But how and where to begin? Just thinking about adapting a cleaner beauty regimen can be overwhelming.
In speaking with friends and family through the years, I’ve grown to understand the many obstacles to transitioning products. Top obstacles named include a lack of time, concerns over product efficacy and intimidating prices.
Embarking upon a quest for safer products is certainly intimidating, but it’s a worthwhile undertaking. As women, we can have a big impact. A 2019 article from Forbes, reported that “women drive 70-80% of all consumer purchase decisions.” And with the US beauty industry accounting for roughly $93 billion in consumer spending, the sum impact of our choices is powerful.
When we choose to support safer products, we are creating the demand for a better supply.
So if you’re ready for a change, check-out my five first steps below, and empower yourself to make healthier choices!
Five Steps to Launch Your Safer Beauty Journey
- Step 1: Establish a New Habit — Read Ingredients
- Step 2: Discover the Environmental Working Group (EWG)
- Step 3: Make a Plan
- Step 4: Consider Simplifying
- Step 5: Swap Your First Product
STEP 1: Establish a New Habit — Read Ingredients
As women, we are particularly vulnerable to toxins. They lurk in so many of the products we use, from skincare and makeup, to hair and nail care. If you haven’t been paying attention to the ingredients in your products, now is a great time to start!
If that doesn’t motivate us to start checking labels, what will?
Keeping track of all of these chemicals isn’t easy, but I find it helpful to hone in on some of the more troublesome classes.
Four Ingredients to Learn and to Avoid:
- Concerns: Hormone disruption and reproductive harm
- May appear as: Dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates
- Concerns: A carcinogen
- May appear as: Paraformaldehyde, Methylene glycol (a type of formaldehyde), Quaternium 15 (releases formaldehyde)
- Concerns: Hormone disruption and reproductive harm
- May appear as: Isobutyl and isopropyl parabens
- Synthetic Fragrance:
- Concerns: This ingredient description can conceal chemicals like Parabens and Phthalates, and can affect the immune system and allergies
- May appear as: Fragrance, parfume
In promising news, this June the California Assembly passed Bill AB-2762, also know as the Toxic-Free Cosmetic Act. If approved, it will ban the sale of cosmetics containing 12 toxic ingredients. You can read the entire Bill, and learn about the ingredients its authors have deemed most concerning here.
STEP 2: Discover the EWG
Not yet feeling qualified to determine which ingredients are safe? With long ingredient lists and so many chemicals in play, that’s certainly understandable.
Luckily, the Environmental Working Group can help. The EWG is a “non-profit, non-partisan organization” working to protect our health and environment. Their team of scientists review beauty and personal care products, and produce scores, on a scale of 1-10, based upon the safety of their ingredients. These scores can be accessed by all, free of charge, through their ‘Skin Deep’ Database.
Visit the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database here.
Can’t find your product? They offer an additional tool called, Build Your Own Report, which generates a customized score for your ingredients.
These independent scores empower consumers to compare ingredients and products across brands, and to see beyond clever marketing facades. If you haven’t utilized their database before, prepare for some surprises! Products marketed as ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ may be scored as anything but.
In addition to exploring their website, I recommend downloading their free app, EWG Healthy Living Powered by Skin Deep and Food Scores.
The EWG ‘Skin Deep’ App will enable you to scan and search for products as you shop in real time.
As with anything in life, the EWG isn’t perfect. There are some ingredients that concern me more than their team of scientists, and others that concern me less. It’s important that you bring your own opinions to the table as you consider their scores. This organization provides useful tools for discerning healthier options, but, ultimately, only you can determine which ingredients and products are right for you.
STEP 3: Make a Plan
Horrified by some of your products’ scores? Don’t toss out the entire contents of your make-up bag just yet!
