This year, we’re loving our clean beauty edit: ditching parabens and phthalates, and going cruelty-free. Some ingredients are harsh on the planet. Others are harsh on your skin. And some are harsh on both! But avoiding the talcs and the glycols doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality. Some of our favourite cult products are completely clean and free of harsh chemicals.
Discover the best cosmetics free of parabens and phthalates and all the other aggravators. Here, we present our rundown of the very best in clean beauty. So, whether you’re after a mascara to transform your peepers or a foundation to airbrush your complexion, we’ve got you covered.
What Are the Benefits of Using Clean Makeup?
Your trusty makeup routine may be serving you well in terms of aesthetics. But if you’re opting for clean beauty, you may need to make some amendments. Oxybenzone, butylene, toluene? You probably don’t recognise these ingredients, but they’re common in beauty products and can wreak havoc on both your complexion and the planet. By switching to clean beauty, you’re saying goodbye to potential aggravators.
One of the main benefits of paraben, phthalate free makeup is that you won't be subjected to all the harsh chemicals that may leave your skin dry and irritated, and speed up the appearance of signs of ageing. If you have sensitive skin, halving the ingredients lists on your products means less chance of a flare-up, as there’s literally less chance of meeting a trigger ingredient. Generally, parabens and phthalates are more likely to cause sensitivity than nourishing botanicals are.
Another benefit of cleaning up your beauty routine is that cruelty-free makeup brands are more ethical. So, you’ll instantly be kinder to animals, nature, and just about everything on our planet! If you’re ready to do your bit on a daily basis, consider making some switches to your makeup.
Looking for the best clean beauty haircare? Check out our guide The Best Cruelty Free Haircare Brands and Why
What Are the Ingredients to Look Out For?
Deciphering ingredients lists is an absolute minefield. But don’t worry: we’ve sat down and decoded them for you! You can thank us later. Our Clean Beauty category is free of all of the following ingredients. You’ll sleep easy at night, knowing that your skin is in a much happier place.
Chromium: Chromium is a heavy metal and a green pigment that’s often found in eye makeup, nail polish, and hair colourants. Currently, there are no limits as to how much chromium can be included in beauty products, even though research suggests it could be pretty toxic to your skin.
Phthalate: Phthalates are absolutely everywhere, from your food packaging to your household cleaners and—wait for it—your cosmetics! Phthalates are chemicals that help make plastic flexible, and they’ve been linked to some scary health issues. For peace of mind, phthalate-free cosmetics are the way forward.
Talc: Avoiding baby powder? Really? Yes! The safety of talc has been an ongoing conversation. This ‘harmless’ ingredient has been linked to cancer and asbestos poisoning. We now know that talc can leave your skin feeling dry and clogged, and generally just isn’t great for your skin. Talc is commonly found in powder products to give them that silky texture. But there are tons of perfectly good talc-free powder makeup and talc-free makeup brands that deliver all the goods without the complaints.
Toluene: Toluene is one of the lesser-known evils but definitely one to avoid. It’s a toxic chemical often found in nail products to help create smooth, easy-to-apply formulas. But toluene can give you headaches, cracked skin, and dizziness as well as more long-term effects such as respiratory problems. Not worth it.
Oxybenzone: Wearing a daily sunscreen? Kudos to you for protecting your skin! But sadly, it isn’t all good news: a lot of sunscreens contain the chemical oxybenzone, which was named ‘allergen of the year’ in 2014 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society. If you have sensitive skin, we recommend choosing a different sunblock.
Diethanolamine: Diethanolamine. Rolls right of your tongue, doesn’t it? Commonly seen as ‘DEA’, which is a bit easier to manage, this ingredient is found in shampoos and skincare. DEA helps create that luscious lathering sensation, which makes you feel squeaky clean! But it’s a highly hazardous ingredient that’s been linked to multiple types of cancer. Again, avoid.
Triclosan: Triclosan is used to help inhibit bacteria and fungi from growing in your beauty products and on your skin. But triclosan is bad for our oceans, as it kills off fish and algae. So, if you want a more ethical beauty routine, we recommend avoiding triclosan.
Propylene glycol: Propylene glycol is hotly debated in terms of its danger. Derived from petroleum, this ingredient is considered OK by some, whereas others think it’s best to avoid. Used to moisturise and hydrate your skin, propylene glycol is unsurprisingly found in a lot of beauty products. However, one thing we know for sure is that propylene glycol is a common allergen. So, if you’re having sensitivity, you may want to cut it out completely.
Lead: We’ve all heard the horror stories about how women poisoned themselves centuries ago with their lead makeup. Surely that’s all done with now, though … right? Nope! Believe it or not, some beauty products still contain lead. Lead-free makeup is an easy switch to make, so don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Stay away from lead!
Alcohol, especially methanol and ethanol: Many types of alcohol are used in cosmetics, and we highly recommend shopping for only alcohol-free cosmetics going forward. Although some fatty alcohols, such as cetyl alcohol actually moisturize, others can dry out your skin, cause irritation, and literally cause your skin to self-destruct. So, if you want a youthful, hydrated, and healthy complexion, ditch the alcohol. (You can still enjoy an occasional G&T!) Find out more about alcohol-free skincare in our guide The Best Alcohol-Free Skincare for Every Skin Type