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What is Clean Beauty?

By Stephanie Jade Wong

Image Source: Unslpash


Clean beauty is the reason why you should dump almost every product you've recently purchased from the drugstore aisle. Just kidding (maybe), let's dig a little deeper first. 

You know those people who spend loads of time standing in the cosmetics aisle reading the list of ingredients on a beauty product before buying it? If this is you, we applaud you. 

You may find this is what clean beauty connoisseurs do while shopping. But why? And what exactly is clean beauty? To some, it can mean all-natural products, organic ingredients, paraben-free picks, or cruelty-free items. Clean beauty can seem like a trend to some, but can become a lifestyle to others.

 The phrase is so vague yet can be so subjective. Let's break it down.


Image Source: Pexels


Clean Beauty 101

Clean beauty is a phrase used to describe products free from toxic ingredients, and safe for humans and the planet. 

It’s not too different from clean eating. When you eat clean foods, you’re eating more nutritious and plant-based items instead of processed items. For clean beauty, you’re looking to use ingredients that will nourish your skin instead of harm it.

There are so many terms that relate back to clean beauty that it can become misleading, so let’s break down some common terms.

Image Source: Unsplash


Common Clean Beauty Terms

Since the FDA hasn’t regulated how brands can use different beauty terms, a lot of them are subjective and differ from one company to the next. This makes it confusing for consumers, so here are some common clean beauty terms to keep in mind. 

  • Cruelty-Free: A cruelty-free product hasn’t been tested on animals at any point in its manufacturing.

  • Green: Have you heard the phrase, “Go green for the plant?” Green beauty refers to products that don’t harm the environment. An example could be reef-safe sunscreen packaged in a biodegradable container. However, “green” is so broad that it can be used when describing any product that claims to protect our planet.

  • Halal: Beauty products are created with ingredients that are “permissible” under Islamic law. This means the product can’t contain pork or animals that were dead prior to slaughtering. To be considered Halal, an animal has to be killed by hand in the name of Allah while a prayer is recited.

  • Natural: If a beauty product is labeled “natural,” it can mean one of the ingredients is natural, but not all of them have to be.

  • Non-toxic: This label means a beauty product won’t contain any ingredients that would cause harm to your health, as deemed by a third-party like Environmental Working Group.

  • Organic: We’re by now pretty familiar with organic produce. For organic personal care products, if they’re certified at least 95% organic, they have to have a USDA Organic Seal. This means using GMOs isn’t allowed, and the products with this seal have to follow manufacturing specifications.

  • Sustainable: Similar to green beauty, sustainable means that a product’s ingredients get sourced and packaged without harming the planet. How can your personal care products be harming our planet? If you wash your face with a cleanser that has microbeads in it, it goes down your drain and travels into our oceans, harming marine life.

  • Vegan: A vegan product contains zero animal by-products or ingredients sourced from animals. 
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Image Source: Pexels


Ingredients to Avoid and Why

You may think the products you put on your body won’t affect anything else besides your skin, however that’s not the case. 

We eat clean to fill our bodies with nutrients that can improve our health, but what about toxic ingredients in our beauty and personal care products that can cause some serious harm to our bodies?

Protecting our bodies from harmful ingredients is a big reason why many make the switch to clean beauty. Makeup artist Rose-Marie Swift went as far as launching her own clean beauty company. When she got ill, her doctors performed tests and identified toxic chemicals and heavy metals — found in beauty products we use daily — in her system. Swift launched RMS Beauty in the hopes of helping others find clean beauty alternatives. 


Here are several different ingredients you should avoid and why: 


What is it?

Where Can I Find It?

Potential Health Concerns

Aluminium Chlorohydrate

Blocks sweat ducts.



-Endocrine disruption


-Organ toxicity/irritation

Chemical UV blocks

Protects skin from UVA/UVB rays.


-Physical sunscreen

-DNA/cell damage

-Endocrine disruption


A preservative.

