I am not really a follower of beauty or fashion trends. So while the world was going crazy with sheet masks and the 10 step K-beauty skincare, I stood loyal to my homemade face packs for the great wonders it has done to my skin. Then one day I read an article about the Clean Beauty trend taking over the beauty industry in the west and a little research later, I was convinced to replace my most trusted products for good.
What is clean beauty?
It is not another passing trend but rather a revolution. There is no concrete definition of Clean Beauty but it primarily refers to using products that are formulated without proven or suspected toxic chemicals. Products we use daily are loaded with skin irritants, known or suspected carcinogens, hormone and endocrine disruptors, petrochemicals, environmental toxins, etc.
Some people also consider clean beauty as vegan, cruelty-free (not tested on animals) or eco-friendly products. To summarize, Clean Beauty includes using products with maximum natural ingredients and minimal or no synthetic chemicals. We must put thought on what ingredients go into making our products and decide what ingredients we put on our skin.
Why is Clean Beauty so important?
We take so much care in deciding what we put inside our body but we often ignore what we are putting on our body. Think about all the products we use right from our morning shower routine to bedtime- shampoo, conditioner, face wash, shower gel, lotions and creams, serums, sunscreen, lip balm, makeup etc. and then think about how many toxic chemicals are present in each of those.
Why are these ingredients added to our beauty products then? Because they are cheap and easily made in laboratories in huge batches and mostly because no one is stopping these beauty companies from using them. They are more interested in making huge chunks of profit rather than improving out skin and health.
Some of the biggest culprits are the artificial fragrances and preservatives used in the products. The word ‘fragrance’ in the products can include a dozen chemicals under its wings which companies do not have to disclose. The most commonly used preservatives are parabens which mimic estrogen in our body which is associated with breast cancer. Another culprit is sulfate which is present in the wide range of toothpaste, facewashes, shampoos, and soaps. Used as a foaming agent, it has been linked to skin irritation and endocrine disruption. Apart from these ingredients, there are also plasticizers, antifreeze, formaldehyde releasers and other carcinogens present in our beauty products.
Another concern regarding these products are the environmental hazards. Petroleum-derived ingredients (the beloved Vaseline jelly) are non-biodegradable and also a nonrenewable resource. Microbeads found in exfoliators and cleansers are plastic and due to their small size they pass through sewage treatment plants and end up in oceans and the stomach of aquatic animals who end up eating them (which then goes into our stomach when we eat seafood). Even brands like L’Oreal and Matrix have realized the trend and growing customer preferences and come up with their own sulfate and paraben free ranges.
Like everything else today, Clean Beauty started with the help of internet. A few decades ago, the general public was not aware of the safety of ingredients present in their products and would rely on the word of the sellers. But thanks to the rise of the internet, anyone can look for information regarding the product online and decide whether to buy the product or not. NGOs like Environment Working Group and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics made it easy to check the safety of ingredients. The beauty industry in the USA is highly unregulated so companies can do whatever they want. Most of the drugstore and premium beauty brands in India are USA based, and if people in the west are ditching them for good, so should we.
How to find out if your skincare regimen is toxic?
To start with, go through the ingredient list of all the products you have on your bathroom shelf/dressing table to check for toxic chemicals present. You can use this cosmetic database set up by Environmental Working Group(a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment) to check the toxicity of the ingredients. Just type an ingredient in their search bar to find out its safety ranking and potential health concerns. If you use commercial drugstore brands or shop at department stores and pharmacies for your beauty supplies, chances are most of them have these toxic chemicals present in them (Clean and clear, Neutrogena, L’Oreal, Dove, Vaseline, Garnier, Ponds, and Nivea to name a few of the many).
How to switch to Clean Beauty?
You don’t need to throw away the product immediately because let’s be honest, you spent a fortune on these products and replacing them all at once will cost you a bomb! So here’s what you do- the next time you run out of a product, replace it with a product that’s clean. I have this huge jar of hair masque from Matrix that I purchased recently and couldn’t just throw it away. It is silicone and paraben free but has artificial fragrance and will probably take me another 6-8 months to finish.
So I started with replacing my face wash with a sulfate free one and gradually moved on to my shampoo, body lotion and soap as and when I ran out of them. I still have products that need replacing and I haven’t even got a close look at replacing my makeup stash (sadly we don’t have many options in India when it comes to clean makeup). So it’s okay to start one product at a time and replace them gradually.
What are the Clean Beauty alternatives then?
What do you replace it with? There are so many Indian brands making amazing products at affordable prices. You can easily find them online on Amazon, Nykaa or other wellness websites. However, I highly recommend checking the ingredient list of any product before buying as many companies falsely market their products as ‘ayurvedic’, ‘natural’, ‘chemical free’, ‘herbal’ or ‘pure’ (the notorious Pantanjali being the top contender in the race). I found quite a few organic and natural brands using sulfates in their shampoos and face washes and claiming to free of harmful chemicals. So always buy products after reading the ingredient list and do not fall for false labels.
A great option is to make your own DIY products using natural ingredients. You can find recipes for almost everything on the internet-shampoos, soaps, body butter, hair and face masks etc. Most of these can be made with ingredients present in our kitchens. We Indians spend hours every day on cooking hot and fresh meals thrice a day. So why not spend a few minutes a week to whip up a quick facemask or scrub using kitchen ingredients. It’s a great alternative to the chemical loaded products in the market and often cheaper.
Having said that, not all synthetic chemicals are bad for you just as not all natural ingredients good for you (lead, mercury). Water itself is a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and our body itself is made up of chemicals reaction between various elements. Chemicals like zinc oxide, fatty alcohols, surfactants like lauryl and decyl glucoside, are actually safe to use and do not have any major health concerns.
Our skin is the largest organ of the body, so let’s take care of it like we do about the rest of our body. The next time you go shopping, make sure you are reading the ingredient list carefully and making an informed decision on what ingredients you are exposing yourself to on an everyday basis. I have a separate post on the chemicals to avoid so do read it here.
Let me know in the comments below what are your views on this subject or any other queries you have regarding this. I would love to help you out.