Account
Nitty Gritty

WHAT IS CLEAN BEAUTY - HOW TO SUCCESSFULLY READ AN INGREDIENT LABEL

In the past, mainstream beauty was your only option when you wanted to take care of your skin and body.  You could walk the aisles of CVS and Target and see national brand after national brand touting that they were #1 to reduce wrinkles and hydrate or exfoliate and smooth your skin to look 25 again.  If you wanted to  go high-end, you could head to Bloomingdales or another fine retailer and shop the counters for a more lux approach for your daily routine.  As much as we loved having options - a simple attempt to decipher the ingredient list made us cringe.  What is Propylparaben?  Is Butylated hydroxytoluene safe for me to use?  And the more we started to read up on the products we were using DAILY the more we worried, as we should.  

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics as “articles intended to be applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance without affecting the body’s structure or functions." In 1977 cosmetic ingredient labeling came into effect to protect consumers and ensure that all cosmetic products sold in the country complied with safety standards. In order to be sold in the United States, a cosmetic product label must comply with FD&C regulations, whether it is manufactured in the United States or abroad.  The problem though lies in the amount of ingredients that the FD&C deems acceptable - the European Union has spent the past two decades restricting or banning approximately 1,400 harmful chemicals and ingredients from personal care products.  In Canada, the number of restricted ingredients is a little less than half that, at around 600.  The United States? 30.

Seem low? Shockling it’s actually much higher than it used it be!  

While the U.S. government has taken action on only 30 big-offender ingredients, that doesn't mean you don't have any options.  Clean, all-natural, non-toxic and cruelty-free beauty is everywhere now-a-days and we couldn't be prouder of this clean beauty revolution!  As a company, Laurel & Reed continues to go far beyond what is legally asked of us and features only clean non-toxic products in our beauty box, because quite simply, it’s the right thing to do.  

To us, Clean Beauty is defined by products that are mindfully created and produced without any proven or suspected toxic ingredients. Clean Beauty products include ingredients ethically sourced and are made with the health of our bodies and the environment in mind and we are very excited to be able to provide our subscribers with a monthly box filled with non-toxic, all-natural and cruelty-free beauty as an alternative to the toxic products currently on the market.

KNOW THAT YOU ARE PUTTING ON YOUR SKIN - HARMFUL INGREDIENTS TO STAY AWAY FROM

Aluminum Compounds: compounds used in antiperspirants to stop the sweat ducts from releasing sweat to the surface of the skin and potentially linked to breast cancer and alzheimer's. Found in: deodorants.

Benzalkonium chloride: a disinfectant used as a preservative and surfactant associated with severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation and allergies. Found in: sunscreens, moisturizers.
 
BHA and BHT: synthetic antioxidants used to extend shelf life. They are likely carcinogens and hormone disruptors and may cause liver damage. Found in: lipsticks, moisturizers, diaper creams, and other cosmetics.
 
Coal tar hair dyes and other coal tar ingredients: a byproduct of coal processing that is a known carcinogen. It is used as a colorant and an anti-dandruff agent. Found in: hair dye, shampoo.
 
Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA): a chelating (binding) agent added to cosmetics to improve stability. May be toxic to organs. Found in: hair color, moisturizers.
 
Ethanolamines (MEA/DEA/TEA): surfactants and pH adjuster linked to allergies, skin toxicity, hormone disruption, and inhibited fetal brain development. Found in: hair dyes, mascara, foundation, fragrances, sunscreens, dry cleaning solvents, paint, pharmaceuticals.
 
Formaldehyde: used as a preservative in cosmetics. A known carcinogen that is also linked to asthma, neurotoxicity, and developmental toxicity. Present where quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), and several other preservatives are listed. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
 
Hydroquinone: a skin-lightening chemical that inhibits the production of melanin and is linked to cancer, organ toxicity, and skin irritation. Found in: skin-lightening creams.
 
Methylisothiazolinone and methylchloroisothiazolinone: chemical preservatives that are among the most common irritants, sensitizers, and causes of contact skin allergies. Found in: shampoo, conditioner, body wash.
 
Oxybenzone: sunscreen agent and ultraviolet light absorber linked to irritation, sensitization and allergies, and possible hormone disruption. Found in: sunscreen, moisturizer.
 
Parabens  (methyl-, isobutyl-, propyl- and others): a class of preservatives commonly used to prevent the growth of bacteria and mold. Parabens are endocrine (or hormone) disruptors, which may alter important hormone mechanisms in our bodies. Found in: shampoo, face cleanser, body wash, body lotion, foundation.
 
Phthalates  (DBP, DEHP, DEP and others): a class of plasticizing chemicals used to make products more pliable or to make fragrances stick to skin. Phthalates disrupt the endocrine system and may cause birth defects. Found in: synthetic fragrance, nail polish, hairspray, and plastic materials.

