The beginner's guide to clean beauty

For most of our lives, we’ve bought our shampoos and body washes without batting an eyelash at the long list of ingredients on the bottle. And while we still swear by a slew of those same products, we’re also thankful for the long-delayed emergence of the clean beauty industry. We don’t need to wax poetic for long about why this moment is important. The answer is simple: We want a better understanding of the stuff we’re putting on and inside our bodies.

It seems we need a lesson on how to navigate it all. Is there really a difference among clean, green, and organic? And if there is, is one better than the other? We hope this article will help understand all of the confusing language, as well as where to start if we want to clean up our act in the beauty aisle.

Natural Versus All-Natural

The only difference between these two terms is the addition of all. They mean the same thing and as of now, there are no FDA mandates on using the word natural. Unfortunately, this means the word is free for anyone to use, including brands whose products may not be so safe.

You can have one natural ingredient and still call it clean or natural. Education comes into play with knowing and understanding the ingredients in your product.

At the same time, just because a product can’t be called organic because of certification requirements doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad for you. If you’re unsure of whether something is safe to use, the general rule of thumb is that the label shouldn’t look like gibberish.

“When looking at ingredients, you should be able to recognize the ingredients or be able to do a quick Google search, i.e., cocoa butter or beeswax.”


If a product is labeled cruelty-free, this means its ingredients, formulations, and end products have been developed without methods that require testing on animals.

Clean and Green

There are so many words associated with the world of safer beauty products that it’s become difficult to distinguish which ones fall under which category. Terms such as clean and green are simply marketing tools, should be treat the same way you think of natural or all-natural.

These words can be used to describe something that includes just one true-blue natural ingredient or something that doesn’t have an ounce of the harmful stuff. But ultimately, there are no regulations that can technically keep any brand from using the terms. T

The No-No Ingredients

With all that being said, there’s a laundry list of ingredients that are potentially harmful, regardless of whether the product is labeled “green,” “organic” or anything in between. Some of the bigger ones are:

Parabens: Preservatives that extend the shelf life of your products but can still enter the body through your skin and hair, causing a host of issues with your reproductive system. They come in a number of different forms and are usually a small part of product formulations.

Synthetic Fragrance: The chemical compounds that determine how your product smells. Depending on the person and their body’s chemistry, any of these combinations can lead to irritation and allergic reactions.

Formaldehyde: In its purest form, this is a colorless gas that’s also used in paper and plywood. When used in cosmetics such as nail polish, it’s often converted to a gentler water solution and with the help of preservatives (like parabens) is released in small amounts to protect against contamination. Unfortunately, it also comes with a host of potentially dangerous side effects, such as skin irritation and even hair loss.

Aluminum: An ingredient most often found in antiperspirants to decrease sweat. In short, what it does is shrink or plug up the underarm pores and inhibit bacteria so they don’t secrete as much. Decades of research say that the ingredient is potentially linked to breast cancer since antiperspirants are applied so closely to lymph nodes near the breast and can also prevent the body’s immune system from freeing itself of cancerous bacteria.

Sulfates: This can refer to any of the following: sodium laureth sulfate, sodium lauryl sulfate, or ammonium laureth sulfate. Sulfates are surfactants, or molecules that attract both water and oil. So, when you scrub on your body wash or shampoo, sulfates help pull away the dirt or oil. And when you rinse it off, they also aid the water in washing it away. It basically helps boost the effectiveness of whatever product you’re using. Unfortunately, they can sometimes work so well that they also strip your hair or skin of all its natural moisture in the process, leaving it dry and damaged.

Where to Start

Now that you’re armed with a better understanding of clean beauty, you may want to experiment with one product (unless you want to make your products at home). Fortunately and unfortunately, this sector of the industry has grown so much that it can be challenging to figure out where your transition starts.

Where did I start? I chose the what I call my wellness ditch & switch box through Young Living.

Each month I switch out a couple of products in my home, I started with the easy stuff; soap, shampoo, then moved on to facial cleaners, moisturizers and recently I started replacing my makeup. They even have lavender infused natural mascara........It was a game changer.

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