Going Clean & Green: Clean Beauty 101

I’ve been wanting to ‘make the switch’ to clean skincare for a long time. But as someone who has suffered from decades of severe acne, I was hesitant to say the least!

First things first, a bit about my skin. I’ve always had oily skin (and hair!) and I first started breaking out around the age of 13…and then it didn’t stop. Until I was 28. 15 years of suffering through a new pimple every day, cystic acne that hurt so much I couldn’t sleep or touch my face, that throbbed all day, everyday. Three rounds of roaccutane, two rounds of minomycin, countless dollars spent on every ‘miracle’ product and regime under the sun. You’ve heard of it? I’ve tried it. Literally the only thing that made a difference to my acne was roaccutane, but it always came back. My skin would be clear for about 2 years and then BAM! the acne would return with a vengeance. Until one day….it didn't (and fingers crossed it stays that way!)

For the last 3 years, my skin has been relatively clear. Sure, I get the odd hormonal spot here and there, but not even close to the level that I used to. I wouldn’t leave the house, I covered my face full with make up and every zit cream that existed that essentially burned my skin off so my skin would flake off, taking the piles of make up I had on with it. It was not fun. I remember waking up at the crack of dawn before an ex-boyfriend would wake to reapply my face. Terrified, TERRIFIED, that he would see me without makeup on and bare-faced.

Thankfully, my hubby now has seen me when my skin has been at it’s worst and still tells me I’m beautiful (bless), but there’s no denying, skin issues - whatever they are, suck your confidence dry.

So naturally, after having relatively good skin for the past few years, I’ve been nervous to change to clean skincare. I haven’t been consistent with what I’ve used to say that a certain product or brand helped clear my skin, I honestly think it’s come down to age. There’s not anything that I can put my finger on that I did drastically differently. I’ve always eaten relatively well, minimised the amount of dairy I eat and drunk bucketloads of water (honestly, no one drinks more H2O than I do) but in saying that - any change does make me concerned, which is why I’ve been making the switch slowly. Happy to report, that my skin is better than ever, with no breakouts in sight (knock on wood!) and the best of all, I’m no longer smothering it in toxic shit! Win!

Back in the day, if it left my skin clear and looking flawless, I was using it. I didn’t care what was in it! But since I pay a lot of attention to what I consume and do as part of a holistic lifestyle, it made sense that what I put on my skin would count too. After all, our skin is our biggest organ and a lot of what we put onto our skin goes straight into our blood stream!

Before we dive into my recommendations, just what the heck is Clean Beauty and why should we care?

What we put on our skin, we absorb up to 60% of it into our bloodstream. Being our body’s largest organ, our skin is something we want to avoid loading with toxins and effectively ingredients that can cause hormone disruption, immunity issues, toxicity, impaired organs, tumours and cancers, skin conditions and irritations. Yikes!

The beauty industry is effectively unregulated, which means that companies are essentially free to do whatever they want, with zero government oversight, creating, packing and promoting products that we use every day with toxic ingredients, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

The skincare/cosmetics industry is also taking advantage by "green-washing" their products. That's right, just because a company markets itself as clean, doesn't mean that it is. Remember, there’s no regulation on any products in the clean beauty world. A brand can call themselves organic, eco, green, natural, clean and all the rest if they should choose. It’s on you - and how you vote with your dollar - to research and support the actual clean brands. But hopefully I can make the whole process a little easier and take out the guesswork for you!

So why should we switch?

  1. Your own health - You look after yourself right? For me, it made no sense to continue to load myself up with toxins when I was being so conscious of how I was treating my body and myself in other ways. I was eating well, moving my bod with love and yet using toxic products? It no longer added up for me.

  2. Ethical reasons and animal rights - Being cruelty-free is a given for many of these clean beauty brands, and I don’t want to contribute to harming animals purely for cosmetics in the slightest. So I choose to go clean and green because I love my furry (and not so furry) friends too! Shockingly, many companies are only just changing these cruel practices now…..too little, too late for me.

  3. Environment - Switching to clean and green lessens our demand for toxic chemicals which means less run-off and residue into natural eco-systems. Another reason I love clean brands, most are eco too!

In my research, I honestly think there’s levels to this, a lot of brands claim to be clean but because there’s no one regulation as to what qualifies as clean, it’s kind of up to you what makes the cut. But this is my definition:

Clean Beauty is 100% FREE from GMO, Toxins, Fillers, Synthetic Colours, Fragrances, Chemicals, Parabens, Sulphates (And more.)

But how can we make the whole process of the switch easier? I know how complicated it can seem and feel when you have no idea where to start - I was there too! And I am still learning! Heck I learnt a lot writing this post. There’s definitely products I still use that aren’t considered entirely clean, but I truly believe that slow change is better than no change.

Here are the biggies cheat sheet of what to avoid when you’re making the switch.

the Dirty Dozen Must’s to avoid:

1.  Parabens (any ingredient that ends in ‘paraben’ on the ingredients lists)

Found in: almost every type of personal care product

Intended use: preservatives

May cause: hormone disruption, skin irritation, possibly carcinogenic

2. Synthetic Fragrance (also seen as Parfum on ingredients lists)

Found in: almost any type of personal care product

Intended use: make it smell nice! (mmm fake fragrance smell…ya not nice anymore)

May cause: hormone disruption, headaches, skin irritations, respiratory issues, immune-toxicity

3. Phthalates (also seen as DBP, DEHP, DEP on ingredients lists)

Found in: synthetic fragrance, hairspray, nail polish

Intended use: to make products stick to skin, they’re plasticising chemicals. Think of a bit of melted, warm plastic and how pliable it is!