Polyethylene glycol (PEG compounds): PEGs are widely used in cosmetics as thickeners, solvents, softeners, and moisture-carriers. Depending on manufacturing processes, PEGs may be contaminated with measurable amounts of ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane, which are both carcinogens. Found in: creams, sunscreen, shampoo.
 
Retinyl palmitate and Retinol (Vitamin A): a nutrient that may damage DNA and speed the growth of skin tumors when used topically. Found in: moisturizer, anti-aging skincare.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS and SLES): SLS and SLES are surfactants that can cause skin irritation or trigger allergies. SLES is often contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a byproduct of a petrochemical process called ethoxylation, which is used to process other chemicals in order to make them less harsh. Found in: shampoo, body wash, bubble bath.
 
Synthetic flavor or fragrance: an engineered scent or flavoring agent that may contain any combination of 3,000-plus stock chemical ingredients, including hormone disruptors and allergens. Fragrance formulas are protected under federal law’s classification of trade secrets and therefore can remain undisclosed. Found in: all types of cosmetics.
 
Toluene: a volatile petrochemical solvent that is toxic to the immune system and can cause birth defects. Found in: nail polish.
 
Triclosan and Triclocarban: antimicrobial pesticides toxic to the aquatic environment; may also impact human reproductive systems. Found in: liquid soap, soap bars, toothpaste.

HOW TO READ AN INGREDIENT LABEL

1) Identify symbols that are important to you on the front and back label - See below for our symbol guide. Symbols like a gluten-free certification, cruelty-free  USDA certification.

2) Beware of unreasonable claims. Cosmetic products cannot affect the body’s structure or function, so any label claiming that a product performs certain “miraculous” effects might be unlawful or unethical and you should steer clear of it.

3) Beware of other marketing tricks, such as “free-of” and “contains organic…”. Just because a product is free of a known questionable preservative, or contains an organic, beneficial ingredient, does not mean that the entire formula is beneficial or completely safe. Same goes with “clinically-proven” and “dermatologist tested”, which are unregulated claims with no way of being verified.

4) Treat the label reading process the same as you would with a food ingredient label: How many ingredients are in this product? Do I know what these ingredients are? 

5) Read the entire ingredient list from start to finish, paying special attention to the first few ingredients as they are present at higher concentrations.

6) Remember that certain words are not regulated, and may be misleading, for example “natural” and “organic”. Just because a products name contains the word “organic” does not mean it is made with an entirely organic formula or may only contain just a few organic ingredients. The ingredient list is where you can find out if the product is entirely organic or not.

7) Natural ingredients are not always the safest, and synthetic ingredients are not always harmful. When in doubt, look up the ingredient in a reputable database.

8) When in doubt, consult our list above for what ingredients to STAY AWAY from. This list includes commonly used cosmetic ingredients that are not found in any products included in any Laurel & Reed box. 

DECODING SYMBOLS

Beauty Without Bunnies. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has their own program called Beauty without Bunnies, which allows companies that go through their verification process in order to place the PETA logo on their product labels.

(Certified) Gluten-Free. Issued by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO), this certification means that the product is certified gluten-free, and therefore can be safely used by people with celiac disease.

ECO Cert. Eco Cert is a France-born, internationally recognized certification that verifies that a cosmetic product is:

    • Made with ingredients derived from renewable resources, manufactured by environmentally friendly processes
    • Free of GMOs, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicone, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced like milk, honey, etc.).
    • Uses biodegradable or recyclable packaging

Fair Trade. The Fair Trade symbol is used for products sourced from producers in developing countries; ensuring better prices, decent working conditions, and a fair deal for farmers and workers in developing countries.

FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is a symbol that guarantees that the product comes from responsible sources, and that the manufacturer supports forest conservation and other social benefits.

Green Dot. The Green Dot symbol means that the company participates in the recovery, sorting and recycling of sales packaging.

Leaping Bunny International. This symbol means that the product is 100% free of animal testing, according to the Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals.

Non-GMO Verified. The Non-GMO verified program ensures that a product is made with ingredients that have not been genetically modified using genetic engineering or transgenic technology.

PAO (Period After Opening). This symbol is especially important to those of us who use products made with plenty of natural, plant-based ingredients as it provides information about a product’s shelf -life. This symbol shows you how long you can use your product after opening it, provided that the product has been stored under normal conditions (away from heat and light). This typically ranges between 3 months (as is the case for most mascaras) to 24 months. The reason why you should not use a product past its PAO is that harmful microbial growth may have taken place, which could be harmful to your health, such as mold and other unfriendly microorganisms.

USDA Organic. Although the FDA does not regulate the word “organic” on cosmetic labels, cosmetic products that contain 100% organic ingredients may display the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) certification symbol on the front label when they meet the USDA and National Organic Program standards for production, handling, processing and labeling.