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  • Writer's picturelouisemclintockpea

What Is Clean Beauty? Why Should I Beware Of ‘Green Washing’?

Consumers have trustingly slathered face creams into their skin for decades, but in recent years people are now questioning exactly WHAT these creams contain. It has certainly come as a shock to many that there are ingredients traditionally used in the mass market chemical based creams, that could be potentially carcinogenic (trigger cancer cells), as well as damaging to the environment!! Given it is reported that we absorb 60% of the substances we expose our skin to and the planet is in crisis, that is troubling information to deal with.

As part of the surge in growth of the Wellness Industry, there has been a trend towards consumers such as yourself who are actually scrutinizing the ingredients labels and perhaps moving away from toxin loaded / ‘dirty’ chemical based products and moving towards natural / organic skincare products (which are now booming). ‘ Clean Beauty’, put simply (in the context of skincare) means using toxin-free, truly ethical products. What are toxins? Anything, such as man-made chemical synthetic ingredients which could be bad for your skin, the planet and potentially your long term health!

(Example: Does your current face cream contain ‘Phenoxyethanol’ ? It is a preservative used in many cosmetics and personal care products. Phenoxyethanol can have an effect on the brain and the central nervous system. It irritates skin and eyes, and can cause blistering on skin as well. Although many skin care products (even some organic products as well) use phenoxyethanol in small amounts that is “not harmful” to skin, if you use the product multiple times a day, every day, it can cumulate and possibly affect you.)

Clean Beauty & Clean Living: If you are living a more ‘Clean Living’ lifestyle, you know that highly processed foods containing additives/ chemical ingredients are not good in your diet and also may be damaging to your health long term (think carcinogenic preservative Sodium Nitrate in ham meat for example). You may well be vegetarian, vegan or cutting down meat intake and be concerned about over packaging. We know that we should eat more non-processed, natural, healthy foods such as fruit & vegetables and eat less red meat for example. In the world of food that is classed as a ‘Clean Living’ lifestyle by reducing / cutting out those processed foods and choosing organic options. You might decide to purchase an apple which is organic over an apple which is not organic (so pesticides were not used during the growing of that fruit, potentially damaging for your health and harmful to nature). Therefore, Clean Beauty is applying that mindset to your skin- after all remember that it is said we absorb 60% of the substances our bodies are exposed to. The toxins in chemical based skincare could be the reason why your skin plays up with spots / dryness etc (as well as being potentially damaging to your health longer term).

Okay, so now we have an idea about what Clean Beauty is. Skincare creams & lotions are traditionally manufactured on-mass using water-based formulations (Aqua) is the main ingredient, often first on the list, so therefore require chemical / man-made and synthetic ingredients which help keep a long ‘shelf-life’ (so the shops have longer to sell these products). Water-based formulations also require other, often synthetic ingredients to get the right texture and to not ‘separate’ over time. Bit of science talk; these are called ‘emulsifiers’ and also ‘fillers’ (neither have many benefits to the health or appearance of your skin.) These man-made synthetic ingredients can often irritate skin and could be the reason you get sensitive skin / blemishes, be potentially damaging for your long term health and damaging for the environment. Some of these ingredients have even been found to be carcinogenic (cancer causing) such as parabens (chemical preservatives). Alternatives had to be found to replace the parabens- but of course the long term health effects of those alternative synthetic substitutes are not clear.

So, if you are buying products labelled as Organic and natural - well that is a start. However, don’t assume that life is as simple as that in the world of skincare. An organic apple is 100% organic. With skincare it is often not that straightforward unfortunately, given these products include multiple ingredients. The fact is that products can be labelled as being organic but still have a percentage of non-natural or non-organic ‘nasties’ in the formulations. I have frequently seen products carrying the certified product organic logo but is actually only e.g 71% organic. That means the balance could contain ‘nasties’ or ingredients which are not certified organic (so still damaging to the planet / health / skin). To sum that up, you could be buying organic skincare products which are less irritating and less bad for the planet but they do not have the assumed ‘halo’ above them unfortunately, as you may still get irritated skin due to chemical synthetic preservatives for example. Many organic brands also may not be vegan-friendly e.g use Beeswax and if you truly want to be more in harmony with the planet, ‘Vegan-friendly’ should also be ‘a box that is ticked’ with the skincare products you use.

