What You Need to Know to Navigate
Increased consumer awareness now has many women on a path to clean up their beauty routine stat.
Not long ago, beauty editors looked at organic beauty products with a critical, if not skeptical, eye. But times have changed and we are all trying to live a healthier, cleaner lifestyle. Not only are we more aware of what we are putting into our bodies, but also we are becoming increasingly aware of what we put on our skin.
According to Mary Burns, executive vice president for John Masters Organics, a brand that has been a part of the clean beauty movement for more than 20 years, there’s a pretty easy answer to this shift. “The more we know about the effects of chemicals in and on our bodies, our skin, and our environment, the more we turn to alternatives,” says Burns.
“Returning to basics, to a clean and organic lifestyle, opens doors to healthy living on many levels. “That said, beauty products are but one element of cleaner living. With the number of brands toting benefits from organic ingredients to all-natural properties, we checked in with the pros to get the low-down and help you determine what to look for on your next trip down the beauty aisle.
Knowing where to begin when it comes to choosing clean beauty and personal care products can be daunting. CertClean, a North American certification that identifies beauty and personal care products formulated with natural and in many cases organic ingredients, is aiming to make it easier for consumers to make better choices. While Jenise Lee, founder of CertClean, recommends looking for third-party certifications such as CertClean, learning about brands is important too.
“Following green beauty bloggers is a good starting point, such as PurPicks which offers organic beauty reviews,” says Lee. One growing trend that Lee has noticed is clean brands claiming to be preservative-free. “Some preservatives are not bad and for hydrous products (formulations containing water, hydrosols, and other liquids) preservatives are necessary to prevent mould and bacteria growth,” says Lee. For Burns, looking at what’s not in a product is just as important as what is in it, and that means no artificial colors, sulfates, GMOs, fragrances, or fillers
What’s Inside Counts
When it comes to organic certification for beauty or personal care products there is no regulation. In the United States, companies including John Masters Organics can be USDA certified organic by having met acceptable edible standards, which is the only real way to know that the product is organic. “We use at least 70 percent organic ingredients, and pay close attention to how ingredients are harvested,” says Burns. It’s also important to look for brands that use ingredients certified by organizations such as EcoCert and Quality Assurance International, which ensure companies are purchasing ingredients that have been harvested in eco-friendly ways.
No matter what product you’re choosing, when you’re reading the ingredients list, herbs, flowers, essential oils, and grains are what you want to look for in clean beauty products. Burns also says to look for essential oils that are steam-distilled rather than ones that are extracted with propylene glycol, which reduces the effects of the oils. In addition, plant oils should be cold-pressed instead of heat distilled to preserve the therapeutic benefits of the oils.
Turn Back Time
Both Burns and Lee agree that the number-one anti-aging ingredient to look for in skincare products is naturally derived hyaluronic acid. “It has a reputation for keeping the skin hydrated and youthful because it helps retain collagen, elasticity, and moisture,” says Lee
Burns also suggests looking for vitamin C, zinc, and titanium dioxide (TiO2), all of which are ingredients that offer sun protection and aren’t absorbed by the skin. “These ingredients act as a protective barrier by reflecting and refracting the sun’s rays, protecting your skin from UVA, UVB, and infrared,” she says. While mineral-based sunscreens keep the skin cool, chemically-based ones have been known to exacerbate skin conditions such as rosacea, acne, and pigmentation. Rather than looking for specific sun care ingredients, Lee recommends avoiding sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a chemical found in some SPF products known to affect your endocrine (hormonal) system
One concern for anyone making the switch to more natural beauty options can be how to determine a product’s longevity. While some products such as bath salts and body balms made from oils and butter can last as long as conventional ones, more water-based ones including creams and lotions require antimicrobial preservatives to prevent mould growth.
“Broad-spectrum preservatives are not necessarily all-natural so some brands may choose to formulate with preservatives that make the shelf life of a product comparable to conventional ones,” says Lee.
As a general rule, when looking for products you’re going to use daily Lee suggests opting for ones with a shorter shelf life, ultimately ensuring you have a more natural product that’s preservative-free.
Make it a Routine
No matter which brand you’re choosing both Burns and Lee believe that taking a back-to-basics approach is the best option for healthy skin. “I’ll use more sunscreen in the summer and add more moisturizer in the winter,” says Burns. “I also lighten up my moisturizer when I’m in a humid location and carry a toning mist to refresh throughout the day during the summer months,” she says. Along with being conscious of the elements of nature, those living in more urban areas need to be aware of pollution, which can require a harder-working cleanser, suggests Lee. “It’s important to listen to your skin and if you’re going through hormonal changes, it’s often a great time to evaluate your skincare routine.