Switch to Safer and Cleaner—Better—Beauty
- January 30, 2020
Cleaner, safer and better beauty? What’s up with the switch? I know it sounds fad-ish, but stay with me—it’s not. You’ve probably heard from recent news about products that have caused major health issues. From carcinogenic ingredients to hormone disruptors, it’s hard to ignore the growing concern over what goes into the products we use and why we should be more vigilant about it.
What is Clean Beauty?
Simply put, Clean Beauty is cosmetics—and that includes skin/body/hair care products—formulated without ingredients that are toxic, harmful or potentially harmful to the body. To me, Clean Beauty also means transparency with its ingredients, sourcing, and testing, and is cruelty-free.
Why did I switch to clean?
In my case, my “clean switch” was born primarily out of necessity. I’ve experienced an increase in sensitivities and skin irritation over the past few years. These could probably be the result of several factors such as age, hormonal changes, and use of numerous products. It was hard to pinpoint what was causing all my reactions, mainly random onset inflammation and mild to worse episodes of hives that required a trip to the ER. I had allergy testing done and the allergist could not relate the results to any symptoms I’ve had. It was back to square one.
One other culprit that I could think of are the products I use on a daily basis. I’ve gone through many iterations of changes, from paring down my routine to resorting to single-ingredient products. The latter really messed my skin up and made it so much worse. It felt like a minefield of reactions
I was desperate. I started all over again with cleaner products, and but I had to keep doing it until I’ve found the right combination. I’m very happy to say that 3 months later my skin is clear (as opposed to red and inflamed several times a week). I can count the number of times I’ve had a hive or two the past 3 months with one hand. It finally feels like this is what skin should normally be like…not itchy, red and raised. I don’t have to wear even the lightest foundation to cover up the redness. Even better—I haven’t gone to the ER in months. [Knock on wood.]
Thinking of switching?
You may have a similar experience and/or are thinking your products might be irritating instead of helping. I hear you. I’ve spent numerous hours doing research, tried many different products and brands (and failing…ouch), tossed or returned many items that didn’t work; rinse, repeat.
If you are considering doing an overhaul your skincare to cleaner and safer products, I have a few tips for you so you don’t get overwhelmed about making the switch.
Tips on How to Begin “Cleaning Up” your Daily Routine (of Products)
1. Educate Yourself
I wish there was a shortcut to this but it is always good to learn about what you are putting on your body and figure out what is best for you. Do your own research so you can make informed decisions about your health.
It’s important to remember that the North American cosmetics industry—and that encompasses skincare, haircare, and makeup—is by and large, unregulated. Canada has a system for regulating, but there’s not much in terms of implementation.
Here are some online resources to help you get started:
In the U.S.
2. Make an Inventory of the Products You Use
Knowing what you really use and how often you use them is a good start. it will help you prioritize what to change first, if needed. It’s astounding to find out how many products we use on a regular basis.
Important products to look out for: anything that you use everyday, anything that you apply and not wash off, and anything you soak in.
3. Read Labels
A good starting point for checking products and the safety of their ingredients is EWG and Think Dirty apps. You can scan the barcode or type the name of the item or paste the list of ingredients and find out if there is anything to be concerned about, such as hormone disruptors, possible cause of contact dermatitis, and other sensitivities.
Helpful apps for checking ingredients and their safety:
4. Figure Out Your Clean Switch Plan
Once you’ve done your research, taken stock of what you have, and decided what you’d like to keep, it’s time to look for alternatives for the products you want to toss and replace.
There are several ways to approach it depending on how your skin reacts to the new product(s), how much you’d like to spend, and how quickly you would like to make changes. You can start replacing products that are running out. If something is really giving you grief (e.g. body soap that has been making your skin itch)—just stop using it. I’ve been there and it’s not fun. Having to slather on oil and lotion to undo the damage from your soap is not the way to go. When it comes to skincare, you will have to tread carefully depending on how sensitive your skin is. Do patch tests. Don’t introduce too many new things all at once.
I swapped my products through a combination of waiting for “not-so-bad”products to run out and immediately eliminating products that I know I may be having reactions to and doing research on alternatives. As for makeup, I gradually switched them as my previous ones got used up.
There are many options out there for switching when it comes to products and again—do your research. Once I found a brand that started to work for me, I just added things one by one, until my entire cabinet of products has been replaced. The last ones I switched were my shampoo and conditioner.
Along with being safer and cleaner, I made the conscious decision to also be mindful of the companies I buy from and what they stand for. I make sure I can read about the product, the complete ingredients, and find out about how they source ingredients and if their production is ethical is sustainable. Where I put my money into matters. It’s a vote towards what I’d like more of—better products for everyone.
Since it has worked wonders for my skin, my main cleaner and safer beauty brand of choice is Beautycounter. Their products tick everything on my checklist. They ban more than 1,500 harmful or questionable ingredients from their products. Their ingredients are sourced with safety, quality and sustainability in mind. They have a rigorous ingredient screening process and hazard and risk assessment, and conduct third party testing for health and safety. I promote and advocate for them for these many reasons.
5. Watch Out For These Ingredients
- Benzalkonium chloride
- BHA and BHT
- Coal tar
- Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA)
- Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA)
- Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone
- Parabens (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others)
- Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds)
- Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A)
- Sodium lauryl sulfate and Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS and SLES)
- Synthetic flavor or fragrance
What are your thoughts on safer and cleaner products? Have you made the switch or are thinking about it? Tell me! I’ve dragged my feet over this for so long and I don’t know why I resisted. Sometimes we get so used to things being just “okay”, not realizing that there are much better options. I’m so glad I switched. Big sigh of relief here.