Tips for Transitioning to a Clean Beauty Routine
Cosmetic routines and skincare products have always fascinated me. When I was in teenager devouring every magazine my local bookstore carried, I remember following every dumb little filler-content story about ‘what to pack in your bag to keep your skin fresh during a day at the beach’ or ‘five beauty products to keep in your nightstand’ like it was a handbook for how to actually survive life.
I struggled with acne, like most teenagers, but my dermatologist was old-school in his remedies. He fought my acne with prescriptions for antibiotics, light therapy, specialty face washes and cortisone shots for the worst of my cystic acne. His final attack on my acne was the cure-all wonder drug, Accutane. And what a wonder drug it turned out to be. I wonder how it even still exists. I wonder why anyone in their right mind would put someone on it. I took a full course of it my freshman year of college. It cleared up my skin, but I could feel my body going through negative and irreversible changes.
All the time I was going through expensive treatments, I was slathering my face with drugstore foundations and powders and filling my body with junk food. A few years after taking Accutane, my skin was already breaking out again. What a bummer.
I dealt with breakouts throughout the remainder of my undergrad education the best I knew how. I tried every product, and just concealed the bumps and red scars under a ton of makeup.
Fast forward to the last week of my senior year. I suddenly end up in the emergency room. Unknown to me, I had developed a peptic ulcer (that’s an ulcer in your stomach) that perforated (ate through my stomach lining). I was rushed into surgery to remove part of my stomach. About a third of my stomach had to be removed, and I spent the rest of my summer recovering in my parents home.
Why am I recounting this personal story? Is it because I believe there could have been a link between my stomach ulcer and Accutane? While I do think this is very possible, it’s actually what I had to learn about my body from this incident that leads me to share it today. I spent the first month out of the hospital eating mashed potato soup (because mashed potatoes were just too much for my stomach to handle?!?!), cream of wheat and grits. I was mostly asleep and confused, so I didn’t make any ground-breaking discoveries that month. Once I was finally able to eat real foods and partake in real life activities, like walking a block and lifting five pound weights, the substantial awareness began. I had much less stomach to work with, so I learned that maximizing nutrients was important. It was summertime, which meant we had pounds and pounds of fresh berries in the kitchen at any given time (thanks, mom). This became a staple in my diet, along with fresh tomatoes, nuts and complex salads. I also had been mostly makeup free for two months at this point because I had no social life while back home with my parents. I suddenly noticed my skin was glowing and clear! I wanted to start wearing makeup again, but I realized there was a relationship between ingredients and skin health. There weren’t many natural options at the time, and any that claimed to be organic or natural were too expensive for my graduate school budget.
This is why I say that clean beauty is a journey. You have to be ready to accept that both what you put both on and in your body affects your skin’s health. No clean beauty routine will eliminate the negative impacts of bad nutrition. It will take time to find the right products for your skin type, as with any skincare products. The transition to a clean beauty routine will take some time, but there are so many options on the market these days, so have some fun with it! Test out new things, try what your friends are using, check this space for our continued research and recommendations, and figure out what you love.
Whatever your journey, here are a few things you need to know when transitioning to a clean beauty routine.
What You Need To Know About Clean Beauty
What is clean beauty?
Clean beauty can be a confusing term, and everyone views it differently. I believe a cosmetic, personal hygiene or hair product that is formulated without any toxic ingredients is a clean beauty product. The clean beauty movement is embracing beauty products that are both natural and man-made. As long as it was mindfully created without harmful chemicals, it is clean and healthy. Up to 60% of the chemical applied topically can enter the bloodstream. Since our skin is the largest organ in our bodies, the toxins it absorbs can lead to sensitivities, allergies, cancer, birth defects and other serious health issues. That being said…
Science is not the enemy
I’ve heard many people say that they don’t want to use anything with ‘chemicals’ in it, which is impossible. All things are made of chemicals, some harmful and some not. The green beauty industry is growing and evolving, with new natural brands and products created each year. Behind each product are years of chemistry, research and testing to develop nontoxic products that deliver results. While I appreciate small batch natural remedies, I also love to see where science can step in and develop these natural ingredients further.
