We are in the era where everyone strives to prolong their lifetime. We struggle hard to live a healthier lifestyle by eating healthy, exercising more, buying organic food, reducing our carbon footprints. We all feel like we’re all doing our best to take care of ourselves and our loved ones. But did we ever check our beauty and personal health care products which are unfortunately unregulated by any laws? Products that kills us every day because they contain cheap commercial synthetic chemicals which are carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, hormone disruptors, and plasticizers. Most of which can be found in the Red Alert List: Ingredients to Avoid
Before anything else, let’s put some sense to these buzzwords even if they sound synonymous to each other. When it comes to green beauty products, the terms “vegan”, “cruelty-free”, “all-natural” and “organic” are quite confusing because they are being used carelessly and there are really no defined rules yet. It personally took me a while to really understand the differences. This guide will not only help you understand the terms but it will also help you navigate through the confusing (and often times misleading)world of green beauty.
Why should we care?
The average woman slathers, lathers, scrubs, rubs + sprays 515 different synthetic chemicals on her body each day! Scientists have only “improved” upon all of the chemicals used in our beauty products, making the particles both smaller and stronger. This means they’re more easily absorbed into the skin and past the protective layers that once served as a barrier to these toxins. Imagine how much toxins we have absorbed and we still wonder how our cells mutate and go ballistics! 80% of the average product contains hazardous and carcinogenic components. The skin, the largest human organ absorbs them in 26 seconds.
If you’ve read my story, I could assure you that I was one of those clueless idi**ts that didn’t care how harmful they are until I see people around me being affected. I used to believe that the government regulates cosmetics the same way it does with food + drugs. But the truth is; the $50 billion beauty industry produces some of the least regulated consumer products on the market today. Reality bites: There are actually no laws to protect us.
Biggest Myth: NATURAL, VEGAN and CRUELTY FREE products are of lesser quality than commercial ones.
This blog’s goal is to prove that otherwise. Always remember that animal ingredients are generally more cost-effective in cosmetic formulas, but not necessarily better or longer lasting.
- Watch the Story of Cosmetics
- Visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
- Check your products using EWG Skin Deep Database (not necessarily updated database but better than nothing), or you can download the Think Dirty App. Amazing app!
- Next is to browse Red Alert List: Ingredients to avoid. It took me awhile to be familiar with the ingredients. Begin with ingredients that covers a large portion of your body- body wash, moisturizer, shampoo, conditioner followed by deodorant, hair styling, makeup, etc.
- Prioritize DEODORANTS! When you shave your armpits, you’re scrapping off a layer of skin — and then you apply the carcinogenic-filled deodorant right onto the vulnerable area right near your lymph nodes. Yikes!
- Don’t throw everything out. Finish your existing products and buy healthier versions on your next shopping trip. Baby steps. You may want to check Ultimate Cheatsheet when Shopping for Safe Cosmetics and Skin Care for more tips.
- Simplify beauty routine by using fewer products, with shorter ingredient lists. Do you really need 6 separate moisturizers (face, eyes, lips, hands, body + feet)? Coconut oil is such a versatile product. But that’s just my preference. You can discover so many natural products along the way and see what fits your skin type.
- Make sure your beauty products have an expiration date, just like the food.
- Always be informed. Subscribe to GLOWINGBELLA.com to your favorite reader such as BlogLovin. (please please!
- Go DIY. You can always browse through Pinterest for so many beauty DIY ideas that are effective.