‘Green Washing’ is where words/ claims are used in advertising or on product packaging to give you the impression that products are more Eco-friendly and natural than the reality when you closely inspect the ingredients lists to see the truth.

The solution: look for skincare products which say; made with 100% organic ingredients. At Shea Natural Skincare, our products are water-free so we can leave out the synthetic preservatives and useless ‘fillers’. Instead, we strictly only formulate and manufacture using ingredients which have each been certified organic at source. If the ingredient is not 100% organic, natural and certified as such , we simply refuse to use such ingredients. We believe in taking control of what you put in your skin so you KNOW that our complete product is as pure as it gets and is in harmony with this planet- after all we humans have caused enough damage to ourselves and the planet. We need to start stopping that harmful behaviour as a collective species.

Our products are therefore different because not only are they more effective due to their undiluted purity, but they need to be treated with the care that they deserve. They are made of 100% organic active botanical ingredients, so if the jar gets left in full sun it may go softer, or even return to its liquid state (which doesn’t affect the effectiveness but does change the texture). The products need to be stored in a cool dark location to keep them in perfect condition. Due to the fact they are not loaded with synthetic preservatives- that means that they are fresh and need to be used within 6 months of opening. Our products are lovingly handcrafted in small batches in the Staffordshire countryside (there is no huge factory churning these products out whilst damaging the planet).

The Bonus of moving to 100% organic skincare? Not only is true Clean Beauty great for getting that ‘Feel-Good Factor’, but in addition you should be rewarded with fantastic, healthy skin! (My skin has never looked better switching to 100% Organic, Vegan friendly skincare. I’ve also been told that I look more youthful than ever!)

FYI: Here are some of the all too common ‘nasties’ found in chemical based or non 100% organic / natural skincare products:

Phenoxyethanol: Used as an anti-bacterial in cosmetics and stabilizer in perfumes, phenoxyethanol is actually very harmful. It is harmful if swallowed, inhaled or absorbed through skin, especially to nursing mothers or infants. Phenoxyethanol can have an effect on the brain and the central nervous system. It irritates skin and eyes, and can cause blistering on skin as well. Although many skin care products (even some organic products as well) use phenoxyethanol in small amounts that is “not harmful” to skin, if you use the product multiple times a day, every day, it can cumulate and possibly affect you.

Dimethicone can exacerbate acne. The covering and trapping property of dimethicone means that it's not just trapping moisture, but bacteria, skin oils, sebum, and other impurities. That means those prone to acne or with oily skin are more likely to see increased blackheads and breakouts when using products containing this ingredient. There is also some concern that dimethicone is hurting the environment. It is non-biodegradable, which means that it can pollute our environment.

Potassium Sorbate: Considered a very mild and natural preservative. The Cosmetics Database finds it to be a low hazard ingredient, and notes a concern that it may be a carcinogenic with lesser concerns regarding neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption.

Potassium sorbate is a chemical additive. It’s widely used as a preservative in foods, drinks, and personal care products. It is an odorless and tasteless salt synthetically produced from sorbic acid and potassium hydroxide. Allergies to potassium sorbate are more common with cosmetics and personal products, where it can cause skin or scalp irritation. Source:

Xanthan gum: A stabilizer. Identified as a synthetic substance. May aggravate or irritate skin in extreme cases.

Sodium Levulinate: Derived from levulinic acid, it is important to note that the Cosmetics Database does find this ingredient to be an irritant, even at low doses.

Oxybenzone, butylparaben, octinoxate and 4-methylbenzylidene camphor; which have been shown to cause devastating viral infections and bleaching in coral reefs. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as oxybenzone may mimic hormones, cause endometriosis and can pose a risk to reproductive systems. Oxybenzone has been increasingly linked to early puberty in girls, low sperm count and male infertility, and an increase in hormone-related cancers in men and women.

Sodium Dehydroacetate: The Cosmetics Database finds Sodium Dehydroacetate to be a low hazard ingredient, although it is a known irritant and does have many listed concerns. The EWG notes cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, occupational hazards, and organ system toxicity as potential side effects, and has lesser concerns regarding neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption.

Key takeout? Always go for 100% organic for complete peace of mind that you will be getting ‘no nasties’ in your skincare products, just the best of nature.

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