To go clean, or not to go clean

Written by Jo Lorenz 

According to Reuters¹, the global beauty and cosmetics industry is expected to be valued at more than USD 805 billion over the next four years. Yet despite these 805 billion reasons to care, the far-reaching global industry is almost entirely unregulated and consequently, beauty companies have been given unlimited latitude to openly, well, deceive consumers about what is in their products. Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s hella toxic skincare.

So how can the average consumer wade through the maze of disinformation to make mindful, healthy and environmental decisions? 

There are those who argue that toxicology reports on certain cosmetic ingredients are still inconclusive. Yet regardless of how conclusive or inconclusive the reports are, I am of the school of thought that if an ingredient is *linked* to something harmful to people or planet, then why would you even consider it? Especially, when there are so many excellent clean beauty companies available to us, offering a superior level of care to both skin, internal heath and our planet.

Photo Credits | Tata Harper Beauty

So to go clean or not to go clean? To me, there IS no question. And to help you on your clean journey, here are a few of the big-bad ingredients that are either outright terrible or are *linked* to terrible sh*t, that I like to avoid at all costs:

PARABENS - are artificial preservatives added to cosmetics to prevent ingredients from biodegrading, thus to increases the shelf life of the product. The concern with these chemicals is that scientific studies suggest that parabens can disrupt hormones in the body and harm fertility and reproductive organs, affect birth outcomes, and increase the risk of cancer.

Examples include: methylparaben, propylparaben, isopropyl paraben, and isobutyl paraben - essentially anything ending in ‘paraben’.

PHTHALATES - are a group of chemicals used to make plastic more flexible and harder to break, found in shampoo, nail polish, hair spray, perfume, sanitary pads and more. In nail polishes, for example, they are used to reduce cracking and in hair, sprays to help avoid stiffness. Phthalates are believed to be an endocrine-disrupting chemical that can alter the hormonal balance and potentially cause reproductive, developmental and other health issues.

Links have been found to reproductive and genital defects; increasing the risk of miscarriage; and, within infants and kids, they are linked to allergies, male genital deformities, premature puberty, eczema, asthma, lowered IQ and ADHD.

Photo Credits | Tata Harper Skincare

SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE + SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE (SLS/SLES) - are foaming agents, often used in skincare, cosmetics, shampoo, and toothpaste. There are mainly used to create ‘lather’ and thus give a stronger impression of cleaning power. SLS/SLES pro-businesses will always tell you there’s no proof of link to any serious health issues, yet will often forget to mention that palm oil is often used in the production of SLS, and producing palm oil is an environmental and humanitarian crisis, displacing Indigenous people, destroying wildlife and disrupting delicate ecosystems. Additionally, SLS/SLES there can irritate eyes, skin, and lungs, especially with long-term use (you know how shampoo hurts when it gets in your eyes - yeah that).

PARFUM/ARTIFICIAL FRAGRANCE - are considered ‘trade secrets’ (even from regulators!) and therefore protected from disclosure. There are about 4,000 chemicals that are used to scent products, yet the ingredients will simply say ‘fragrance/parfum’ and you will never know what number of potentially harmful chemicals are in there. Avoid!

FORMALDEHYDE - is a preservative in cosmetics. It’s a known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Why go there? Just no.

Photo Credits | Vintner’s Daughter Skincare

POLYETHYLENE GLYCOLS (PEGs) - are petroleum-based compounds that are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and carriers. The raw materials used to produce polyethylene glycol are by-products from petroleum refining and can also be derived from natural gas or coal. These are non-renewable sources. The primary concern with PEGs is that ethylene oxide is used in their production in a process called ‘ethoxylation’.

This process can cause contamination with ethylene oxide, a chemical associated with multiple kinds of cancer. Additionally, ethoxylated ingredients can also be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, which is a carcinogen. Neither ethylene oxide nor 1,4-dioxane are intentionally added ingredients, which means that neither will be listed on ingredient labels, but could still be present in the product. If this all sounds okay to you, then by all means. If not, then avoid! 


As well as looking out for the above, we live in a lovely age of digital technology. Praise be the internet gods! So I suggest downloading the multi-award-winning ‘Think Dirty’ app, which empowers and educates consumers on the cosmetics industry by enabling them to make informed decisions on what products to purchase. Super easy to use, simply download the Think Dirty app and scan the barcode of the product you’re interested in. Voilà! Your download is rewarded with a metaphorical high five, ingredients and info on the product and suggestions on how to shop for cleaner alternatives.

What I use (and love!) instead:

Cleanser - Votary Super Seed Cleansing Oil 

Moisturiser - Tata Harper Repairative Moisturiser 

Serum - Vintner’s Daughter Active Botanical Serum and Vanderohe No 1 Nourishing Face Serum 

Concealer - RMS Beauty Un-Cover Up 

Lip - Axiology Beauty 

As players in the consumer ecosystem, we’re all responsible for caring about what we buy, how much we buy, the businesses we support and, in turn, our environmental footprint.  

When you choose to purchase beauty products that are made without ethics and regulations - and with unnecessary, toxic ingredients - you’re casting a vote for an environmentally - f**ked future. So please, be mindful of the products you choose and GO CLEAN!

¹ Reuters 

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