Understanding Natural vs. Clean Beauty Products

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Natural and clean beauty products are emerging preferences when shopping for cosmetics. Unlike clean eating, choosing clean and natural beauty products is just not very easy. You may even be a little confused as to what those terms even mean. When you think about clean eating, you’re probably comparing low-sodium, fresh, and nutritional diets to salty, oily, and processed foods. Opting for healthier lifestyles doesn’t start and end with what you eat.

Let’s break down these definitions and guide you to safer and healthier clean beauty.

What’s the Difference Between Natural and Clean Beauty?

There are a lot of terms that circulate around the push for green beauty. Natural, clean, organic, vegan, all-natural, and locally-grown are all terms that you will see on packages. This doesn’t mean much when you are aware that these terms can mean greenwashing. “Greenwashing” is when a brand will try to spin a product as being “natural” or “clean.When in reality, the product ingredients are untrue, unverified, or unsubstantiated as being “green.” Companies will put these labels on their products to look appealing, eco-friendly, and safe. Surprisingly, natural and clean beauty has few FDA regulations or management to ensure this.

In most cases, “natural” can relate to the purity of ingredients. If you opt for these types of products you can expect pure ingredients from nature, not man-made ones. One point experts made in a Shape article is that “natural” isn’t always better. They bring up poison ivy. This plant is naturally found in the woods but you wouldn’t want to put it on your body. “Natural” can be better and safer, but that isn’t a rule.

Another example of a natural ingredient that can pose long-term health effects is asbestos. Talc is a texture-improving ingredient and it enhances the performance and wearability of makeup. Reports of asbestos contamination in talc-based cosmetics have been alarming. You could assume that both of these naturally occurring minerals are fine in small amounts. The reality is that asbestos is a highly carcinogenic ingredient that causes severe respiratory issues when inhaled. While manufacturers are not intentionally mixing the two minerals, asbestos and talc can easily combine when naturally mined. As a result, you should know that this could happen when purchasing talc-based beauty products.

Essential Oils?

Essential oils are commonly endorsed as all-natural. Tiffany Masterson, founder of the Drunk Elephant skincare line and featured in Shape’s “What’s the Difference Between Clean and Natural Beauty Products?” thinks otherwise. She “believes they cause more harm than good in skin-care products, as they’re often not completely pure, and fragrance of any kind can cause skin irritation.”

“Clean” is another popular term unchecked by the FDA, which oversees cosmetic regulations. Clean could mean the beauty that benefits your health and advances your wellbeing. This also seems like a blanket statement and the belief is that it will not bring about redness, irritation, diseases, or skin sensitivity. Contrary to the majority of “natural” beauty standards, “clean” can be either synthetic or organic. As long as it generally applies to quality ingredients that don’t damage your skin and health, this term is passable to use on labels.

Staying Away from Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients

Don’t let “clean” or “natural” rule your beauty decisions. You should recognize and pay close attention to known toxic and harmful ingredients. Drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, fragrances, some heavy metals like lead and mercury, and petrochemicals are all avoidable. You can read more about these types of toxins here.

While labels are important and ingredients can be even more revealing, don’t be fooled by greenwashing. Your skin is your largest organ, so it’s important to treat it as well as you can. The cost of looking beautiful can compromise your health and lead to serious health effects from the products you’re using. Cancer, respiratory issues, allergic reactions, breakouts, skin rashes or irritation, and hormonal imbalances are all real conditions that you could face with untrustworthy products.

Look for clean beauty and see if it fits your lifestyle. Natural beauty doesn’t hurt, but be more mindful about your makeup and skincare ingredients when it comes to brands highlighting these loose terms.

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