So often, we focus on what ingredients shouldn’t be in a personal care product, or “red flags” if you will. But, what green flags, in terms of marketing claims and ingredients, should we be looking for when choosing a new natural beauty item?
When working with our community, we've noticed that many customers come to us not knowing some of the true definitions of popular terms in the green beauty world. And while many of these terms are unregulated, it is still important to understand them. Our vetting process to curate our selection of natural cosmetics and skin care consists of many layers. And most likely, the reason why you are a part of our community, is because we do that vetting for you. It saves you time, and allows you to shop the very best in green beauty that you can easily trust.
However, while we may be the main source for your green beauty needs, we also know that many pick up products at other local shops and health food stores. We recognize this, and feel that it is important for us to provide you with insight into the world of green beauty. We want you to be able to choose the safest products for you and your family. The beauty industry (green or not) is largely an unregulated body. Because of this, we hope to make a mini army of ‘green kissperts,’ who have the ability to choose natural beauty products that are right for them.
We’ve compiled a list of 10 "green flags”, or marketing claims, to look for when picking out a new natural cosmetic product. We've also given you a break down of what they mean in simple language that makes sense.
Green Beauty Dictionary
- Non-toxic: Although unregulated, the term non-toxic is meant to signify that the ingredients formulated into a product do not include anything (including sub-components that can go unlisted) that is potentially harmful to humans. This means that the ingredients aren’t known to irritate or cause allergic reactions, or have cancer-causing, or hormone-disrupting chemicals. You need to watch this one, as due to the fact that it isn’t regulated, companies can use it to “green-wash”. So still be sure to read through the ingredients list of the product.
Mineral-based or fruit pigmented dyes: These are the only dyes to look for that are not a) synthetic, or b) crushed up bugs (yeah you read that right!). When a product uses either one of these natural types of dyes, it means that the brand is choosing to not use Carmine (a red dye derived from beetles) or some of the most toxic and potentially cancer-causing dyes such as Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5 & 6. We find that some of our customers, (including many children) are sensitive, and some even allergic to synthetic dyes. Having mineral and fruit pigmented dyes are an easy swap out and something we believe is worth looking for. Our entire selection of products here are free of synthetic dyes, but many “green-beauty” brands do still use them.
- Phthalate-free: Phthalates are a nasty little group of ingredients that are called plasticizers. This is a fancy way of saying that they act as a way to make plastic more flexible. Why is this in cosmetics? Typically to make a synthetic fragrance stick to your skin longer. The harmful side effects of these ingredients are that they are linked to birth defects, other reproductive harm, and cancer. They mess with your endocrine system. A phthalate-free product would be one that is formulated without synthetic fragrance. The stipulation here is that the synthetic fragrance listed could or could not contain phthalates. Conventional beauty companies don’t legally have to disclose the list of ingredients contained in a synthetic fragrance. We figure it’s best to just avoid them completely as a precautionary measure! Again, our entire selection at The Green Kiss is artificial fragrance-free, and therefore free of phthalates. If you are really concerned about this ingredient, also be mindful of other consumer products such as furniture, shower curtains, and fast food packaging that can have this chemical in it. To learn more about that, check out this info page from the Californian Government.
- Organic: When looking for organic beauty products, there is a wide range of what being “organic,” fully signifies. The organic industry is largely unregulated and many of the small companies we know and love are actually organic but can’t afford to undergo the labeling process to make them a certified USDA organic product. There are also varying percentages of how many ingredients have to be organic in a product to qualify it for being an organic product as a whole. The key here is to look for the * sign as that is usually linked to outline which ingredients in a product are organic or not.
- USDA Certified Organic: When a product has a label from the USDA organic governing body it means the company has been regulated and given the stamp of approval by the USDA. This means that the ingredients included in the formulation are organic and that the company itself has also gone through the process to get them certified. We believe that products need to be natural and free of known toxins. That is our #1 priority here at The Green Kiss. We do not believe that products need to be certified organic to be “good” for you. However USDA certified organic products, especially if you are shopping in a health food store, or grocery store for some basic body care products, are a fairly sure-fire way of knowing that you are buying is actually natural. Curious how the certification process works and how things get labeled with the USDA organic sticker? It’s a little complicated. Go here. To find out more.
- Vegan: This means a product has no animal products or byproducts contained in its formulation. When a product is vegan it doesn’t contain honey, beeswax, silk, carmine (that crushed bug ingredient from above), MSM, DMAE, or any ingredient derived from an animal (squalane oil and hyaluronic acid, for example, are two ingredients that can come from animals, which do not have to be listed as such on a bottle). This also pertains to makeup brushes, as many are made out of animal hair. We of course do not sell any products with squalane or hyaluronic from animal sources (that animal would die), and our entire selection of makeup brushes are vegan (all synthetic bristles). However, we DO allow some beeswax and honey in a few of our products, as well as some Marine Collagen. We sit at about 95% vegan products in the shop.
Non-GMO: Genetically Modified Ingredients or GMO’s are not just relevant in science class or what food is on your plate but also within your skincare. There is a lot of controversy around GMO’s but whatever your take on it we figure it’s better to be informed when its present in a product that is being used on your body. When an ingredient is Non-GMO it means that is was not grown in a genetically modified way. Plants, animals or other organisms can be altered in a lab through genetic engineering to become a crossbreed that wouldn’t naturally occur in nature. When something is non-GMO it means that it is an ingredient that hasn’t been tampered with in this way. More information about non-GMO products and shopping is available here.
- Biodegradable: These are ingredients that will eventually break down back into their natural state through environmental factors or through organisms that naturally assist that process. This is incredibly important when looking for sustainable products and if you are concerned about the environmental impact of the products you are using. A little caveat to biodegradable packaging specifically is that generally this type of packaging (if it is plastic) can only actually breakdown in industry composting facilitates. This is something to look out for and by choosing glass or aluminum can be a better option if available. This is a major buying guideline for us here at GK and 100% of the ingredients contained in the products we carry in our shop are biodegradable.
- Leaping Bunny Certified: Governed by an international body, Leaping Bunny Certification is focused on a concrete set of guidelines that an entire company and the products they carry have to go through. They call this their “Corporate Standard of Compassion for Animals.” The ingredients in the formulation along with any ingredients purchased from a third-party manufacturer all cannot have used animal testing. A complete set of guidelines can be found here.
- Natural Constituents of Essential Oils: These ingredients pop up all the time in natural and non-toxic skincare products and we get questions from our customers asking us what are these random ingredients at the end of a product? Natural Constituents of Essential Oils are basically the natural chemical building blocks that make up an essential oil. Some of the most common ones in natural skincare and cosmetics are Linalool and Limonene. You’ll see these two listed at the end of a product like the natural ingredients in Josh Rosebrook's Herbal Infusion Oil and really they are some of the components that make up citrus and lavender essential oils.
Need Help Decoding Your Products?
Want additional help with decoding some of the products you are currently using? Send us a picture of the ingredient list to firstname.lastname@example.org.