May cause: birth defects, key organ damage

4. Petroleum/Paraffin/Mineral Oil

Found in: baby oil, lip balm, lip stick, lip gloss, mascara, moisturisers, concealer, foundation, face powder, hair gel, body wash, eye shadow, paraffin treatments, petroleum jelly, and hair conditioner

Intended use: seals skin to create a barrier

May cause: irregular cell development, premature aging, skin disorders

5. Sodium Lauryl/Laureht Sulfate (also seen as SLS AND SLES on ingredients lists)

Found in: just about anything that foams; shampoo, body wash, face wash, hand soap, toothpaste, bubble bath

Intended use: foaming agent also use in floor cleaners, detergents and engine degreasers - lovely!

May cause: skin irritation, growth issues in children, triggers allergies, who wants to use floor cleaner on their skin? No thanks!

6. Formaldehyde (also seen as quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), glyoxal and oxaldehyde - yikes!!!)

Found in: nail polish, shampoo, body wash, eyelash glue, and hair products, the Brazilian Blowout and other straightening treatments

Intended use: preservatives

May cause: possibly carcinogenic, eye, nose and throat irritation, reproductive, immunological, neurologic, behavioural and developmental toxicity. It’s also banned for use in Sweden and Japan.

7. Hydroquinone

Found in: skin lightening and brightening creams

Intended use: To lighten and brighten skin

May cause: inhibits the production of melanin and has been linked to organ toxicity, skin irritation and even possibly carcinogenic.

8. Propylene Glycol

Found in: make up, liquid foundations, baby wipes, lipsticks, deodorant, toothpaste, shampoo

Intended use: hydration, enhances penetration of active ingredients and to keep products from melting in high heat or from freezing.

May cause: nerve, liver and heart damage, skin allergies and reactions. Also can inhibit skin cell growth and damage cell membranes. Also used in brake fluids, anti-freeze and as a solvent, floor wax, and paints. There is no difference between the Propylene Glycol used in skincare and in brake fluids, anti-freeze etc. Yikes.

9. Mercury (also seen as Merthiolate and Thimerosal. You’ve heard of eating too much fish resulting in mercury poisoning, right?)

Found in: ear and eye drops. occasionally in mascara also

Intended use: preservative and antiseptic

Can cause: brain function damage

10. Triclosan

Found in: antibacterial products - soap, hand sanitiser, deodorants, toothpaste

Intended use: to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination

Can cause: hormone disruption

11. BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole) and BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene)

Found in: lipsticks, moisturisers, nappy creams and other make up and cosmetics

Intended use: preservative

Can cause: hormone disruption, possibly carcinogenic, liver, kidney and thyroid problems

12. Coal Tar Dyes (also seen as Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene and Phenylenediamine)

Found in: hair dye, shampoo, cosmetics

Intended use: to produce colour and prevent dandruff

Can cause: I mean the name says it all right - coal. possibly carcinogenic, causes skin irritation

Now with all things, I implore you to do your own research. Don’t take my word or my research for gospel! I am no doctor, scientist, dermatologist or any other expert, just merely a gal trying to do better by my body. Even at this stage, I am still using a handful of products containing a few ingredients above and it’s a gradual change. Am I saying that if you use regular products you’ll experience the above symptoms and health issues? No. But if we’re feeding our bodies, moving our bodies and doing the best we can in all other areas, perhaps it’s worth looking at what we put on our skin too and do the best we can. Again - do your own research and make your own judgements. This blog post is based on my own research, decisions and research. It’s not your gospel, just an offering of information - should you choose to adhere to or not!

How do you begin making the switch?

READ THE INGREDIENTS. And if in doubt, google it. The EWG’s Skin Deep website is amazing for searching ingredients and figuring out what the deal is! Start by recognising one or two tell-tale ingredients and over time your knowledge base will grow. And it’s about empowering yourself! Empowering yourself with knowledge, information and realising that you actually have a choice about what you put onto your skin! Keep in mind, that even naturally derived and clean ingredients can ‘sound’ scary in their Latin name. Prunus amygdalus dulcis = sweet almond oil.

START SLOW. I’m not about to tell you to throw out all of your favorite products and start afresh. You may want to, but your bank account not so much, so just use what you have until it’s finished and then replace it with a beautiful clean, green newbie!

FIND STORES/WEBSITES YOU TRUST. And purchase from there! If you know a store only stocks clean and green beauty and wellbeing products, then you already know you’re in safe hands. Some of my favourites are below and where I personally shop!

The stores I trust and where I shop

UK:

Content Beauty and Wellbeing

Glow Organic

Flourish Beauty

AUS:

Nourished Life

Clean Beauty Market

US:

Credo Beauty

CAP Beauty

LeVert Beauty

Follain

Stay tuned as I’ll be sharing blogs soon on my favourite clean and green products that are taking pride of place on my shelf and in my cupboards!