-Bath products

-Nail polish

-Synthetic eyelash glue




-Organ toxicity/irritation

-Reproductive harm


Can describe up to 3,000 synthetic or natural chemicals used to make a product smell appealing.

-Body products


-Face products

-Hair products



-Organ toxicity/irritation

-Reproductive harm


A bleaching agent.

-Skin-whitening products


-Organ toxicity/irritation


Preservatives and chemicals to help prevent bacteria growth/mold.

-Body products


-Face products

-Hair products



-Endocrine disruption

-Organ toxicity/irritation

-Reproductive harm


Antimicrobial agent (look for “microban”)

-Anti-bacterial soap


-Hand sanitizer

-Endocrine disruption

-Environmental harm

-Organ toxicity/irritation


Image Source: Pexels


How to Get Started With Clean Beauty

There's no need to dump your entire beauty closet in one fell swoop (unless you already have?) — then we completely support that move. If you haven't, you can start your clean beauty routine with one product and go from there. Here are three simple steps on how you can get started on your clean beauty journey:


  1. Grab one of your beauty products and check out the ingredients. 🕵️‍♀️ Pro tip: You can download the Think Dirty mobile app and search for your products there.

  2. If your product has toxic ingredients in it, toss it. We hate wasting products, but we think it’s time to say your goodbyes it if it’s a toxic product. 🙅

  3. Mosey on over to find clean beauty alternatives.

Image Source: Pexels


Love, Indie B.'s Clean Beauty Alternatives

New to the clean beauty game? Don’t sweat it, we’ve got your back. Here are a few clean beauty product tips from us.

Clean Mascara

If you use mascara on a daily basis, an easy swap is tossing out a “dirty” mascara for a clean one like Elate’s Essential Mascara




We love it because it plumps and lengthens lashes. This formula was created for sensitive eyes, so it’s water and sweat resistant. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free.

 This mascara comes in a sustainable bamboo tube that’s water-processed, not chemically treated. All of the brand’s bamboo comes from China, where they work with a green-certified, fair-trade manufacturer. 

Clean Lipstick

It may be difficult to part with a favorite lip color, but we’re sure we can find you an alternative you’ll love. Try Clove + Hallow’s Lip Velvet in Napa.



This liquid-to-matte lipstick is one of the brand’s bestsellers. The smudge-free, long-lasting formula is also moisturizing, which is a win-win situation. It’s clean, 100% PETA-certified cruelty-free, and vegan. #YasQueen

Clean Eyeshadow

If you’re looking for some stellar eyeshadows, get your hands on the Aether Beauty Crystal Grid Gemstone Eyeshadow Palette


You’ll get a dozen shimmer and metallic shades in one palette. Each of the 12 crystal-charged pigments are infused with either:

  • Amber
  • Amethyst
  • Diamond
  • Sapphire
  • Topaz
  • Tourmaline

 The palette is 100% sustainably designed in California, and is zero waste (be good to the planet with us).

Clean Eyebrow Definer

If you love defined brows, look no further than the Naturally by Stevi Christine’s Detailed Eyebrow Definer



Whether you want full and bold brows or just a bit of added color and definition, this pencil can give you both. We offer two different shades: Light and Dark. The formula is long-wearing, water-resistant, cruelty-free, sulfate-free, gluten-free, and there are no GMOs.

Clean Blush and More

Want to get started with clean beauty but are overwhelmed by all the different products? Try your hand at the Au Naturale Anywhere Creme Multi-Stick in Sweetheart.You can literally use it all over your face. 


Source: Love, Indie B. 

 This formula works on your eyelids, cheeks, and lips. It’s gluten-free, natural, vegan, and made in the US.


Let’s Get Clean

Are you sitting at the edge of your seat waiting to dive into your beauty and personal care products? It’s pretty easy to get clean, so we hope you’re excited! Can’t wait to fill up your makeup bag? Shop Love, Indie B.

About the Author: 

Stephanie Jade Wong is a NY-based freelance writer. She likes long walks to coffee shops, trying new beauty products, and petting strangers’ dogs.

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