Figuring out a beauty regime among the tens of thousands of products on the market can be daunting. Add to that reading ingredient lists with science jargon and making sense of unregulated product label terminology, and the journey towards flawless skin becomes as long and torturous as Frodo Baggin’s journey to Mount Doom (nine hours of my life I can never get back). To help us navigate the murky labeling waters we enlisted the help of green beauty blogger and consumer advocate, Jacqueline Staph Jones, whose blog – The Beauty Proof – is dedicated to helping women find nontoxic, clean and effective beauty products. Here, she debunks labeling terms; shares the top three ingredients she avoids and why; and which green beauty products are currently on her favorites list.
When it comes to skin care labels what do the terms “organic” and “natural” really mean?
“Navigating labels can be overwhelming. Sticking with products that boldly proclaim ALL NATURAL or PARABEN FREE can seem like a shortcut to going green, but sadly, that’s often not the case. Due to lax regulations, companies can make all sorts of questionable claims and promises. This has created a lot of confusion between the terms natural and organic.
“Officially, the word natural means nothing. In 1998 the FDA tried to establish an official definition for it, but the initiative was overturned in court. It’s better to think of natural as marketing language, frequently used on bottles of creams and potions which are anything but natural.
“Seeing organic on a label does carry greater significance. Only products containing at least 95% organic ingredients are allowed to display the USDA Organic Seal. Products with lesser amounts of organic ingredients are allowed to specify that on the back label. There’s also the NSF Organic Certification for products containing at least 70% organic ingredients, but the NSF Organic Certification allows for the use of chemical manufacturing processes considered synthetic by the USDA.
“Ultimately, the best way to determine if a beauty product is up to your standards is to turn the bottle over and read the ingredients. If the front says “natural” but the fine print is full of synthetics you’d rather avoid, then it isn’t the product for you.”
Tips for label reading newbies?
“Reading ingredient labels may seem like a daunting task. In that case, use an app like Think Dirty to help you out. Or shop at a curated beauty store that only carries the highest quality products from the most exciting green beauty brands. My favorite online shops are Integrity Botanicals, Credo Beauty and Spirit Beauty Lounge.”
What are the top three ingredients you avoid when searching out skin care products?
“Top of my ‘No Way’ list: octinoxate and homosalate; two sunscreen ingredients that have shown to disrupt hormones and make their way into the milk of nursing mothers. And oxybenzone, another popular chemical sunscreen agent associated with female endometriosis, was shown by the CDC to be present in 97% of American bodies. Yikes! But by switching to a sunscreen with zinc oxide, I don’t have to worry about nasty health implications and instead get extensive UV protection (broad spectrum, baby!) with an excellent safety record.
“One last ingredient that raises my alarm is fragrance. This umbrella term was codified under a 1966 law created to protect trade secrets. But instead of stopping one company from stealing another’s signature fragrance, it has become a way to hide undesirable ingredients (such as phthalates) from the consumer.”
What are your thoughts on products containing alcohol?
“Ahh, alcohol. It’s a somewhat controversial ingredient among green beauty devotees. Some people are surprised when they discover that I don’t completely avoid it.
“In the green beauty world, you often hear the mantra, “If you wouldn’t put it IN your body, don’t put it ON your body.” And for whatever reason, some folks who drink alcohol will turn around and avoid it in any concentration or capacity in their beauty products. I don’t get that. I sometimes enjoy a glass of red wine, or better yet, a fine port. And alcohol, ingested, has a far greater ability to cause damage than if applied externally to the skin. So some of the products I use and love do contain alcohol. And I’m okay with that. That said, my products which contain alcohol use it sparingly and never dry out my skin. Any product which uses enough alcohol to dry out the skin sounds unimaginative and unnecessarily harsh!”
What is your favorite natural skin care, makeup and hair care products of the moment?
“My favorite skincare product of the moment is the True Botanicals Pacific Eye Serum. True Botanicals makes some of the most incredible anti-aging products available. For the summer, my beauty uniform is a classic high ponytail and a soft red lip. I rely on Rahua’s Cream Wax to keep my hair in place, and Lily Lolo’s Lipstick in French Flirt, a flattering mid-toned red.”
-as told to BOND EN AVANT
Photographed by Amy Chang
More on natural skin care, read here for our top picks.