Everything You Need to Know About “Clean” Skincare
A straightforward guide to understanding which brands (and which ingredients) you should be looking for
Please note: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.
In recent years, the skincare and beauty industry has gone into overdrive in promoting “clean skincare” products and ingredients that are better for the environment, better for social causes and, ultimately, our bodies.
As you might imagine, the answer to choosing a “better” skincare product is much more complicated than reaching for the first item that throws a claim on its packaging. Most of the claims put out there are unregulated and are largely up to the companies to decide for themselves.
Transitioning to cleaner skincare products doesn’t happen overnight, but with a few tips and guidelines, it’s actually a surmountable task. The following is our no-nonsense guide to “clean” skincare, along with a range of brands worth checking out as you begin your own journey towards better products.
Things to consider
Labels: You should start off by taking a look at the ingredients listed on the package. If for some reason they’re not there, check the brand’s site. The brands you want to use are those that are transparent about what they’re using in their products. Can’t find ingredients easily? Then it’s likely not a clean product.
Ingredients: Although the largest beauty and skincare companies have gone to great lengths to disguise some of the worst ingredients in their products, more research is coming to light about what synthetic ingredients in skincare products are doing to our bodies. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a good primer on 12 ingredients to avoid. Mainly, many of these synthetics have been linked to reproductive issues, allergy irritation and chronic illnesses.
Certifications: You would need to take several college courses to fully understand all of the certifications out there, but as a starting point, there are a few you can be on the lookout for in stores and while shopping online.
- Leaping Bunny: A certification from the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) in which brands commit to no animal testing of any kind.
- Climate Neutral: Mainly a certification around cutting emissions, brands that are CN-certified also adhere to strict social and environmental standards that lead to cleaner, safer products.
- B Corp: One of the most recognized certifications associated with companies conducting business with the greater good in mind along with transparent practices.
- Fair Trade USA: Highlighting commitments to fair working conditions, pricing and product traceability among other standards.
- USDA Organic: Perhaps the most popular and known certification denoting various levels at which a brand can claim “organic” on its packaging.
Cost: Buying cleaner often means spending more — sometimes a lot more. For now, that’s the nature of buying natural. Modern production emphasizes cheap and fast at the sacrifice of less processed methods. One way to circumvent this is to contact your favorite brands to ask for a sample size item or go through a marketplace like The Detox Market. You may be able to try a smaller and more affordable version of something before committing to the full size.
Trial and error: If you’re making the switch to cleaner products for the first time, you may notice your body take offense as it literally “detoxes” from the prior use of common chemicals and irritants in the most popular products. That is completely normal. Over time, you’ll find the right mix of products that works for you and supports your body and needs.
Clean skincare products
Ursa Major Golden Hour Recovery Cream
Ursa Major is one of the most widely-available brands, and is a great introduction into the clean skincare world. These are no-nonsense, lightweight lotions, balms and more all made with `gentle aromas and gentler ingredients. Come for this recovery cream, stay for the face wipes.
Osmia Purely Gentle Mud Cleanser
Based in the mountains in Colorado, Osmia is one of the truest examples of literally using the power of nature to empower our skin. Founder Dr. Sarah Villafranco left a career in medicine to pursue her brand, and developed a range of dynamite cleansers, soaps and oils in the process. Osmia also has several opportunities to try something in a small size before committing to the whole package.
Taos Aer Next Level Deodorant
Deodorant detox is a real thing. Essentially, if you’ve been using big-box, major brand underarm products, you’ve likely been polluting your pores and nodes with aluminum and other nasty chemicals. Make it through the detox and you’ll be better on the other side.
OSEA Undaria Algae Body Butter
Seaweed has powerful detoxifying and purification properties, and that’s what OSEA harnesses. The brand is a line of skincare truly driven by the sea. If you’re into any sort of intense athletic pursuits, this butter is remarkably effective to repair dry, chapped skin post-workout.
Before Classic Toothpaste
Ditch the SLS and use something that has less potential to irritate your gums and lips. Before has just enough oomph to leave your mouth feeling fresh without feeling like you’ve just left the nearest mint garden.
Province Apothecary Vital Nutrient Face + Eye Balm
Province Apothecary is a classic example of a brand founded by the need for gentler products for those sensitive skin and skin allergies. This is plant-powered goodness with a number of options that could help those dealing with eczema and other issues. This balm will help you win the battle against dark circles and creases without the need for additives.
Herbivore Botanicals Jasmine Green Tea Balancing Toner
Herbivore is another brand, primarily focusing on of-the-moment skincare ingredients like retinol and rose, but in a way that focuses on the natural ingredients in of each of them. Let this be the year you finally discover the value of a great toner after washing your face, but before moisturizing.
Olio e Osso Liscia Shave Oil
Don’t let gender-specific packaging or marketing lead you astray. Great shaving products come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Once you’ve discovered the oil, check out Olio e Osso’s fantastic balm – a do-it-all product to moisturize and soothe in a hurry.
Dr. Bronner’s Unscented Organic Shaving Soap
Quirkiness aside, Dr. Bronner’s remains an intrinsically clean brand with a range of simple and effective skincare all based around basic castile and sugar-rooted formulas. Bronner’s also has some of the most progressive social and employee-centered policies of any household brand, pioneering several support programs, large subsidies and, of course, being one of the earliest adopters of organic certifications across many product categories.
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