It occurs to us, a little late in the game, that maybe there is value in being as mindful (yes, there is that word again) about what we put in our bodies as what we put on our bodies. Although many retailers have committed to making sure the brands they sell are safe, it is just plain wrong to assume that if it’s on store shelves, it is safe. The FDA takes no responsibility for approving or rating safe cosmetics and most manufacturers that cite studies to prove the efficacy and safety of their products are accountable only to themselves. So where does this leave us for accurately assessing the clean-ness of products? It places us at the mercy of those who choose to identify the ingredients in their lotions, potions, serums and more…or not. Any company can call a product “natural” or “clean” and define that term any way it wants, and companies don’t hesitate to slap on that label because shoppers respond to it.
The good news is that a few organizations are vetting the cosmetic realms and what is referred to, as “clean beauty” can be as effective as products that still include potentially harmful ingredients. The Personal Care Products Council is supported by the FDA but conducts independent reviews of ingredients and if you are particularly concerned, and have some patience you can review in-depth science-based reviews on their website . The terms USDA Organic or Non-GMO refer to the agricultural process, an organically grown ingredient is not necessarily safer for our skin. The most useful defense is to know your own triggers and to carefully read labels. When a product includes “fragrance” that can mean almost anything and we are always suspicious of products that shout “formulated without” because it surely means also-formulated “with” something offensive. The term “proprietary ingredients” makes us crazy because without transparency, how can we make informed decisions?
The difference between clean and green is a bit blurry as one is good for us and the other good for the environment, which is good for us as well; add the newer “natural” moniker and you get the confusion. It should be noted that many of the “chemicals” that get bad raps aren’t going to hurt us. For example, silicone in its’ many forms is what gives products their silky feel, but many in the green movement call it harmful, although none of those claims has ever been substantiated. Silicone might be “harmful” to people with acne as it can clog pores but natural coconut oil can have the same effect.
Much noise has been made about the EU, which has banned over 1300 potentially harmful chemicals and although our FDA is being pressured to begin oversight, that can is probably being kicked down the road a ways. Meanwhile, the American people have spoken and they want less, not more when it comes to chemicals and the market is responding. CVS recently announced they are removing parabens from 600 of their house brands and Sephora has labeled about half of their offerings as “Clean at Sephora.” Nordstrom is following suit by establishing a new category of “self-care staples free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, petrochemicals, mineral oil, silicone, and talc.” In addition to all of the online options, beauty retailers focused on “clean” are opening brick and mortar stores everywhere and we are especially fond of Credo Beauty, Follain and The Detox Market. Online options like Beauty Counter and Ren also deliver a myriad of clean options.
Without a lab, a team of chemists or even a measly Ph.D. among us, we have to rely on our instincts and those more expert: the people who are truly committed to educating consumers about what is most likely to be “clean.” To be completely transparent, we still love certain products that do not boast the “clean beauty” designation but, we also think erring on the side of caution can be a good stance and so we have assembled an In The Groove sampling of our favorites — it’s a good place to start “cleaning.