Decoding the Green Terms
GlowingBella focuses on finding a healthy lifestyle that’s cruelty-free, natural and vegan all at the same time. I won’t promise this won’t evolve, but living a conscious, healthy and compassionate life is my main goal. By healthy: I mean looking for non-toxic all natural recommendations, free from ingredients here. I don’t wanna rave on a product which says it is vegan or cruelty-free but are full of toxins or animal by-products as a result of animal torture. (Please be careful some blogs who claims they are cruelty-free or organic sadly do feature toxic products! ) By compassionate: I am hoping to look and share brands that “seriously” do not test on animals. (You will learn below how consumers are blinded by the cruelty-free tag below) By conscious: I mean brands that don’t only do good to humanity, but to the planet. Please do understand that there still so many gray areas in the green world. I do hope that this blog will answer questions, doubts and empower consumers to make informed decisions. The blog is not meant to discriminate other bloggers or bash commercial brands. This blog has one sole purpose- to educate. Whether you take the cruelty-free only path, or all of the categories- it’s all in the right direction and worth supporting. Baby steps! You may start to be conscious of what you buy by choosing cruelty-free brands, then eventually step up and narrow your options to pure, natural and non-toxic options. If you’re a bella who loves beauty but hates the guilt that comes with it, (as my tagline goes)- this guide is for you. Let’s be kinder to animals, to humanity, to our loved ones, to the planet and most of all to our bodies. Cheers to good health! Cheers to a compassionate life!
Should vegan/natural products be also cruelty-free?
In the perfect world, they should be. These are products of the highest quality because they do not contain any animal by-product or animal-derived ingredient and no form of animal cruelty happened during the entire process of development.
Certifications to watch out for: PETA, Leaping Bunny, Cruelty-Free Logo, USDA, Eco-Cert. The more certifications, the better. Meaning the brand or company takes time and money to go through the most ethical ways of producing the said product.
To save you from time to do research I’ve collated and will be constantly updating the Ultimate List of VEGAN & CRUELTY-FREE beauty brands. When in doubt, it’s still best to email the company which of their products are cruelty-free, natural and which are vegan at the same time. Most companies are transparent and are happy to give you information. For companies that resist, it is best to avoid them. We all don’t want to patronize shady ones!
Can something be cruelty-free BUT NOT vegan.. what is vegetarian?
Yes. The term “Vegan” and “Vegetarian” seems synonymous and are always interchanged. But for most companies, when they have ingredients such as beeswax, honey, carmine- they call themselves “vegetarian” instead of “vegan”. So yes, there are companies out there that did not do animal testing at the latter stage of their production, however they did use animal-derived products.
An example of a brand that is cruelty-free but NOT vegan is Burt’s Bees. Burt Bees claim to be a natural company because they do have animal byproducts (bee products-milk, lanolin, honey, royal jelly, and carmine). So they ARE NOT vegan. But they are certainly certified cruelty-free by both Leaping Bunny and PETA’s Caring Consumer Program. Technically they are “vegetarian” and “all-natural” as their marketing says they are. But then again, lead traces where found in their lip waxes. Another case of greenwashing, which I will discuss below.
CRUELTY-FREE products don’t mean they are always NATURAL or are they VEGAN or that they don’t have toxins and harsh chemicals as well. Tarte claims they do not do animal testing but they still have products that are harmful to humans. (Article: Tarte Cosmetics isn’t natural as it claims to be)
Is it possible for something vegan/vegetarian BE NOTcruelty-free too?
Yes… and no.
It depends on how you define what a vegan product really is. Some would define it as: not a single animal product in the ingredient. Some are more stricter. A vegan product should have no animal products, and should not be tested on animals at the same time. (testing or body party secretion). List of icky Animal Ingredients listed here.
One of the famous controversies on vegan cosmetics and skin care are “bee-by products” Some vegans don’t consider insects as animals however, strict vegans believe they are. They also believe that beewaxes, bee propolis and honey are not cruelty-free because the process means enslaving or sometimes killing the mother bee so more younger princess bees could take over and produce a higher output. Some worker bees are also said to be crippled and are fed only sugar because honey is being sold to humans. (You may not want to see this article.) To ethical vegans this is considered animal cruelty. I’m not a bee caretaker so I’m not really sure what’s going on in there, but as a consumer I like bee-derived products because they are highly effective. I personally would like to think, that no bees are being hurt or injured during the process. It depends on how deep you are with veganism. There are 50 shades of veganism. 😉
Some products that don’t contain animal ingredients can call themselves “vegan-friendly” however may use synthetic in their products that do undergo animal testing. It is safe to say that products that have these animal by products that doesn’t resort to animal cruelty , can be called “natural”.
