spring clean your makeup: why green beauty matters

The more information we have, the more we know about everything we do, including the products we use on our face, hair and body.

The term “green beauty” is becoming quite popular, attaching descriptors like “natural” and “organic” onto makeup and skincare we didn’t think twice on before. Why the change now? And does this change matter?


Simply put, green beauty definitely matters. What we put on our skin is as important as what we eat and drink. Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies, and to take care of it, we should be avoiding unnecessary chemicals and toxins that, once realizing they’re in everyday products, would make us recoil.

Health is more than skin deep.

Green beauty is much more American-driven because our regulations on cosmetic products are basically nonexistent compared to areas like Europe. According to the FDA, the law does not require cosmetic products and ingredients, other than color additives, to have FDA approval before they go on the market. Under the law, cosmetic products and ingredients do not need FDA pre-market approval, with the exception of color additives.

Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.

There are some rules against adulteration in what ingredients go into products and labeling products correctly, but the policy that regulating this hasn’t been updated since 1962. Obviously the cosmetic industry has changed drastically since then and continues to evolve today, so having this act the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act is place doesn’t help much.

Let’s compare this to the European Union. Not only does the EU keep a database of ingredients and companies to ensure the public is notified of what’s in their products, it also:

Maybe Americans don’t have the federal support that our European neighbors do, but that doesn’t mean we can’t become informed and put our money toward green beauty over conventional brands.

Dirty ingredients…

Green beauty is about treating yourself, and the environment, well. Ingredients found in face washes, sunscreens and more have been linked to everything from hormonal disruptions to cancer, and what’s worse is that they go directly into your bloodstream when applied to the skin or hair.

The lists on product labels and websites can be quite overwhelming, a topic I will go over in my next post, but a great way to start is by determining the worst of the worst. The dirty dozen: 

  1. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

  2. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

  3. Triclosan and triclocarban

  4. Aminophenol, Diaminobenzene, Phenylenediamine (Coal Tar)

  5. Parabens

  6. Polyethylene/PEGs

  7. Retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinoic acid and retinol

  8. Petroleum distillates

  9. “Fragrance”

  10. Oxybenzone

  11. Dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde

  12. Hydroquinone

All of these ingredients are explained in greater detail on Hello Glow, and I highly recommend you do your own research into what these substances are and where to find them. I mean, some of the names themselves should already be clear indicators of nastiness, but you’d be surprised on how many products on drugstore shelves have these!

Global warning.

Green beauty is “green” for a reason: it is much better for the environment. The production of cosmetics products causes many detrimental effects to our world.

Think of the products in your bathrooms and drawers. Chances are, they’re all packaged in plastic, and you throw things away even before the product is used up. Bottles and tubes that keep our cosmetics fresh are generally too sturdy to decompose, so they end up piling in landfills. And when we’re becoming so enticed by buying up products, the damage is multiplying exponentially.

Not to mention the product leftover that we throw away. The chemicals in those do even more harm to the environment. The chemical components of many products don’t break down and instead accumulate in our ecosystems. Cosmetics and personal care products do their most damage to the environment after they are washed down our sinks. The chemicals are recycled into our lakes, streams, rivers and public water systems. From there, they damage animal’s habitats and their own health, hindering their survival.

Not to mention if products are tested on animals, a practice I cannot even comprehend why anyone would still do. When choosing to develop or use new, untested ingredients in their cosmetic products, some companies will conduct new animal tests to assess the safety of these new ingredients. Some tests include:

  • Skin and eye irritation tests where chemicals are rubbed onto the shaved skin or dripped into the eyes of restrained rabbits without any pain relief
  • Repeated force-feeding studies lasting weeks or months to look for signs of general illness or specific health hazards such as cancer or birth defects
  • Widely condemned “lethal dose” tests, in which animals are forced to swallow large amounts of a test chemical to determine the dose that causes death.

At the end of a test the animals are killed, normally by asphyxiation, neck-breaking or decapitation. Pain relief is not provided. In the United States, a large percentage of the animals used in such testing  are not counted in official statistics and receive no protection under the Animal Welfare Act. Since these tests are not necessary or accurate, they only inflict more damage quickly adding up in the cosmetic industry.

Demand change.

The more often we buy up animal-tested cosmetics with toxic ingredients with non-reusable packaging, we’re adding to the problem. Our dollar is our vote as a consumer, and we have an important choice: buy what is good for all living beings and the planet, or buy what is cheapest or most accessible. If you are in a position where you can find better options, please do so. At least do your research and advocate for better alternatives. You have a voice. Green beauty is a growing movement, and we can all contribute to its worthy cause.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie

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