Do you really know what it means to be clean?

Chances are, you’re a part of the large group of us who are trying to clean up- literally and figuratively- our skincare and beauty regimen, but how exactly do we choose what’s okay to use, and what isn’t? 

Clean, Green, and Organic skincare and beauty products are becoming more and more commonly found at your everyday grocery and retail stores, instead of something you’d only find at specialty boutique beauty retailers, which has its ups and downs. While it’s true that these terms are being slapped onto just about any product nowadays, without any real certification (FDA, where’s your update?!), it’s important to note that these certifications are also pretty pricey, especially if you’re a small beauty brand.

While our focus at Toccare is specializing in Organic, Green, and Clean skincare, we are not extremists. It our utmost priority that all brands we work with have integrity no matter what category they claim to be a part of. Typically, it is our experience that brands owned by the founder and creator tend to have the highest standards, and while they may contain some synthetic ingredients, we trust the integrity of these brands and stand by their products because the creator is passionate about their mission and the products they are creating, and have proven to make mindful choices when it comes to ingredients.

It can be difficult to navigate these terms and decide which products best fit your personal standards, and which ones are bending the truth with these labels to attract more customers. Hence why we decided to define these terms according to our own beliefs and principles, thus helping you navigate this ever growing market!

What do they mean?

If we pretend that each category is on a diagram, such as a food pyramid, we would have Organic Beauty at the bottom, meaning it is the one we should focus on or use the most of, followed by Green Beauty right above it, and Clean Beauty on top. It’s important to keep in mind that, much like a food pyramid, ours would be an example of what products we would recommend you focus on, not necessarily a ranking from good to bad. Using Clean Beauty instead of Organic Beauty doesn’t make you a bad person or an ill-informed consumer- we’re all just trying our best to clean up our products!

Let’s start off with what we would consider to be the largest tier on the pyramid- Organic skincare and beauty products. The majority of products that claim to be Organic will be certified by the USDA and will have a label on the bottle or box that states this. To be certified, there is a requirement that at least 70% of the ingredients in a product must actually be organic, while all other ingredients must fall under the “Green Beauty” category. If they aren’t certified, most of their ingredients will still come from an Organic source, or they might also grow their own ingredients, meaning they know exactly what is going into the soil that nurtures these plants, and they can trust that they aren’t being manipulated in any way.

Just above Organic products, you’ll find Green Beauty. Products in this category consist mostly of nature based ingredients, and do not contain synthetics. They tend to be environmentally friendly as well, meaning their packaging is recyclable/compostable, and also tend to use ingredients that will not harm the planet. While Organic and Green Beauty sound very similar, it’s important to note that while an Organic product may also be Green, a Green product may not necessarily be Organic! (It’s a brain twister, I know.)

Next, we have what is probably the most common term, Clean Beauty, or Non-Toxic Beauty. To us, this term describes a product that is formulated with ingredients from nature, but it may also contain some synthetic ingredients. You might be thinking, “Wait, I thought synthetic ingredients are bad?” but not necessarily! There are some that have been proven to be safe for use and non toxic, just as there are some natural ingredients that have been deemed harmful. (Think, “poison ivy”. While it’s natural, it’s definitely not something you’d want to rub on your face or body.) You may have heard at one point in your life that you should be able to pronounce every ingredient in your products, which is true to some degree, but keep in mind that just because something isn’t easy to pronounce, it doesn’t mean it’s toxic! A Clean Beauty product is going to only contain ingredients that have been proven safe for use, or that have no evidence of being unsafe.

The bad ingredients:

As mentioned, there are synthetic ingredients that are safe to use, and there are synthetics that are not. You can find the main ones listed below that we avoid and you should too!

  • Synthetic fragrance – May also be listed as “parfum”. Most often contains toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions. Also known as suspected endocrine disruptors, which mess with hormonal health and can trigger weight gain and diseases. Children and Adults with asthma or allergies should especially avoid these. 

  • Phthalates – Known to be highly toxic and can be absorbed through the skin and nails. Found in products we use, as well as in our food. These chemicals are most commonly known for making plastic soft and flexible, but can also be found in other everyday items, such as hair spray, shower curtains, air fresheners, deodorant, and unfortunately, much more. If you see anything that contains Synthetic Fragrance, chances are it also contains Phthalates. While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to avoid this chemical altogether, making sure it isn’t present in your skincare and cosmetics is a great first step at lowering the amount in your body. 

  • Parabens – These normally begin with methyl, ethyl, butyl, isobutyl, or propyl. They are synthetic compounds that are most commonly used as preservatives. These stop the growth of fungus, bacteria, etc., and are known to disrupt hormone function, which can lead to breast cancer and reproductive issues. You won’t find Parabens in Clean/Green/Organic skincare and cosmetics, but that doesn’t mean they contain fungus or bacteria. Typically, they either contain a natural alternative to Parabens, or they will be preservative-free with a shorter shelf-life.

  • SLS - (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) Widely used as a foaming agent in shampoos, bodywash, hand-soap, detergent, and more. This is a known skin irritant, and is easily absorbed into your skin, organs, and blood stream. If other toxic chemicals are present in a product, SLS will make it easier for these to pass into your organs and bloodstream as well, as it lowers your body’s resistance to them.

  • Formaldehyde – Commonly used as a fungicide, germicide, disinfectant, and preservative. This can be absorbed through inhalation and through the skin, and can cause irritation and even cancer. Much like Phthalates, Formaldehyde is often found in common household items we use everyday, such as our bed sheets (think “wrinkle-free”), mattresses, furniture, traditional nail polish, household products such as glue, detergents, and more. 

  • Triclosan – An antibacterial agent intended to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination- commonly used in household items such as cleaning products, antibacterial hand soaps, trash bags, sink mats, traditional deodorant, fluoride toothpaste, and more. Exposure to high doses have been linked to decreased levels of thyroid hormones and can make bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Clean/Green/Organic alternatives will most commonly replace Triclosan with essential oils that have antibacterial properties, without the super harsh side effects. 

  • Siloxanes – Look out for any ingredient ending in “siloxane”. This synthetic ingredient is commonly known for making deodorants slide on easily, “softening” agents in shampoos and conditioners, petroleum based products, traditional toothpaste, cosmetics, packaging, and more. Reproductive issues, liver problems, uterine cancer, immunity issues, and disrupted endocrine levels (hormones) are all just a few of the potential effects from being exposed to this chemical. It can also find its way into our water, as it does not completely dissolve when washed down the drain. This can be harmful to both humans and aquatic life. 

  • PEG – Also known as “polyethylene glycol”. This is a petroleum-based compound that is used as a thickener, solvent, softener, and moisturizer, and can also deepen the penetration of other ingredients. PEG contains known carcinogens, and long exposure could cause potentially serious health issues, such as damage to the nervous system. 

Need more help figuring out whether a product you own is safe or potentially harmful? Visit the EWG website and check-out their “Skin Deep” section. This will give you a rating on how hazardous the product may be, while also letting you know what specific ingredients in a product, if any, would be deemed potentially harmful, and why!

Need help selecting an Organic, Green, or Clean Beauty brand? Check out our blog post about some of our favorite brands for each category here

As always, you can reach out to us personally with any questions or concerns, and we will do our best to help you!


Team Toccare