A wave of green, organic, and non-toxic labeled products are taking over the beauty industry. It seems like every brand is coming out with a line of products that claim they are safe for your skin and the environment, but with so many terms and products it can be hard to get a handle on what everything means.


ingredients that are not made from humans.

This doesn’t always mean safe. For example, aluminum, cadmium, lead, mercury, and arsenic are all considered natural ingredients, but if they build up in the body overtime, they can cause life threatening health issues. 


a term used to indicate a product is safe for the skin and the environment, but this isn’t always the case.

Too many times the word “clean” is used in marketing to sell the product. It is best to look at the ingredients and determine if they are harmful or not.


related to how an ingredient was farmed. If it was grown without pesticides, chemicals, or hormones, it is dubbed organic.

A product that is “organic” contains 95% ingredients that are organic while a product “containing organic ingredients” contains 70% organic ingredients. As with natural products, just because something is labeled organic doesn’t mean it is safe for the skin or the environment. 


used to describe a product that leaves out ingredients linked to a toxic response in humans, such as cancer. Again, non-toxic isn’t a guarantee that a product is truly safe. 

With so many definitions, the best way to know if your beauty products are safe to use is to look at the ingredients list. Just like you would do at the grocery store, read the labels on products before you purchase to understand what’s in them. This is the only way to cut through the clutter of greenwashing, the practice of making a misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product. 

  • Sodium lauryl sulfate

  • BHA

  • Triclosan and triclocarban

  • Polyethylene

  • Petroleum distillates

  • Fragrance

  • Oxybenzone

  • Dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde

  • Hydroquinone

  • Phthalates

  • Aluminum 

  • DEA (Diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine), AND TEA (Triethanolamine) 

  • Parabens: Butyl, Propyl, Methyl, and Ethyl

  • Siloxanes

A basic rule of thumb: if you cannot pronounce the ingredient, you probably shouldn’t be using it on your skin. The EWG Healthy Living app, previously called SkinDeep, is an incredibly easy way to search for a product and see if it is safe to use. I love using this app because it saves me the time of researching every ingredient listed on the product. 

To get started with non-toxic beauty products, look at beautycounter, LOLI Beauty, and Palermo Body – all of which have nontoxic beauty products and articles to educate around the subject.



Erin is based in NYC working on her blog and newsletter;

The Next Edit, @thenexteditmag

Follow her at @erin.kean for her Parisian style featuring sustainable fashion brands and contemporary beauty looks.