by Jennifer Suri

“Clean” may be the latest trend in beauty products, but the idea has been around at least since the 1970s when Cheryl Tiegs was the Cover Girl for Clean Makeup. The idea behind clean makeup then was that it was easy and breezy—whatever that means. It isn’t any more defined now. There are no federal guidelines for “clean beauty” and a real definition is hard to pin down. Fortunately there are tools and new product lines that can help you find healthy beauty.

Understand the Law

Skin, our largest organ, covers and protects our entire body. When we want to enhance our beauty, it is usually the skin (and the rest of the integumentary system, the hair, nails and sweat glands) that takes the hit. Products are absorbed through the skin and may affect the rest of our body.
However, only 11 ingredients are prohibited or restricted by the FDA. The FDA covers its lack of restricted ingredients with a claim that is almost as vague as the term clean beauty itself.

“It’s against the law for a cosmetic to contain any ingredient that makes the product harmful when consumers use it according to directions on the label, or in the customary or expected way. This is true whether or not there is a regulation that specifically prohibits or restricts the use of the ingredient in cosmetics.” FDA

This declaration has not been enough to protect consumers from harm. Whether it’s asbestos in make-up and talc, TPHP in nail polish or BPA in skin care products, there are some scary ingredients in beauty products. Pop icon Rihanna created her own cosmetics line because of a bad experience with a skin care product. Her company, Fenty, follows EU standards, banning 1400 ingredients in its beauty products.
On December 29, 2022, Congress passed the Personal Care Products Safety Act which updated legislation that hadn’t been touched in over 80 years. This new legislation does not ban ingredients from cosmetics, but goes further in regulating facilities, manufacturing and reporting adverse reactions.

“Americans use personal care products – like shampoo, deodorant, cosmetics and much more – every single day. These products are an inextricable part of our daily lives. Yet the law that governs their safety standards hasn’t been updated in more than 80 years. Passing our bill (Personal Care Products Safety Act) is a major advance in protecting consumers from dangerous products as FDA’s oversight tools will finally be brought into the 21st century.” Dianne Feinstein, US Senator for California

Government regulations are a start, but don’t go far enough. Consumers need more data on what goes into personal care products to make informed choices about what they buy. The Wall Street Journal is optimistic about the private sector filling the gap stating that

“Americans have more information than ever. The Environmental Working Group runs its own “EWG Verified” seal for anyone who would like to avoid this or that.”

Verify Your Cosmetics are Safe

The Environmental Working Group is a resource for consumers that tracks chemical safety in products. They have created a list of bad ingredients, provide full transparency and require companies to use good manufacturing practices. Their website provides information about cosmetics that are EWG verified. The EWG Skin Deep Database provides both an overall score of your product and a score on each of the ingredients. EWG verified items score in the “green’ range. Don’t like your favorite mascara’s score? Swap it out for something healthier.

Swap Your Beauty Products

We found EWG verified and organic products using Softly. Softly is a robust search and recommendation engine that will work in the background on Amazon to provide product alternatives based on your priorities! Softly is free and can help you find replacements for your cosmetics that are EWG certified, Certified Organic and Cruelty Free.

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Choose Packaging for the Planet

Since the 1950s, most personal care products have been packaged in plastic. But companies both large and small are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint by using more sustainable alternatives. Ulta has pledged that by 2025, 50% of its packaging “will be made from recycled or bio-sourced plastic, or be recyclable or refillable.” Lush has opted for “naked” packaging. By moving to shampoo and conditioner bars and (bubble) bath bombs, they have done away with the need for any packaging for many of their products. What can’t go naked is in recycled or recyclable packages.
Treat yourself by exploring new beauty products that are better for both you and the planet. Once you start making changes you’ll see how easy it is. You can feel good about the skin you’re in while making the world a cleaner place.


Prohibited & Restricted Ingredients in Cosmetics | FDA

Federal regulations are finally taking aim at the ‘Wild West’ of clean beauty | Fortune

The Not So Pretty Truth |

S.2100 – Personal Care Products Safety Act 117th Congress (2021-2022)

Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act of 2022: What You Need to Know | Blogs | Health Care Law Today | Foley & Lardner LLP

Feinstein: Government Funding Bill Reflects Our Nation’s Values – Press Releases

The U.S. Department of Mascara – WSJ

The Beauty Industry Generates a Lot of Plastic Waste. Can it Change? | National Geographic

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