Think Strategic: Where to begin? Grab a pen and paper and write down your 10 most frequently used products. We want to hone in on these first because they represent the biggest impact to your health (you can worry about that special occasion spa-night mask down the road). Next visit the EWG, to look-up and record the score for each. Prioritize the items, placing those products with the most hazardous scores at the top of your list. And just like that, you are ‘to-do list’ ready.
Start Small: Focus on transitioning one product at a time. I recommend waiting until a product is running low, then making a plan for how you will replace it. This way, nothing goes to waste, and you won’t incur additional expenses.
By developing a strategic plan and focusing on one product at a time, you can avoid wasting money and becoming overwhelmed.
STEP 4: Consider Simplifying
As I curate for myself and for others, one of my ongoing goals is to seek simplicity. The transition to safer products, is the perfect opportunity to apply a discerning eye to our beauty and personal care regimens!
- As you discover more about the ingredients in your personal care products, does it change how you feel about any of your lotions/serums/masks/sprays?
- Does each still serve a clear and essential purpose?
Don’t feel you have to answer these questions right away, but do revisit this idea of simplifying. Personally, I like to seek out natural products that can serve multiple functions in my regimen. Making even a few cuts, here and there, could result in reduced exposure to toxins, monetary savings, and less physical and mental clutter.
Seeking inspiration? Here are a few things I’ve discovered I can, quite contentedly, live without:
- Perfume (Replaced with rose water)
- Astringent/Toner (Replaced with rose water)
- Acne Creams (Replaced with rose water)
- Make-up remover and wipes (Replaced with rosehip seed oil)
- Hair Spray (Outside of special occasions, my hair holds well with a light tease)
- Nail Salons: I’ve forsaken nail salons, and have been painting my own piggies — for better or worse — for the past six years (More on that journey to come)
STEP 5: Swap Your First Product!
Time to try out your first clean beauty swap! Soon you’ll be experiencing the bliss of applying a product that’s truly lovely, both inside and out.
But how to discover and select that first replacement?
How I Swap:
Here are the three criteria I consider as I search for healthier products:
- Ingredient Safety
- Product Performance
- Product Price
In my opinion, considering each of these three factors is essential to ensuring a successful and sustainable journey.
You might love the idea of a more natural product (ingredient safety), but if it doesn’t work (performance), you won’t love the reality of using it! And if you are currently spending $10 for mascara, you may not have room in your budget to begin spending $20 (price).
So before you start searching, I recommend setting parameters for each factor. To help you generate yours, I thought I’d share my personal guidelines below:
- Ingredient Safety: I prefer to use products that garner a score of a 1 or 2 from the EWG. I have a few additional ingredient parameters as well. For example, I won’t purchase any products that list ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfume’ as an ingredient (synthetic fragrance).
- Product Performance: I look for products with 4 stars or greater on Amazon or Ulta. Even if I don’t purchase there, I visit for insights on product performance.
- Product Price: Because we are currently a single-income family, I look for makeup products priced at $15 and under.
With your newly established guidelines in mind, here are two options for discovering your first favorite swap:
- Ingredient Safety: An overall EWG score of ‘1’ (As of July 2020)
- Performance: 4.5 stars on Amazon
- Price: $9.27 with Prime Shipping on Amazon (As of July 2020)
Option II: Search From Scratch: This option involves a bit more leg work, but can be necessary if the brand you had in mind doesn’t fit your criteria.
I like to view starting from scratch as a fun adventure; I can uncover new brands and bring my own ideas to the process.
In this scenario, here are the steps I’d take when starting from scratch:
- Open the EWG ‘Skin Deep’ App or Website
- In the search field, enter ‘lipstick’
- Filter the results from ‘Best to Worst’ so that those with the best scores appear first
- Begin reviewing the search results; once you spot a product of interest, look it up online to gauge the price
- Too expensive? Move on down the line!
- Don’t become discouraged; I promise we can find something in your price range
- Once you find a product with the right score and price, check performance reviews
- Only 3 stars? Back to the EWG list…
- And so it goes, until a lipstick meets all 3 criteria