I really like using & perform to my standards. From shampoo & body wash to perfume & makeup, I’ve got a clean answer to almost everything at this point.

I should end by noting that I am not guaranteeing my choices to be 100% clean without question, but I am confident that they are pretty darn close. Notice that I am also not using the word “natural” here. That’s because I find it to be a loaded word. There are natural substances that are toxic to humans and there are also lab-developed substances that are perfectly safe for humans. Additionally, as a conscious-consumer, this mission is also about supporting companies that are genuinely trying to make a positive impact in regards to consumers, to workers and to the environment. Basically what I’m saying is that I try to see the bigger picture and focus on making the best sustainable & clean choices available for me and my lifestyle, without the expectation of being perfect. Which is how I approach most things in life these days. So with that, happy cleaning!

The Top Ten Toxic List (see details here)
1) Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate (SLS & SLES)*
2) Petroleum/Paraffin/Mineral Oil*
3) Formaldehyde (quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), glyoxal and oxaldehyde)*
4) Hydroquinone*
5) Mercury (thimerosal & merthiolate)*
6) Parbens*
7) Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP)*
8) Synthetic Fragrance/Parfume
9) Propylene Glycol
10) Triclosan*

Other Toxic Ingredient to Avoid
1) Toluene*
2) Benzalkonium Chloride
3) Bisphenol A (BPA)
4) Butoxyethanol
5) BHA & BHT*
6) Bismuth Oxychloride
7) Carmine
8) Coal Tar (Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine)*
9) Cyclomethicone & Dimethicone
10) Diazolidinyl Urea & Imidazolidinyl
11) DEA, MEA, TEA* (Diethanolamine, Cocamide and Triethanolamine)
12) EDTA*
13) Methyl Cellosolve (Methoxyethanol)
14) Methylisothiazolinone & Methylchloroisothiazolinone*
15) Oxybenzone*
16) Phenoxyethanol
17) Polyethylene Glycol (PEG Compounds)*
18) PVP/VA Copolymer
19) Resorcinol
20) Retinyl Palmitate & Retinol (vitamin A)*
21) Synthetic Color
22) Talc

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