You must have seen the small green logo on some products/ brands on Sephora and wondered what it really meant. Offcourse from the looks of it, the product is safe to use minus all the chemicals and bad stuff that we want to avoid using on our skin. But you really need to understand it deeper, as there is a difference between Green, Clean and Natural beauty.
In essence, clean beauty means, that the ingredients donot have sulfates, SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehyde, phthalates, mineral oils, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, disodium EDTA, PEGS, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban. I’m sure all this sounds scary and gibberish, but its extremely important to watch out for these ingredients in your skincare products. Our skin eats anything that we put on its surface. I bet you already know that junk food, with all its flavor enhancers, preservatives, synthetic fillers, and highly processed ingredients, is not good for our bodies. When you use beauty products loaded with chemical ingredients, you are feeding your skin highly processed, artificial junk food. If you try eating healthfully, why use junk beauty products? Always know that 60% of what you apply on your skin, enters your blood stream. Pimples, redness, itchiness, and rashes are all signals that our body rejects certain ingredients in cosmetic products. So we don’t want to slap on a bunch of harmful carcinogenic substances on our face and body.
Apart from the above listed chemicals, you must also lookout for synthetic fragrances like linalool, limonene which are unlikely to be naturally derived. I know usually the beautiful sensorial lux fragrance of a $200 crème is what pulls you in and you must feel that this luxurious indulgence will magically reverse all the dullness, fine lines, age spots, blemishes etc. but again, please question the product- is this fragrance natural? Natural fragrances will be derived from Natural essential oils, extracted by steam distillation of leaves or flowers. Everything else is synthetically derived and is thus harmful.
The next ingredients to look out for are preservatives. Remember how your granny’s DIY skin brightening recipe works wonders, so you make a paste of all those wonderful ingredients and apply it on your skin and leave the rest in the fridge for future use; and when you open it after 2 days, there’s fungus and bacteria thriving in the container? Preservatives ward off bacteria, fungi, microbes and oxidation. This is the reason why preservatives are imperative. The more preservatives loaded in a product the longer it can remain uncontaminated. This is why beauty products can be manufactured in mass quantities and be warehoused for a longer period. But you need to look for clean or natural preservatives. Artificial preservatives are only necessary if the product formulation is weak or unstable. Simply put, if you dilute the ingredients (with water) to make the product cheaply, then you will need artificial preservatives. This is why you will find water/ aqua in the top 5 ingredients and whichever product has water, it will need preservatives as water breeds the growth of bacteria. Therefore, look for products which have natural form of preservatives and antioxidants. Facial oils donot need preservatives, as the oils itself have plenty of anti-oxidants to help increase the shelf life.
The same goes for those beautiful Pink and blue lotions and crèmes stocked on the countertops of a 100k+ Instagrammer. I could never understand why artificial colors (FD&C) or dyes are used in products which claim to be natural. Look out for whether a particular ingredient can have a natural color or not. For e.g. Red color can be obtained from beetroot, which is natural. Another example is Seabuckthorn fruit extract which will have a naturally occurring yellow-orange color.
Having said this, Natural ingredients at the same time, might not suit everyone. Many people are allergic to essential oils, especially those of peppermint, grapefruit, chamomile, orange, and lemon. Lanolin, derived from sheep’s wool, is a known allergen. Trace amounts of honey and propolis can cause a reaction in those allergic to pollen. Papaya and pineapple may trigger acne in some sensitive skin types.
So this is when ‘Green beauty’ comes into play. The Green beauty product should not contain any ingredient of natural or synthetic origin that can poison the environment and cause harm to human health. Any ingredient which is naturally derived from plants, leaves, botanicals qualify for this tag. Now you may have come across some ingredients which sound like chemicals e.g. Cetearyl Alcohol. It seems like some kind of alcohol, which is again an ingredient to be avoided. However Cetearyl alcohol is an emulsifier (used as thickener in lotions) which is made from cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol (I know again sounds like chemicals) They're found in plants, like coconut and palm oil. These are fatty alcohols which are non-irritating and are exceptionally beneficial for the skin and are thus safe. Another ingredient ‘Sodium Lactate’ might sound 'chemically' but its derived from the natural fermentation of sugars found in corn and beets; sodium lactate is the sodium salt of lactic acid. Its an amazing humectant which increases moisture levels in the skin. So donot get psyched by reading all these chemical names. Just stay away from everything mentioned above and in times of doubt, hop on to https://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ and search for the ingredient to get the ‘hazard score’. Anything Green is safe.
There are many wonderfully effective gentle and safe cosmetic products that won’t wreak havoc on your hormones, liver, and lungs. The general rule of thumb is, the higher amount of an ingredient the product contains, the higher position it will occupy in the ingredients list. So pay attention to which ingredient is listed first. Also look for products which have fewer ingredients. Opt for gentle cleansers with a PH of 5.5, toners which are made of rose hydrosols or witch hazel, choose Face Oils over moisturizers as oils donot contain any chemicals or preservatives. And never leave home without a good mineral sunscreen. Buy from small businesses which make fewer batches of products, which means they are fresh and will be more effective. Green beauty surely sounds reassuring but closer inspection reveals that most products contain minuscule amount of organic herbs and rest of the bottle is filled with preservatives and chemicals. So scrutinize, compare and don’t be afraid to ask the brand for more information.
Always ask this very important question- "Is it Green or Greenwashed?"