In my blissful ignorance, organic or natural skincare has traditionally meant ineffective skincare to me; if it didn’t have some serious chemicals or didn’t say ‘industrial strength’ on the label, I tended to think it was best suited to young things with already perfect skin who were looking for more of a fluffy spa experience, as opposed to something that really worked. To a degree that may have been true back in the early days; particularly if you had a serious skincare concern but, with the evolution of some powerful plant based ingredients, the emergence of specialist organic beauty brands and the more educated consumer, we now have access to some seriously effective natural, organic and cruelty-free skincare formulations.

Want to know more about clean/green beauty?…

Yeah, me too! So, last week saw me leave the confines of my bloffice and venture into old London town in order to attend a discussion on ‘non-toxic beauty’, which was hosted by global event organiser, EcoSessions.  Ecosessions is a global (currently in six cities – London, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Los Angeles and Berlin) event series that connects designers, industry and ordinary peeps in order to build communities and affect change. It’s also a great opportunity for the likes of Joe Citizen (moi) to learn and engage directly with your favourite brands.

In the room to discuss clean/green beauty were some industry bigwigs – Sarah Brown from London-made and organic skincare brand Pai; Imelda Burke from organic skincare boutique Content Beauty & Wellbeing; and Justine Jenkins, celebrity makeup artist and cruelty-free cosmetics ambassador.

So, what got these clean/green beauty peeps into clean/green beauty?…

First eco beauty geek off the starting blocks was Imelda Burke, whose passion for organic skincare, botanic beauty rituals and clean cosmetics, is the subject of her recent book The Nature of Beauty. Imelda made the switch to organic skincare 17 years ago when she started to examine the ingredients in her skincare products. Given the skin is the body’s largest organ and the fact that 60% of what you put on it is absorbed into your system, Imelda was understandably concerned when her research revealed some of the ‘nasties’ that are regularly included in our skincare products. But back then, there were only a handful of brands punting the ‘natural’ and ‘green’ message, such as REN, Weleda and Dr Hauschka. Imelda went on to study both nutrition and naturopathy which ultimately led to the opening of Content Beauty in 2008. Pai was her first ‘green’ skincare line for the store, which is now considered London’s leading organic and natural apothecary.

Next up was Sarah Brown from Pai, who took us through her skincare journey; which began with various skin issues where dermatological treatment was ineffective and, she first realised that ‘hypoallergenic’ was actually just a made-up term. This led her to look at the organic beauty space but, when she still experienced skin reactions to certain products, her further research uncovered that there are no controls over some of the terms used in the industry. Brands can label a product ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ when in reality only a small percentage of the formulation is either ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ :-0 By keeping a skincare diary, Sarah was able to pinpoint the products, and more specifically the ingredients, that were making her skin react; such as alcohol, SLS’s, parabens etc, and so became a much more informed skincare shopper and, the creator of Pai.

Makeup artist to the stars, Justine Jenkins was next to take the mic. Justine has worked on numerous productions; most notably, the critically acclaimed film Cold Mountain and, counts Charlotte Rampling, Fearne Cotton and Elizabeth Moss among her clients. She is also a cruelty-free cosmetics ambassador and works alongside a number of charities including PETA and The Humane Society. Justine explained that she had always had an interest in ‘natural’ skincare and took a course in natural cosmetics and skincare after researching animal testing in the industry. This led her to throw away around 90% of her cosmetic and skincare products because for her, ‘clean’ beauty also meant ethical too. There is currently no legislation around the use of the words ‘cruelty-free’ on our product packaging so, she has actively sought out brands where she has asked questions about their production practises and been given evidence-based, positive responses. The cornerstone of Justine’s work is her ‘cruelty-free’ red carpet glamour; an opportunity for her to really push the message home. If you are keen to know whether your products are legitimately cruelty free, Justine recommends Logical Harmony, a Beauty and Lifestyle Blogger who conducts rigorous research on both cruelty-free and vegan beauty and, publishes a weekly list of those brands that conform.

Good to know…

Apparently, brands can make up ‘eco’ logos so, your reference point should be products that carry The Soil Association or the US’s EWG mark; which means it’s been certified as healthy, humane and sustainable. There is also an App now available called Think Dirty® :-0 that allows you to scan your cosmetics and personal care products in order to determine potentially toxic ingredients. It gives you easy-to-understand info on the product, it’s ingredients, and your ‘shop cleaner’ options 🙂

How can you become cleaner, greener and cruelty-free in your beauty purchases?

  • The standard ‘lifespan’ of a product is around 30 months :-0 – just think of the preservatives in those products! So, always look for the shortest shelf-life. For example, NUORI is a Danish, fresh skincare brand that has a maximum 6 month shelf-life from date of production.
  • Familiarise yourself with those ingredient ‘nasties’ and potential allergens such as sodium lauryl sulphate; parabens; trichlosan etc and, look at the first few ingredients on a label – this will determine which one is at the highest percentage within the product and, should steer you clear if it’s on that ‘nasties’ list you’ve compiled.
  • Start with what you’re putting on your body as opposed to your face – most of us take less notice of what we do here, when in actual fact, the skin on our body has the larger surface area (obvs)!
  • Switch from liquid soap and showergel, to olive oil soap – it’s natural and cheaper. And, consider making your own concoctions using natural ingredients such as almond oil, coconut oil and Himalayan salt. I make a great coffee scrub here 🙂
  • As well as actively seeking out the recognised certification on products, the advice was to also conduct your own research and consult sites such as Logical Harmony, Cruelty Free Kitty and Leaping Bunny before making the switch.

If you’re thinking about making some changes in your bathroom cabinet, here are some seriously clean, green and cruelty-free beauty brands that those clean, green and cruelty-free beauty peeps recommend…

Finally, given that fact, ‘that 60% of what you put on your skin ends up in your body’, this way of shopping is ultimately an investment in your long term health and, whilst it might not be the cheapest option, there is a huge shift happening within the industry, where consumers are happy to pay more for a product if they know it is cleaner, greener and, has been ethically produced at every stage of it’s life.

Food for thought…