I’ve struggled with acne for as long as I can remember, and in 2013 when my dermatologist prescribed a daily oral medication to basically mask the issue, I threw in the towel. I was over it. I went through college using over-the-counter beauty products, just to deal with more breakouts, more frequently. I really wanted to not care, but obviously acne takes a toll on your self-confidence (like, hello…)
In 2015 (when I graduated from college and started #adulting), I became more mindful of my beauty routine. I was more consistent with skincare, and more importantly, I was paying attention to the ingredients in the products I was using.
I had A LOT to learn (and am still learning) BUT I know my experiences can help you!
When I first started to clean my routine, the trickiest thing for me was figuring out what all the labels meant. “Natural, Plant-Based, Phthalate-Free, Non-GMO, Cruelty Free, Organic… the list. goes. on… and on, and on ! (Cue Black-Eyed Peas)
So, I did some research so that you don’t have to !
Clean Beauty Labels and What They Mean
The FDA does not regulate beauty products before they hit the shelves (only color additives). In fact, the beauty industry is basically “everything goes.” Which is why so many toxic ingredients are in a lot of products. This is why it is so important to understand what the labels mean so you know what you are putting on (and ultimately in) your body!
Natural - As with food, any beauty product can slap “All-Nautral” on their label even if it’s made of the most harmful ingredients. Always look at the ingredient list to ensure they are in fact “natural.” Often times they are not. Other red flag words: Pure, Eco, Botanical
Do you see the claims of natural, vegan, GMO-free? While these might be true for this brand, they are not sealed with the official logos - read on to see why those official seals are important!
Organic - This is where it gets a little tricky ! There are multiple “organic” categories when it comes to being USDA certified.
100% Organic - must contain only organic ingredients
Organic - must contain at least 95% organic ingredients
Made with Organic Ingredients - must contain at least 70% organic ingredients
A product can’t use the term organic when less than 70% of their ingredients are organic. Always look for the official USDA Organic seal to be sure you are purchasing a truly organic product.
This is a perfect example of misreading a label. At first glance, you see “Organics” in the brand name, BUT if you look closer, you’ll see “Contains Organic Ingredients” and no official USDA Seal. Again, not saying this is a terrible product, but always be sure you’re purchasing what you you’re looking for! If you’re only wanting to use 100% organic products, this wouldn’t be a good choice.
These two products are creme de la creme ! Do you spy the official USDA logo on both of these products? These are both official seals, although they look different. And no I don’t use beard balm! LOL
GMO Free or Non-GMO - The Non-GMO Project Verified label is present on products that do not contain genetically modified organisms, or in their words, “a plant, animal, microorganism or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or transgenic technology.” LOL- WHAT. These products go through rigorous testing to ensure they are GMO free. Again, it is important to look for the official verification label for these products.
You’re staring to get good at this aren’t you?! You can probably tell out of these 3 which one is not “officially non-GMO.” (HINT IT’S THE THIRD ONE)
Cruelty Free - Many labels accompany this claim because in the past, companies started to design their own “cruelty free” logos and plaster them on their product without having any meaning behind it. (Sound familiar? Kind of like the term “Natural”) The two most trusted logos are the Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Cruelty Free logo.
Can you find the cruelty free logos in these photos? If you’re looking for cruelty free products, these are two labels you can trust!
Paraben Free - Parabens are preservatives. They’re believed to be hormone disrupters, affecting reproductive health. No thanks! As far as I know, there is no official logo for paraben free products. If this is important to you, just be sure to read the ingredient list to be 100% sure!
Both of these products are paraben-free! Often times clean beauty products will include these where you can see them because they know it’s important to you!
Sulfate Free - These go hand-in-hand with parabens as for being chemical derivatives. Sulfates in shampoos are known to dry out your hair (and skin), cause frizziness, and even dull your color!
Sulfates are pretty easily identifiable in ingredient lists - so be on the lookout, especially in your hair care products !
All of these labels and ingredients are things that I saw most frequently being advertised on the beauty products I started to use. There are SO MANY MORE ingredients and labels out there that are not on this short list. Be aware when cleaning your routine, because there are many things to pay attention to!
Have another label in mind that you see everywhere? Share in the comments below and I’ll do some research! I hope you found this helpful, if you have any questions about cleaning your routine, I’d love to chat!