Clean Beauty 101: A Comprehensive Guide

You may have noticed a push to make your beauty routine more eco-friendly if you have used social media in the past few years. This is a movement toward “clean beauty,” but it’s not as simple as you think.

What is ‘Clean Beauty?

It all depends on who you ask. Michele Farber MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group, Philadelphia, says that the definition of “clean beauty” is very ambiguous. It is difficult for skincare consumers to know what is clean and natural. There are no clear guidelines.

Does this approach to skincare have science behind it?

Consumers and professionals are becoming more concerned about the health effects of skincare products. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), people use approximately 10 personal-care products daily. This amounts to 126 ingredients.

EWG is an advocacy group that funds research and promotes transparency in personal-care products. It argues that many of the ingredients allowed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are not safe. They also note that more than 500 products in the United States “contain ingredients banned from cosmetics in Japan, Canada, or the European Union.” There’s the concern that some of these may be carcinogenic or endocrine-disrupting, meaning they cause cancer or dysregulate your hormonal system.

It is not clear if these claims are true. “We live in an environment filled with chemicals, so it’s difficult to live a chemical-free lifestyle. Although I believe it is important to reduce the chemicals we are exposed to, certain skin conditions make it difficult. Rebecca Baxt MD, a Paramus-based dermatologist, says it is not always possible. You can moisturize with coconut oil if you prefer, but you should not use it if your skin is sensitive to chemicals.

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Talk to your dermatologist. Dr. Farber says they can help you choose the right products and routines to suit your needs while also helping you achieve your treatment goals.

The Advantages of a Clean Skin Care Routine

Avoiding common ingredients that can cause skin reactions, such as dyes, fragrances and phthalates, may help you have calmer skin and fewer irritation symptoms like redness and burning.

The Disadvantages of a Clean-Skin-Care Routine

Dermatologists worldwide will tell you this: “Just because something’s organic or natural doesn’t mean it’s good. Dr. Baxt says that it doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad. She says that organics still contain a lot of ingredients and that they often use a lot of scented oils, which can cause allergic reactions. You can’t guarantee happy or irritation-free skin simply because something is labeled natural or clean.

It’s possible to go too far with these efforts. For example, you should never make your sunscreen. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunscreen should be broad-spectrum with SPF 30 or greater and water-resistant.

What to Use and What to Avoid in a Clean Skin-Care Program

This approach to personal care involves looking for products that do not contain certain ingredients. We’ll get into more detail below. Unwanted ingredients include dyes, fragrances, preservatives and parabens.

Ingredients to Choose

The following are common ingredients in “clean” beauty products.

  • Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, ceramides (moisturizers)
  • Tin oxide and titanium dioxide (found with mineral-based sunscreens).
  • Vitamin C (protective antioxidant)
  • Alpha Hydroxy Acids (glycolic acids for evening skin tones)
  • Beta Hydroxy Acids (salicylic acid to treat acne)
  • Bakuchiol, a retinol alternative, treats wrinkles and fine lines.

To find out if a favorite product is “clean”, visit the EWG’s Skin Deep Database.

Avoid

You can decide what is clean, but Sephora has a standard. The personal-care retailer, which has brick-and-mortar and online shops, provides seals to products that meet their standards. There is also a section on their website where clean beauty products can be purchased. These products do not contain “parabens, sulfates SLS and SLES, phthalates, mineral oils, formaldehyde, formaldehyde-releasing agents, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban.”

Clean Skin Care Product Staples & Recommendations

Use micellar water to clean your skin. Simple’s micellar waters are free from artificial fragrances, color, dyes, alcohols, parabens and phthalates.

Steps to follow in a Clean Beauty Routine

Farber says that the ideal skincare routine will be different for each person. She says there is a general rule of thumb: less is more. To achieve a clear beauty routine, you can reduce the number of products you use. You can reduce your exposure to chemicals and ingredients, as well as those that could be irritating your skin, by using fewer products. Farber outlines the steps you should take in the morning and the evening.

  1. Depending on the type of skin, wash up. Farber says that if you have oily skin, wash it in the morning. A quick rinse with water is enough if you are sensitive or dry.
  2. Use a vitamin C serum.
  3. Use an SPF moisturizer for sun protection.

Evening

  1. Use a mild cleanser to start. You need to remove dirt, makeup, and other pollutants from your skin.
  2. Treat skin. Treat your skin now with an anti-acne or healthy-aging product such as glycolic acid or Bakuchiol.
  3. Moisturize again. Make sure your skin is moisturized before you go to bed. You don’t need an SPF moisturizer at night. This should be a simple, non-fragrance-laden moisturizer.

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