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Clean beauty is not just a trend - it is a holistic approach towards more sustainable consumption. But finding products that are good for both our skin and the environment can be genuinely challenging.

The thing is, most companies misuse terms like “natural”, “organic”, “eco”, etc., and hide harmful ingredients in the product formula.

So here we are with a short guide on how to check the ingredients of products for clean beauty by reading labels before buying. Here we go.

Why Read Labels?

Reading labels on beauty products is more than a simple consumer practice; it's an essential step in understanding what we apply to our skin and how it affects us and the world around us. Here's why it's important:

Health Concerns: Many of us have specific health concerns, such as allergies or sensitive skin, that require careful consideration of product ingredients. And if particular ingredients are harmful, they will impact your skin and health in general even if you don’t have concerns.

Environmental Impact: Some ingredients may have a detrimental impact on the environment, contributing to pollution and other ecological issues.

Ethical Considerations: Issues such as animal testing and fair trade are crucial for many conscious consumers.

Legal Regulations: A lack of standardized definitions and regulations around terms like "organic" can lead to confusion and misrepresentation.

How to Read Labels?

Reading labels is essential for choosing products that align with clean beauty.

clean beauty products

Start with the Ingredients List: Look for recognizable ingredients and avoid long lists of synthetic chemicals.

Research Unknown Ingredients: Just google it when you are not sure! The Internet is full of useful information. Of course, double-check everything.

Spot Misleading Claims: Beware of vague terms and check for clear certifications to assure genuine claims.

Understand Symbols and Certifications: Look for cruelty-free logos and check for organic and vegan certifications.

Examine Sustainability Factors: Look for packaging details that promote eco-friendly choices.

Check the Expiration Date: Find the "Use By" date and note any special storage instructions.

Which Ingredients to Avoid?


Usage: Parabens are chemical preservatives used to extend the shelf life of personal products and household goods, such as shampoos, soaps, lotions, and various beauty products.

Why Harmful: They can mimic estrogen, leading to hormone disruption that may affect reproductive systems, and have been associated with risks like breast cancer and skin irritations.


Usage: Phthalates make plastics more flexible, especially in food packaging, and in skincare products, they're used to lubricate compounds and carry fragrance.

Why Harmful: Phthalates have been linked to DNA damage in sperm, adverse effects on organs, immune system, and reproductive functioning, and are considered carcinogens in animal studies, as well as endocrine disruptors.


Usage: SLS and SLES are surfactants used in cleaning products like shampoo, body wash, and toothpaste to help remove dirt and oil and produce a foamy lather.

Why Harmful: While not considered carcinogens themselves, they may cause skin and eye irritation in higher concentrations, and their manufacturing process can lead to contamination with known carcinogens like ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.


Usage: Synthetic fragrances are widely used in various products to add or mask scents; they are cheaper and easier to create than natural alternatives.

Why Harmful: These fragrances may contain or emit pollutants, including potential carcinogens, and are associated with disruptions to the endocrine, respiratory, reproductive, and nervous systems; specific chemicals in fragrances often need not legally be disclosed.


Usage: Triclosan, initially used in surgical scrubs, is found in products like antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, and cosmetics due to its antibacterial properties to minimize odors and kill bacteria.

Harmful Because: It doesn't provide better protection than plain soap and has links to antimicrobial resistance, hormone disruption, and developmental complications. Environmentally, it accumulates in aquatic life, harming fish and other marine species.


Usage: PEGs, found in skincare and hair products, serve as penetration enhancers, making other ingredients more absorbable. They also act as surfactants, moisture carriers, and thickeners.

Harmful Because: As by-products of petroleum or other fossil fuels, some PEGs undergo manufacturing processes involving toxic compounds, and can be contaminated with known carcinogens. Their use raises environmental and potential organ toxicity concerns.


Usage: Paraffins, distilled from petroleum, are found in moisturizers, lip products, and hair wax, acting as emollients to soften skin.

Harmful Because: Though they don't deeply penetrate the skin, paraffin can cause irritation and collagen breakdown. There's evidence suggesting paraffin's contribution to estrogen dominance in women, potentially leading to various health concerns.


Usage: Formaldehyde and its releasing agents, found in hair products, nail products, and lotions, are used to preserve product longevity and prevent bacterial growth.

Harmful Because: Classified as a carcinogen, formaldehyde can induce dermatitis and may be absorbed through the skin, posing heightened risks for children. It's also flammable and has associated health concerns.

The Bottom Line

Reading labels on beauty products helps us avoid harmful ingredients and make better choices for our health and the environment. When you are unsure about any ingredient you find on the list of your product, just do a quick research and you’ll find a lot of useful information about the main reasons for its usage and why it can be harmful for your skin. Understand what's in your products, so you can choose ones that are safer for our skin and more responsible for the planet.



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