Makeup Matters: The Case for Using Clean Cosmetics

Makeup Matters: The Case for Using Clean Cosmetics // Photo via Shutterstock

One would think it wouldn’t be too much to ask for cosmetics to be free from harmful ingredients. However, due to current regulations, or rather a lack of them, makeup isn’t always beneficial to the skin. Fortunately, the clean beauty trend has consumers demanding more transparency from manufacturers about what goes into their products. Although the term “clean beauty” is still rather ambiguous, most see the movement as a step in the right direction.

“Clean beauty is the newest evolution of ‘green beauty,’ and refers to products that are authentically natural and organic,” says Rona Berg, editorial director of Organic Spa Media. Cosmetics have long gotten a bad rap for their use of toxic ingredients. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released the report called A Poison Kiss, which detailed the results from an independent lab that tested 33 popular brands of lipstick for lead content. It found that 61 percent of the lipsticks contained lead. And that wasn’t the only toxic ingredient found. A study by University of California researchers found nine toxic heavy metals, including aluminum, chromium, and more.

Although times are changing, the Personal Care Products Safety Act, a bipartisan bill that would reform regulation of personal care products and update a law that has remained largely unchanged since 1938, has yet to pass. Introduced in May 2017, it would require manufacturers to ensure their products are safe before marketing them and give the FDA the tools it needs to protect the public. Needless to say, progress has been slow-moving. As a result, it is incumbent upon consumers to be their own advocates. “The industry has come a long way since consumers began clamoring for clean beauty products,” says Berg. “There have been strides made in green chemistry, resulting in increasingly sophisticated products, non-irritating preservatives, and more muscular ingredients, especially in the aging arena.”


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Your spa can also do its part in vetting the products it offers. When choosing a cosmetics line, you’ll want to keep certain factors in mind. 

  • “While choosing a vegan or plant-based lifestyle may have some great benefits, be wary of vegan claims. Products may claim to be vegan to imply a wholesome product, but vegan does not necessarily mean healthy, natural, or non-toxic. A product of questionable chemicals can be vegan. Look for ingredients as close to the plant source as possible. If you see Latin plant names, you know you’re on the right track.”—Krysia Boinis, cofounder, Vapour
  • “Clean is not a defined term, nor is it regulated. That adds to so much of the confusion, as there are some great brands trying to use plant-based ingredients without any toxic additions, but many brands put a few plant-based ingredients in their products as well as synthetics, such as dimethicones, silicones, synthetic fragrance, and more, and call it ‘natural’ or ‘clean.’ While there is no certification for natural or clean ingredients, organic ingredients are regulated by the USDA.”—Karen Behnke, founder, Juice Beauty
  • “There is little to no regulation in the U.S. for cosmetics. Consumers need to educate themselves on what ‘clean’ means to them. We advocate for health and sustainability when shopping for personal care products.”—Ashley Prange, founder, Au Naturale Cosmetics
  • “Going with a trusted brand is a good starting point. Look for seals from clean organizations like Leaping Bunny and ECOCERT on the packaging. Read the ingredients. Remember that the first ingredient is the one that is most prevalent in the formula, and the last ingredient is the one that is the least prevalent.”—Shawn Towne, global educator, Jane Iredale


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