The cosmetics industry is difficult to navigate, as it’s both entirely self regulating and especially prone to greenwashing. While you might see the word “natural” emblazoned across your new foundation or eyeshadow, there are no standards for what the claim actually means, let alone an agency enforcing them.
The good news is that consumers are demanding cleaner products and cosmetics companies are responding. But, there is a critical difference between a label claiming to be free of the most popular buzzwords (think parabens, sulfates, and phthalates) and a product being truly non-toxic and safe to use.
What does this distinction look like in real life? Let’s take parabens, a family of chemicals that are increasingly under fire from conscious consumers. In response to growing pulis concern, many companies are subbing out parabens for other preservatives, like phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate. However, as is often the case in the industry, these two chemicals have not yet been proven to be safer options. In fact, a high concentration of phenoxyethanol can cause contact dermatitis, worsen eczema, and affect the central nervous system, while sodium benzoate can form benzene, a known carcinogen, when it reacts with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) under the right conditions.
The lack of regulation in the cosmetics industry makes it exceedingly hard to find safe products for you and your family, and that’s why we have been continuously monitoring the potential health effects of over 30,000 ingredients in personal care products. Our philosophy is similar to the precautionary principle: if an ingredient hasn’t been proven safe, then it’s something people should be aware of.
We’ve rounded up three of our favorite beauty brands that are maintaining exceptionally high standards for safety, both in how they source their ingredients and how they combine them in their formulations. The products below are free of all 1,300+ ingredients that are banned or restricted in other countries, as well as any ingredient that we deem concerning.
The Honest Company has been a leader in developing non-toxic baby products and clean household supplies for years, so it’s no surprise that its commitment to product safety is what’s setting its beauty brand apart from others. Their always-evolving NO List has over 3,000 ingredients, including parabens, phthalates, sulfates, formaldehyde carriers, PEGs, MCI/MI, stearaeth-n, propylene and butylene glycol, petrolatum, mineral oil, SLS and SLES, chemical sunscreens and synthetic fragrances.
Since 2005, Juice Beauty has been reinventing the wheel of clean beauty, creating products with a base made from certified organic botanical juices (like aloe, jojoba, grape seed, and shea) rather than from inexpensive petroleum byproducts or water fillers. All Juice Beauty products are at least 70% certified organic and their ingredients are sourced locally from northern California farms. Ingredients deemed unacceptable include parabens, phthalates, sulfates, silicones, propylene or butylene glycols, PEGs, triethanolamine and diethanolamine, to name a few.
ILIA Beauty, started when founder Sasha Plavsic realized her favorite lip balm contained ingredients that weren’t actually suitable for everyday use, prioritizes product safety as much as effectiveness. They understand that a naturally-derived ingredient isn’t inherently safe, that an ingredient produced in a lab isn’t automatically dangerous, and that a careful combination of natural botanics and safe synthetics can work wonders. All of their makeup is free of parabens, sulfates, phthalates, gluten and talc, and our favorite products are the ones that you can use everyday, on your lips and your cheeks.