Why cruelty-free? We are using cosmetics to improve one’s appearance and not to take the life or death for the human specie. It is a superficial need that is not worth the pain and suffering of another earthling. The label “cruelty-free” is not regulated sadly. If a company tells you “This product wasn’t tested on animals” blatantly, or they put the word “cruelty-free” in their labels, be careful they might be hiding something. It is still best to ask them flat-out if they do test, which part of the process, do they sell in other countries that requires testing etc. Although the “Leaping bunny logo” are good assurances that a company takes time to actually fill out their free forms and pledge that they do not do animal testing, it is still best to truly ask these companies directly and of course… check your labels if there are toxic ingredients hiding! A cruelty-free product doesn’t necessarily mean- “natural” “organic” let alone “vegan” and “vegetarian”.
Are vegan & vegetarian products natural?
Not all. Any product regardless of its claim it is VEGAN, VEGETARIAN, PARABEN-FREE, GLUTEN-FREE CAN STILL may possibly be NOT NATURAL because they contain toxins and harmful chemicals. An example would be Elf Studios. If you’ve done your Google research you would find that Elf is a vegan product! So that gives that *ting *ting *ting all stars rating in our head right? Cheap and vegan- sweet deal! But wait wait wait, vegan doesn’t mean there are NO chemicals. Elf is vegan but IT IS NOT ALL-NATURAL. When I checked on the ingredients of most of their products, there are synthetic and toxic chemicals, not derived from animals… but are still synthetic and have a whooooping 9 score in the EWG database because it is still harmful to humans! So be careful! Tricky trick to say it’s vegan. But vegan doesn’t mean it’s always safe. So it’s still best to read the labels, run them through the Think Dirty App and EWG Skin Deep Database! Remember both of these aren’t accurate and updated all the time. It’s still best to ask the companies straight front.
Natural vs Organic?
Natural products supposedly means there are no harmful, synthetic and toxic ingredients. According the U.S. National Organics Program (NOP), a natural substance is derived from a plant, mineral or animal source, without having undergone a synthetic process. Some products would say it is “All-Natural”, but usually it doesn’t mean 100% natural. As always, still learn to read the ingredient labels, just as you would food. You want to look for products that DO NOT contain: Parabens, Petroleum (usually listed as Mineral Oil), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfates (SLS) and Phthalates. If it’s hard to spell or pronounce, it’s probably not very good for you. (See the complete RED ALERT LIST: Ingredients to avoid)
The Organic Make-up Company considers natural ingredients to be those which:
- are derived, obtained or drawn from plants, minerals or animal sources such as beeswax (please refer to our policies on animal testing and use of animal part ingredients).
- have not undergone a synthetic process as defined under our criteria above of a synthetic substance
- are refined through physical processing
- result from biological processes
- result from simple chemical processes where the reactants and catalysts are natural as defined in this article and the statements above
- have been changed or created through the use of simple technologies such as those that can be found in a conventional kitchen
A chemist would have a different definition of what organic is, but in the food industry- organic products are grown without the use of conventional pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, chemicals, antibiotic hormones and artificial fertilizers free from contamination by human or industrial waste, and processed without ionizing radiation or food additives. The play on the word organic word gets worst. An increasing number of companies are now claiming to use “organic” herbs in their products. But, what about the rest of the ingredients? Are they safe? Are they “natural” or from an “organic” source? Organic food is regulated by the National Organic Program (NOP) which is run by the USDA. Only producers and manufacturers that meet the standards set up by the NOP may label their products as certified organic. The main point is that organics are regulated in the food industry but in the cosmetics scene it is not. (Source: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics) Lucky for certain states like California, Canada and Europe there are laws that bans certain toxic products.