Ingredients to avoid
There’s an implication that if a label contains the word ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ then it’s safe. This is probably the most confusing portion of the clean beauty movement. It is important that you understand that all natural beauty products may not be organic, and vice versa. Just because a brand adds natural beauty to the package doesn’t necessarily mean the products are natural either. Just like the clean eating movement, brands are using unregulated buzzwords to draw people in. They want to make you think that they are creating products that are safer to use. Keep in mind that there aren’t any guidelines, nor does the FDA regulate beauty products. It is important as a consumer to understand the meaning of clean beauty products and determine what clean beauty means to you and if it’s right for you. The ingredient list on most skincare products can be difficult to understand, but here are a few things you can quickly scan for.
These are so gnarly. Phthalates are a group of chemical used to soften and increase the flexibility of plastic and vinyl and they can be used in skincare products. What! Listed as dibutyl phthalate, dimethyl phthalate and diethyl phthalate, these are commonly found in perfumes, nail polishes, hair spray, deodorant and lotion. Phthalates are known as endocrine disruptors. They can cause early breast development in children, increase the risk for breast cancer and reproductive birth defects in males and females. Note that phthalates are not always listed and can be hidden under fragrance.
Toluene is a solvent that is present in paint thinners, nail polish remover, glues and correction fluid. Listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, methylbenzene and toluene. This can cause developmental damage to fetus in expecting mothers. Toluene can also affect the respiratory system, irritate the skin and cause nausea.
Propylene Glycol is used in liquid foundation, spray deodorants, moisturizers, lipsticks, suntan lotions, shampoos and conditions, baby wipes, and more. Strangely enough, you’ll also find it in your antifreeze, brake and hydraulic fluid, floor wax, and paints. This is a known skin irritant and can cause hives and dermatitis.
BHA and BHT
BHA and BHT are used as preservatives in lipsticks, moisturizers and other cosmetics. Thy can lead to allergic reactions in skin and are potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.
The term fragrance can include a wide variety of scent chemicals and ingredients which can affect the reproductive system. Fragrance has also been linked to dermatitis, allergies and respiratory issues. It can be listed as parfum or aroma as well.
Learn your skin
When transitioning to a clean beauty routine you must learn your skin all over again. Pay close attention to how your complexion looks and feels when you feed it certain nutrients and formulas. Switching to nontoxic beauty products will do wonders for your health, but it won’t necessarily lead to glowing skin immediately. Each brand and formula will work differently from one person to the next, so be patient. Don’t forget to patch test before using a new product because your skin may react negatively to specific ingredients even though they are natural.
Actionable next steps
Don’t feel like you need to throw out everything that’s in your makeup bag. Slowly replace products as you run out of them and buy clean products instead. It’s a journey, so enjoy it!
Advocate for yourself and keep the conversation going. If companies see that we care, they’ll start to care more too.
I wanted to mention the clean beauty products that have become a part of my daily beauty routine.
BareMinerals | skinlongevity and vital power infusion face serum (about a 5/10 on the scale of toxicity)
Farmacy | dew it all eye cream
Botanics | organic day cream
BareMinerals | prime time foundation primer
BareMinerals | complexion rescue bb cream
Antonym Cosmetics | organic baked foundation
Antonym Cosmetics | organic eyeshadow
Botanics | organic softening cleanser
Shiseido | benefiance wrinkleresist24 intensive eye contour cream (a about a 3-4/10 on the toxicity scale)
Ona Organics | facial oil
The journey to clean, natural beauty is worth it, no matter how long it takes to overhaul your arsenal. You cannot put a price on health, and this journey is worth the time, research and resources. If you feel stuck, or need a companion, or have any questions, we are here for you! Be kind to yourself and your body and skin will thank you!