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I read an article about the Clean Beauty movement taking over the beauty industry in the west a few months ago. And a little research later, I was convinced to replace my most trusted products for good.
Now I am not really a follower of beauty or fashion trends. The world has been going crazy with sheet masks and the 10 step K-beauty skincare. Yet I stood loyal to my homemade face packs for the great wonders it has done to my skin.
But I was determined to try out clean beauty movement as it actually made sense to me.
What is Clean Beauty?
Clean Beauty Movement is not another passing trend but rather a revolution in beauty industry. There is no concrete definition of Clean Beauty.
However, it primarily refers to using products formulated without proven or suspected toxic chemicals. Everyday we tend we use products that are made with skin irritants, known or suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, petrochemicals, environmental toxins, etc.
Hence, we need to put more thought on what ingredients go into making our products. And whether we should actually be using these ingredients on our skin.
Some people also consider clean beauty as vegan, cruelty-free (not tested on animals) or eco-friendly. So to summarize, Clean Beauty includes using products with maximum natural ingredients and minimal or no synthetic chemicals.
Why is Clean Beauty Movement So Important?
We take so much care in deciding what we put inside our body yet 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 harmful chemicals could be present in each one of those.
But, Why Are These Ingredients Added to Our Beauty Products?
The answer is easy- 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.
Rather than improving our skin or taking care of the environment, the big companies that run the beauty industry are more interested in filling the pockets with more money.
Among these ingredients, the biggest culprits are often the artificial fragrances used in the products. The word ‘fragrance’ on an ingredient can include several chemicals under it. And the companies do not have to disclose the ingredients as they could be trade secrets.
Even the most commonly used preservatives in cosmetics are linked to various health concerns. For eg. Parabens are said to mimic estrogen in your body and are associated with endocrine disruption.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and yet, formaldehyde releasing ingredients are used in several personal care products on the market shelf.
Sulfate is another culprit which is present in the wide range of cleaning products like toothpaste, facewashes, shampoos, and soaps. Used as a foaming agent, Sulfates are known to be drying and are also linked to skin irritation.
Apart from these, there are also plasticizers, antifreeze, artificial colourants and other unnecessary ingredients present in our beauty products.
Another concern regarding these ingredients is their environmental hazards. For eg., petroleum-derived ingredients ( like the beloved Vaseline jelly) are non-biodegradable and also from a non-renewable resource. these are made from a sticky substance found in the bottom of oil rigs.
Exfoliators and cleansers often have small plastic microbeads to provide you with a scrubbing action. Due to their small size, these microbeads escape sewage treatment plants and end up in oceans.
And from there, they go in the stomach of aquatic animals. These could then go into your stomach when you eat seafood.
How Did This Clean Beauty Movement Begin?
Like everything else today, the Clean Beauty Movement started with the help of internet. A few decades ago, the general public was not aware of the safety concerns of ingredients present in their products. They would just have to rely on the word of the manufacturers and sellers.
But thanks to the rise of the internet, anyone these days can look for information regarding the product online. Also, there are organizations like EWG and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics who have made it easy to check the safety of ingredients online.
Even huge brands like L’Oreal and Matrix have realized the trend and its growing customer preferences. They too have come up with their own sulfate and paraben-free ranges.
The beauty industry in the USA is highly unregulated so companies can do whatever they want. Most commercial beauty brands in India are USA based. And if people in west are ditching their own brands for good, shouldn’t we do the same?
How to Find Out if Your Skincare Regimen has Harmful Ingredients?
To start with, go through the ingredient list of all the products you have on your bathroom shelf/dressing table. You can use this cosmetic database set up by EWG as a starting point to check whether any ingredient has concerns.
Or just type an ingredient in the Google search bar to find out its safety studies and potential health concerns. If you use commercial drugstore brands or shop at department stores and pharmacies, chances are they have such harmful ingredients present in them.
Clean and Clear, Neutrogena, L’Oreal, Dove, Vaseline, Garnier, Ponds, and Nivea are just a few of them to name.
How to Switch to Clean Beauty?
You don’t need to throw away the product immediately. Because let’s be honest, it will cost a bomb replacing them all at once.
So here’s what you can do instead. The next time you run out of a product, replace it with a product that has safer ingredients.
I have this huge jar of hair masque from Matrix that I purchased recently and couldn’t just throw it away. It has an artificial fragrance and will probably take me another 6-8 months to finish.
So I started by replacing my face wash with a sulfate-free one. And then gradually moved on to my shampoo, body lotion and soap as and when I ran out of them.
I haven’t even got a close look at replacing my makeup stash. Sadly, there are limited 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 Available?
There are so many Indian brands making amazing products at affordable prices. You can easily find them online on Amazon, Vanity Wagon or other wellness websites.
However, I highly recommend checking the ingredient list of any product before buying. Many companies falsely market their products as ‘ayurvedic’, ‘natural’, ‘chemical-free’, ‘herbal’ or ‘pure’. The notorious Pantanjali is the top contender in the race among dozens of other brands.
Brands often misuse these terms as they are not regulated. I found quite a few “natural” brands using sulfates in their product and claiming to free of harsh 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. You can make most of the DIYs with some ingredients present in your kitchen.
We Indians spend hours every day 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.
Are All Synthetic Chemicals Bad?
No, not all synthetic chemicals are bad for you just as not all natural ingredients are good for you. Water itself is a chemical made with hydrogen and oxygen atoms. And your body too produces various chemicals to carry out different tasks.
Several synthetic chemicals like zinc oxide, fatty alcohols etc. are actually safe to use and do not have any major health concerns.
Will You Be Joining The Clean Beauty Movement?
Our skin is the largest organ of the body. So let’s take care of it as 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.
Think about what ingredients you are exposing yourself to on an everyday basis.
I have a separate post on some harmful 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. I would love to help you out.
Updated: June, 2020