Skin, Lip and Body Care

Overwhelmed by Which Cosmetics are Safe and Which Aren't? You Don't Have to Be a Chemist -5 Easy Steps for the Everyday Person

+ CV Skinlabs Team

I’ve done several presentations now to help people reduce their toxic exposure in life. I talk about potentially harmful chemicals in our products, and name five that are of particular concern, including:

  • Phthalates
  • Parabens
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (and other sulfates)
  • Synthetic fragrance
  • Chemical sunscreens like PABA and oxybenzone

Almost every time, when I’m finished with the presentation, people will start to ask me questions like, “What about sodium-laureth 6 carboxylate?” and “Is guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride safe?” And then usually someone will tell me this is all too overwhelming and too hard to figure out.

I agree that for the average person looking at the back of a shampoo bottle, things can get overwhelming in a hurry. I mean, you’re looking at chemical after chemical, and you may start to feel like you need a chemistry degree to ever make heads or tails of it all. That can get discouraging, which can make you want to give up.

The thing is, you don’t have to know what all those chemicals are. You don’t! All you need to do is find companies that make products you can trust. With a little research, you can find those companies who are formulating with your well being in mind, which can significantly raise your odds of finding safer products. Then you can relax, purchase from your trusted companies, and forget about it.

How do you find those companies producing safe products? Follow these 5 simples steps.

1. Read Labels and Avoid Key Ingredients

I ask you to avoid the five ingredients I’ve listed above-easy. You can also take my Ingredients to Avoid cards with you shopping, and just stay away from the ones I’ve listed. If you find brands that are using these ingredients, cross them off your list.

2. Use the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database

This is a great tool, and it’s easy to use. Just go to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG’s) Skin Deep Cosmetic Database, plug in your product in the search line, and the database will give you a score based on the product’s ingredients and the safety of those ingredients. It takes five seconds and can give you easy information on your favorite products, which can help you determine whether or not the companies making those products have your best interests at heart.

3. Check Out the Company Website and Do Your Due Diligence

You can learn a lot about a company from their website. Check to make sure they list all of the ingredients in their products. (If they don’t, that’s not a good sign.) Look to see if they talk about sustainable practices, natural and organic ingredients, and fair trade. Are their products certified by a third party, as shown by a seal, such as that from the USDA?  Are they supporters of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics?  Do they discuss what they do NOT include in their products? This is language you want to look for.

Check the about page, as well, as it typically gives the company mission or philosophy. Those companies concerned about their customers’ safety and well being will say something to that effect on their About page. They’ll talk about wanting to stay away from harsh and toxic chemicals. They’ll talk about a devotion to natural ingredients and the goodness of botanicals. They’ll talk about wanting to create products that are not only good for your skin, but good for the earth.

You want to make sure the company is also transparent and isn’t hiding anything. If the ingredients are not on the website, for example, and you call and they are not willing to share them with you, stay away. At the end of the day, no matter what language is on the site, the proof is always on the labels!

4. How Big is the Company?

In today’s world, companies that are truly devoted to natural ingredients and consumer safety tend to be smaller than the large corporations we’re used to. We’re hoping that as our voices are heard, more large companies will make changes, but for now, it’s the small to medium start-ups that are more likely to be creating truly safe products. It’s these companies that started because someone had an “aha” moment and wanted to create something better than what they were finding in the stores. The founders are typically people like you and I that wanted to make a difference.

5. Is the Company Listed on a Select Site?

Many special retailers these days make it their purpose to pre-screen products for you. You can find many of them on my blog on the subject, “Where Do I Find Safer Products?” All the locations I’ve listed there feature only products that meet strict standards.

Beautorium, for example, offers a carefully handpicked selection of the best in natural and organic beauty products from around the world. You’ll find the site’s criteria on their “About” page, where they state that most of their products are certified natural or organic by third party organizations.

O+N Collective, another one of my favorite site’s on my list, supports unique, high quality brands that use only the best organic and natural ingredients, without using potentially harmful chemicals like phthalates, parabens, EDTA, synthetic fragrance or dyes, petrochemicals and more.

You’ll find many more sites like these on my list. As you review them, you’ll start to get familiar with the brands they feature, which will help you zero in on safer brands you can trust.

That’s it! Follow these five steps, and you’ll find yourself quickly zeroing in on those brands that are much more likely to be safe, and much less likely to expose you or your family to potentially dangerous toxins.

Have you found brands you can trust? Please share!

Picture courtesy Prescience International via

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