Clean beauty products are the future of makeup.
Using clean products equals a healthier you, mind and body. (Illustration by Sarah Yu, Duke University)

Green Is the New Black: What Switching to Clean Beauty Products Has Taught Me

By ditching toxic ingredients, you’ll not only benefit your skin, but also your mind and the planet.

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Clean beauty products are the future of makeup.
Using clean products equals a healthier you, mind and body. (Illustration by Sarah Yu, Duke University)

By ditching toxic ingredients, you’ll not only benefit your skin, but also your mind and the planet.

From the ripe old age of 13 years old, makeup became an everyday staple in my life. Mascara, heavy eyeliner and concealer permeated my morning routine, making me feel both confident and insecure at the same time. I think this is true for many of us, as most of us start wearing makeup as an almost “coming-of-age” ritual, one in which we try to cover up the hormonal acne that starts raging across all our faces while also attempting to look older and feminine.

This, of course, doesn’t work. The acne still showed through, our mascara smeared and flaked and by the end of the school day most of us looked like 5-year-old girls who had broken into their mother’s makeup kits. To make things even worse, we didn’t know what was in the products we were using, and many of us still don’t.

The mascara we use smells like chemicals and our concealer makes us break out even more, yet we continue using them because if it’s being sold on store shelves, it can’t be that bad, right? Surely, there’s someone making sure that the products we use on our eyes and lips aren’t harmful to our bodies. Wrong. So horribly wrong.

Unfortunately, many beauty products (which includes hygiene products like deodorant and shampoo) contain harsh chemicals, parabens, phthalates and more, all of which have been linked to cancer and other issues.

The good news though is that consumers, stores and brands have become much more aware of this issue and are taking actions to combat it. Stores like Target and Sephora have established their own way of marking clean beauty products to help shoppers find safer products to buy. For me, I started gradually switching my beauty staples to clean beauty products about six months ago and it’s been quite the journey. Here are the 5 biggest things that making “the switch” has taught me.

1. It’s Not as Expensive as You Think

As many of us get older in our makeup journey, we start shopping at stores like Sephora and Ulta, both of which have a heftier price tag than your local drugstore. When people look at prices for clean beauty products though, they balk, even though they’re actually not much more than the price you’re paying for high-end products, and the quality is just as high.

Even better, there’s plenty of products that are cheaper. Personally, I love Pacifica, Honest Beauty and W3LL People, all of which are sold at Target, are high quality and are around the same price (or cheaper) than some other non-clean alternatives. Either way, it’s a win-win for your body and your wallet.

2. It Can Boost Mindfulness

One benefit that I didn’t see coming was that making the switch to clean beauty products actually helped boost mindfulness for me. While it doesn’t take the place of my normal grounding techniques, needing to think about what products I put on my skin helped me become more conscious of everything else in my life, including the foods I eat, the clothes I wear and the vitamins I take.

Since switching, I’ve become more aware of all the unnecessary material objects I have in my life, leading me to cut down on my material possessions and prioritize buying things based on quality rather than quantity. Even better, since I’m thinking so carefully about everything I put in my body, I feel a lot better about myself and my health in general.

While it never takes the place of working out, I know that I’m making conscious decisions to better my health, which lets me cut myself some slack if I miss a workout or two. This balances my mental health because I know that I’m making decisions based on my values and beliefs. So even though I still need to work out, eat well and get enough sleep, I know that I’m making decisions that I feel good about.

3. It’s (Probably) More Eco-Conscious

With the constant news about climate change, many of us are starting to become more aware of how our individual decisions can add up to impact the environment. Unfortunately, most of the time that we throw away old mascara tubes and moisturizer containers, they end up in a landfill.

Many clean beauty brands are taking their choices a step further though and are implementing different ways to help the environment. Pacifica has a recycling program where you can send them your old containers and they’ll recycle them for you. Some companies will take old mascara wands to help animals and many companies have started using post-consumer recycled materials in their packaging.

All of these actions can add up to make a difference in the health of our planet and you get the bonus of feeling good about supporting eco-conscious companies.

4. Your Dollar Is Your Vote

Throughout this journey, I’ve realized that in a lot of ways my dollar is my vote. The consumers (aka me, you and everyone else) rule the market, and by continuing to buy products that don’t hold up with my values or standards, I’m contributing to the continuous support of these brands. Of course, this philosophy can be applied to any department, whether that be food, clothing or technology, but beauty products are also a huge factor in this.

Every one of us uses some sort of beauty or hygiene product. Whether you’re an avid makeup-wearer or go bare-faced most of the time, all of us (well at least I hope all of us) are using shampoo, soap, toothpaste and more. We all have a stake in the ingredients that are used in the products we buy and, for me, I would rather support brands that hold up my own values.

5. The Customer Service Is Better

As I’ve made the switch to clean beauty products, I’ve had a lot of questions to ask certain brands. Whether this be about if a product will be compatible with my rosacea-ridden skin or why a product is packaged the way it is, I’ve found that most clean beauty brands are much better at responding to my needs than their non-clean counterparts.

Personally, I feel like this is because cleaner brands tend be smaller in size and can therefore be more personable with you. Oftentimes many of these companies are making their products clean because they actually care about their customers, and that tends to show through in a big way when you talk to their customer service department.

This is a huge bonus for me because I believe that the best brands have the best customer service. If I have a great experience with a brand representative, I’m more likely to keep coming back to their products. So no longer do you have to bear with a generic, one-line response, but you can actually have a conversation with the brands you like. Again, it’s a win-win.

While everyone has their own reason for choosing the brands that they buy, I personally have found that making the switch to clean beauty products has been very beneficial for me. This doesn’t mean anyone else has to make the same decision, but if anything, it’s important to be aware of the situation and know what ingredients are in the products you’re using. If you decide to make the switch though, welcome to the clean beauty club!

Writer Profile

Kali Johnson

Gustavus Adolphus College
Exercise Physiology

My name is Kali and I’m from White Bear Lake, MN. I attend Gustavus Adolphus College as an exercise physiology major and I work part-time as a gymnastics coach.

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