If the entire product has a USDA Organic seal on it, you know that the products has achieved the “gold standard” for organic certification in the cosmetics industry. You may check them USDA Organic and what they say on these mislabelings.
Are cosmetics made with “organic” ingredients safer for consumers than those made with ingredients from other sources?
No. An ingredient’s source does not determine its safety. For example, many plants, whether or not they are organically grown, contain substances that may be toxic or allergenic. Now don’t beat yourself up! I have this epiphanic moment where I wanted to bang my head for being mislead by those ingenious marketing labels!! I’m a marketing person and I know the POWER of advertising. If in the real world there is such thing as “brainwashing”, in the green world we call it “greenwashing”.
What is Greenwashing?
Sorry to burst your bubble, but all of the terms above means nothing “legally”. The most lucrative lie in marketing is claiming a product is “all natural” or “environmental-friendly” even if they are not. Greenwashing is not your toddler’s latest art project, it’s a manufacturer/supplier’s false claim about their products’ eco-friendliness, safetyness and sustainability. If you go to the mall, you would see “Bodyshop”, “Khiel’s”, “Lush”… etc that looks and feels like they are all using all natural and organic stuff right? Don’t be mislead. They HAVE products that are SAFE, but NOT ALL of them. Always assume that 80% of the products have synthetics and preservatives still in them. Most companies would add just a single natural-ish ingredient and then claims the “ALL NATURAL” word. Visit my THROWOUT TUESDAYS as I expose companies / products who do such!
So a facial cleanser with only trace elements of apple extract can legally call itself a “natural” product, as can a fully synthetic product engineered to smell like an peach orchard.
BOTTOM LINE IS: DO NOT TRUST LABELS.
Do you know that Herbal Essences shampoo doesn’t even contain a single herb in it. Be wary of usual terms such “Dermatologist-approved”, which hasn’t undergone extensive research. “Petrochemicals-Free” “Preservative-free” “Chemical-Free”, “Botanical” “Plant-derived” “Nature-inspired” on beauty packaging aren’t regulated and have no actual meaning. Always be smart in buying your products. Bookmark our CHEATSHEET GUIDE to shopping for natural and organic beauty products.
The best products are preferably CRUELTY-FREE, VEGAN and NATURAL all at the same time. These are usually companies that are concerned with where and how the ingredients are sourced and processed. Meaning these products don’t contain any animal-derived ingredients,by products, no toxic chemicals and don’t do animal testing. However we shouldn’t beat ourselves up when we discover an animal ingredient in a product. Pick your battles smartly. Don’t drive yourself crazy by overhauling your entire beauty regime overnight. Start slowly see what makes the biggest difference in your life and well-being. Personally, instead of buying “high-end” skin care products like LaMer, Dior, Shu Eumura, Mac, Bobbi Brown etc (like I used to) which are of equal value as organic products. (People are complaining organic stuff are expensive when they themselves are buying these signature brands that only are harmful to their health and loved ones, very ironic.) I would rather invest on ingredients that are good for my body, not do they only reduce our toxic build-up… they defy our aging as well! The secret is not in the retinols or botox my mom would say, it’s being close to nature! I’m already on my mid thirties that’s why it’s imperative to really be minimalist in terms of skincare and makeup for me.
You now have a solid understanding Green Beauty my loves! (and what a tricky world it is to navigate) So sorry if I got you a bit dizzy there with all the terms and tricky things. Hopefully after reading this you understand why going green makes a big difference.
Credibility of information: Do not fret….
I’m not a chemist, a scientist or even a part of Federal Law to be able to define these for you. You are free to leave your opinions below the comment section. Here are the credible resources where I got these information from, in case you have questions:
And my favorite green bloggers:
I truly wish that through the resources on this site, you will learn to create the best version of yourself- stronger, healthier, genuinely beautiful, and bursting with life, passion, and energy for today and the rest of your life!
Be a Glowing Bella
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Spread some light, love and… beauty!!