Clean beauty has generated quite the buzz lately. Eyes are slowly opening and people are becoming more aware of not only what is going in their body, but also on their body. Regardless of whether you’re big into skincare and makeup or not, chances are, you’re still slathering a whole bunch of chemicals onto your body every day. Hair products, perfume, moisturizer, deodorant, etc… the list goes on. The pretty awful part about this is that so many of these products contain no good, unsafe chemicals that aren’t regulated by the government.
Are all chemicals bad?
No. All matter is made of chemicals! And because of this, the term “chemical-free”, generally used by the greenwashed or the greenwashing, really grinds my gears.
Wait, what’s greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic (one could also call it fearmongering) used by brands to trick or distract consumers into thinking their products are something they’re not. Sometimes, brands will use words like “organic”, “natural”, “chemical-free” to market their unsafe products when in reality, a) a product labeled as organic can still contain harmful synthetic OR natural ingredients, b) natural doesn’t mean safe and c) if it was chemical-free, it wouldn’t exist. On top of all of that, the FDA doesn’t have set definitions or regulations for the terms “natural” and “organic” when it comes to cosmetics, so brands are free to throw these around as they please.
Natural doesn’t always mean safe
Keep in mind that things like lead and poison ivy are natural, but you certainly wouldn’t want to find either in your beauty products! Another hot topic that falls under here is essential oils. While the plants they come from may not be dangerous, essential oils are so concentrated that certain ones can cause more harm than good if you’re using them incorrectly.
Natural vs. synthetic
This can become quite the debate and honestly, it’s not one I’m interested in getting into. There are purists who will only use completely organic, natural products, and then there are people (like myself) who avoid certain ingredients to decrease their toxin exposure but don’t cut out specific ingredients just because they’re synthetic.
A great example here is phenoxyethanol, a preservative used often in cosmetics (and totally avoided by most green beauty purists). It can cause irritation/allergic reactions for some and is not recommended for use with infants, however I don’t see any reason to avoid this ingredient myself as I am not allergic nor an infant.
So, what is clean beauty?
For me, the term “clean beauty” encompasses products that are free of ingredients proven to be unsafe. I don’t care if they’re naturally sourced or man-made, as long as they’re safe to use.
I feel like the term “clean beauty” is open to interpretation and can differ a bit for everyone, which is why I generally use it in place of green beauty these days. I don’t think there’s a right or a wrong when it comes to decreasing your exposure to toxins. Whether you go full bore and cut out every possible bad thing, or you just avoid a few certain ingredients that are known for being particularly toxic, you’re making better choices overall and that’s what matters at the end of the day.