Clean, Green, and Sustainable Beauty? Basic Things to Know About Your Products

Sustainable Beauty Products

Here at Atlys, we like to think that choosing to shop sustainably has a positive impact not only on the earth, but for you as well. Switching to green, clean, and natural personal care products is a great way to start making changes in your lifestyle.  

Makeup, especially, is an area that is highly unregulated. Brands can sneak a lot of ingredients into your makeup and beauty products that are harmful to both you and the planet. Luckily, many more natural, green, and clean makeup brands are entering the market – and while it might take a bit of a learning curve, you’ll soon be on your way to understanding which products to avoid, and which to start using. 

Terms to Know 

Let’s clarify some of the terms that get thrown around the beauty space. Due to the lack of regulation in the cosmetics industry, any brand can claim their products are “natural,” “green,” or sometimes even “organic.” This is called “greenwashing” and is super confusing for consumers trying to shop smarter.  

There’s even another element to consider – the fact that, even if a product is made from natural ingredients, they might be harmful for humans. (Consider the thought that poison ivy is clearly “natural” – but you wouldn’t want to put it on your face!)  

Clean Beauty 

Given all this confusion, many brands have taken to using the term “clean beauty.” But what, exactly, does this mean? Here’s one definition from Young Living: 

At its core, clean beauty is beauty without compromising by putting harsh and toxic ingredients on your skin. It requires being informed about what’s on an ingredient label and choosing cosmetics that are in line with your standards. The difference between regular beauty products and clean beauty products comes down to the ingredients. 

Clean beauty products are free from potentially harmful ingredients such as parabens, petrochemicals, and synthetic fragrances just to name a few. They are made with plant-based ingredients, responsibly sourced, and humanely tested. Clean beauty is natural, toxin-free beauty, plain and simple.

– Young Living Blog

Another company, The Good Face Project, defines “clean beauty” by 2 factors: whether a product is made from non-toxic ingredients (which they rank on a scale from A-F), and whether the product has transparent labeling, such as disclosing whether they use fragrance. (For example, brands are allowed to list “fragrance” as an ingredient without disclosing what goes into it.) 

Green Beauty 

“Green beauty” is another term that you might have heard, and it can align with the standards for clean beauty, but not always. Usually, calling a beauty product “green” (or sometimes, “sustainable”) means that the product will be made from plants, is often vegan and cruelty-free, and sustainably sourced.  

While you can have a beauty product that is both clean and green (say that 10 times fast), it can be hard to find brands that do both, and still make products that perform as well as their cheaper, drugstore alternatives.  

What Next? 

You’ve likely heard the saying, “ignorance is bliss,” and that can certainly be applied to your beauty and makeup products. Educating yourself on the safety and sustainability of your products can be overwhelming! However, any step is a good step. There’s no perfect way to go about changing the products you use or your shopping criteria. Instead, all you can do is continue to educate yourself on products and ingredients that are good for you and the earth as well.  

The Good Face Project outlines a good place to start when looking to overhaul your beauty routine – listing the 10 most toxic ingredients to avoid if at all possible. They are:

  1. Parabens 
  1. Fragrance 
  1. Chemical UV filters (the main ingredients in most commercial sunscreens) 
  1. Diethanolamine (DEA) 
  1. Triclosan 
  1. Phthalates  
  1. Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS) 
  1. Formaldehyde 
  1. Polyethylene (PEGs) 
  1. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) 

You might have just looked at that list and felt like you were reading in another language. That’s okay! Even a simple change such as beginning to read ingredients lists on your products, and recognizing a few toxic ingredients to avoid, is great.  

Plus, there are now so many online resources to consult that make cleaning up your beauty regimen that much easier. Many allow you to simply look up your products in a database to see how they rate on ingredient safety, transparency, and more. Although not every brand or product is listed on each of these websites, as a group they’re making great strides in helping consumers make healthier and more sustainable choices. 

See below for a few great websites to check out.  

EWG Skin Deep Database 

Think Dirty (Website and App) 

The Good Face Project (Website and App) 

If sustainability and ethics are still on your mind, check out the Atlys Directory for personal care brands we’ve rated based on our 3-part rating system. To learn more about our system, click here.