What We Mean When We Say Clean Beauty

The beauty industry is unregulated—here’s what you can do.

Want to deepen your understanding of clean beauty? Check out our Clean Beauty Connoisseur program track at Wellspring, the first-of-its-kind wellness expo in Downtown Palm Springs this October. For tickets and more information, click hereWellness industry professional discounts and scholarships available!

Charcoal and snails and sea salt, oh my! What do these seemingly disparate words have in common? If you’re active in the wellness industry you likely have an idea: They’re all loosely pinned to the practice of “clean beauty.” We’re all about cleaning all aspects of our lives, and the routines and self-care practices involving how we present ourselves to the world are of course no different. But let’s go beyond the buzzword. What does clean beauty actually mean for you, the planet, and the animals in it?

Let’s start with the ugly truth: The personal care industry is essentially unregulated. The last piece of regulation was passed in 1938 and has very little rules about what can/cannot go into your beauty products. In fact, brands don’t even need to list their ingredients, and can defend this level of privacy by claiming that they’re protecting “trade secrets.” And it gets scarier: This also means that terms like organic, natural, and clean don’t have any power when it comes to beauty products. Because companies are permitted to remain secretive when it comes to ingredients, these labels can be put on anything.

Video from our friends at Brandless. Check out more of their educational and inspirational content here

Clean beauty is therefore an active choice. It’s a little intense—we believe that clean beauty products should be free of sulfates, phthalates, parabens, and animal testing while still smelling and working great. Buy don’t be fooled by clean beauty products that cost an arm and a leg; it’s totally possible to find effective, safe products within a reasonable budget. We’ve been trained to think more expensive means better, but this doesn’t have to be the case!

How to Revamp your Clean Beauty Routine

Right now you’re mind might be wandering into the depths of your beauty cabinet, wondering if your moisturizer or shampoo is stealthily damaging you. Don’t be intimidated by the process of switching to a clean beauty routine. Here’s how you can get started:

Read and research the ingredients in your go-to products. The best way to take control is to learn. Find out exactly what you’re putting in and around your body and why it might be harmful. There are some great studies out there illustrating the damaging effects of beauty products (this one and this one can get you started). Once you harvest more inside information regarding the controversy surrounding these products, you’ll feel more inclined to make the switch.

Write down the products you need. What are products that you use on a day-to-day, or weekly basis? Dedicated to your a specific skincare routine? Finding your needs will help you declutter your cabinet and focus on the essentials, rather than a million products that will simply collect dust in a drawer.

Focus on the dailies. If switching out all your staples all at once seems intimidating, take baby steps. Look at the products you use everyday, like deodorant, toothpaste, or certain types of makeup.

Establish a ritual. Remember that this is a form of self-care. Like preparing a superfood smoothie bowl or diving into your morning meditation sesh, using clean products should feel good. Since you’re already being more intentional about your products, make the application process special. Do a mask or a face steam. Set aside 15 minutes dedicated to your routine. Make it a moving meditation.

Involve your loved ones. One of the perks of swapping up your beauty routine is peaking the interests of others. You don’t need to be militant about it—simply find casual ways to share your newfound beauty secrets with the folks you care about. Chances are they’ll want clean products too, and the more the merrier.

Amanda Kohr is the editor at Wanderlust. You can find her exploring new highways, drinking diner coffee, and on Instagram