Beauty / wellness

What YOU need to know about Clean Beauty

It’s a brand new week. To start this Thanksgiving week, I’m giving thanks for health and safety.

So, let’s have a chat about clean beauty.

Many of you know that I’m studying nutrition, and all the elements of our diet that contribute to us being healthy and well from the inside out.

But, we ought not forget about being healthy from the outside in either.

IMG_9099Did you know that your skin is your largest organ in your body? You wouldn’t dream of intoxicating your heart (if you could even figure out a way to do that), so why is it any less important to pay attention to your skin, and think about what you slather on for lotion, lather up with for soap, and freshen up with deodorant?

When I talk to my friends about eating well, it often comes down to making a transition to replace certain key ingredients with better ones (or in the case of some food groups, replacement with healthier or pesticide free alternatives), and a policy of moderation unless there is a dignified and legitimate cause for following a much more restricted diet.

The first recommendation, to replace certain key ingredients, also applies to clean beauty. It’s easy to start making changes if you start small. Replace just a couple items in your beauty routine with healthier alternatives and gradually you can make changes that will hopefully serve you well in the long term.

What to do first? If you’re a gal, definitely try replacing your deodorant first and foremost. Aluminum products that are used in anti-perspirants are particularly nasty for women and can clog your lymph nodes and have been associated with breast cancer. (Personal experience: After years of using your regular drug store deodorant/anti-perspirants, when I was in college I noticed my lymph nodes near my underarms were swollen and painful – a friend told me about how important it was to change to a natural deodorant, and after switching, within a couple of days, the swelling had disappeared and it has never come back.) 

Next, try replacing anything you regularly slather all over your body, such as your body wash or soap, or lotion with something that has all the ingredients in it that you can pronounce or that are obviously from nature. I know, I know – all the fun smelling lotions (especially around the holidays!) tend to fall in this category. But trust me, we have been piling on so many environmental exposures that we have little control over, and if there’s anything that you can do personally to reduce your exposure to harmful substances, it is in your favor and for your health! My tastes have changed and anything overtly sweet or unnatural is obvious to me when I smell it or see it.

If you’re doing well on those fronts, try looking for a toothpaste – you put this in your mouth every day at least twice, so it’s next up there on the exposure list! I haven’t gotten to this yet myself, but it is on my list of change to gradually make.

I recently attended this truly wonderful W.E.L.L Summit in its inaugural year in Boston, MA. (Interested in attending next year? It will be in N.Y.C. and you can sign up here for email updates to be the first to know once the program is available and sign ups begin.) One of the sessions featured a panel of healthy beauty experts: Kristen Arnett, who was a makeup artist for years in the US and abroad in the fashion industry; Tara Foley from Follain; and Kathryn Rodgers from Silent Spring research institute. Brandie Gilliam from Thoughtfully Magazine moderated the lively and very informative presentation.

The session was full of personality, and there was a lot to learn.

Did you know…

  • Teenage girls and women use a dozen products a day on average, and that amounts to about 120 different chemicals that end up on your skin and in your body that aren’t natural.
  • You can’t rely on labels that say something is “natural” or for “sensitive skin.” All of your skin is sensitive. You have to do your own research.
  • If it isn’t classified as a food item, as most beauty products are not (even beauty products with packaging that say organic or natural) it isn’t regulated.In fact, it is legal for companies to not reveal some of the ingredients as well, as these may be proprietary fragrances which may derive from unnatural sources.Beauty products are unregulated in the USA. This is a problem because we don’t know if some of these chemicals can contribute to long-term disease risk.
  • For skincare, the USDA Organic label applies.
  • Whole Foods has their own screening process for their products, so it may be a good place to start.

Now that you have some suggestions to get you started on helpful changes to your beauty and skincare routines…

I’ll highlight some resources that you can take with you the next time you go shopping to cross check your products to make sure they’re free of toxic chemicals before they get in contact with your body.

We should not have to sacrifice our health and values for beauty. -Follain

  1. Well-researched and extensive list of restricted chemicals to avoid compiled by the folks at Follain.
    • organized by Hair, Face, Body, Cosmetics, and Sun categories, each ingredient has a pull-down menu telling you What it is, Function, Potential Concern, and the type of Product it is found in.

** Research compiled from

  • Environmental Working Group (EWG) Skin Deep Database
  • Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
  • Breast Cancer Fund
  • Truth in Aging
  • International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Center for Disease Control (CDC) – Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
  • Beautycounter Never List
  • Health Canada

2. Green Beauty Team. Refer to their Toxic Substances glossary, educate yourself about “green washing” of brands that claim to be green but aren’t, and get the basics down of green, eco, natural, organic beauty.

3. Not Just a Pretty Face by Stacy Malkin was recommended as an easy-to-digest, classic whistle-blowing on the beauty industry.

4. No More Dirty Looks is a website and a book. Read about the authors here. The website has products and reviews. It looks like a good resource to help you figure out if products will meet your needs – key as you embark on this journey of finding what works for your body!

For the visual folks:

Beauty Heroes put together a Pocket Guide which provides Ingredient Intelligence at your fingertips. It has Villains – to avoid because of potential toxicity or because they are banned in other countries (“While research is ongoing, we say, why risk it? Lose the Villains.”)- and Heroes.

 Pin this or save on your phone for quick and easy access!


I hope that this has been insightful! The clean and green beauty community is doing awesome work to bring awareness to this important health matter, and I’m so glad I’m learning about it.

Bookmark this post and feel free to refer to it and to the sites above. And if it is helpful to you, please share with your friends and family!

In good health,


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