Since my skin cancer diagnosis this summer, a lot of perspective feels like it has changed. The diagnosis permeated my thoughts and remains something I think about every day.
One side effect from the diagnosis I didn’t see coming? My sudden attention to moving towards a clean beauty routine.
Truth be told, I was never that interested in clean beauty. I liked some of the products I had tested over the years but nothing gave me an “ah-ha” moment or made me want to truly change my routine or cast aside my holy grail products. It was my skin cancer and the lessons I learned following the diagnosis that made me think “What the heck am I putting onto my skin every, single day?” As versed as I am in the beauty industry, I had been ignorant to the potentially damaging effects that some of my every day products could be having on my health. It was a lightbulb moment and has put me on a path to changing my skincare and cosmetic routines to that of cleaner products.
This process has been, you guessed it, an adventure. Around the time I started delving into testing more clean brands, my friends at Ibotta reached out asking if I’d want to partner again. (Our past collaborations can be seen here, here). It was perfect timing as shopping on Ibotta gives me cash back that I can use for future purchases as I continue down the path of introducing more clean products into my routine. Not familiar with Ibotta? Ibotta is a free app that rewards you for shopping. When shopping on Ibotta through all their retail partners (everyone from Ulta and Sephora to Asos and Target), you’ll receive offers and earn cash back on your purchases.
As I began my clean beauty mission, I headed to the Ibotta app, pulled up Sephora and instantly ordered a few products I’d been looking to try but hadn’t yet gotten my hands on. I receive 2.5% cash back on every Sephora purchase and this is money I can use for future purchases. [Can I get a woohoo!?] If interested in seeing more about how the app works, head to my Instagram Stories today.
Anyhow, back to this process. Figuring out which clean beauty products work for you is somewhat of an arduous one. I appreciate that retailers are starting to help demystify the process by labeling things “Clean” or creating categories on their sites dedicated to the category. I also appreciate retailers like Credo, Follain and The Detox Market who set out to only carry brands that cater to stricter regulations. Because what is truly an awakening stat: the European Union has banned more than 1,000 chemicals common in personal care products, the United States has banned just 11. Yikes. This means that it is up to us, the consumers, to do the leg work when it comes to what we should be using every day. For example, I was surprised to learn that one of my favorite French brands, Darphin still uses a lot of questionable ingredients – quelle nightmare.
What is clean beauty?
But what does “Clean” even mean when it comes to beauty? Clean beauty means that these products aren’t including ingredients that have been studied and found to be dangerous, to be carcinogens, to be hormone disruptors or to be harmful to our overall health. According to Harper’s Baazar, Clean means safe for people and the planet. Clean means that a beauty product should have considered human and environmental health, using a nontoxic element as a baseline and plant-based ingredients for active results.
Things to avoid in your beauty products:
PARABENS | PHTHALATES I FRAGRANCES | ALUMINUM COMPOUNDS | ETHOXYLATED AGENTS | FORMALDEHYDE | REFINED PETROLEUM | HYDROQUINONE | TALC | TRICLOSAN | SILICA | OXYBENZONE
During this process I also started plugging in products to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database to get a better idea of whether a product was good for me or just seemed good (marketing can be a tricky thing, can’t it!?) The EWG database is a great resource as is the Think Dirty App. I’m slowly working on plugging my favorite products into Think Dirty and discarding as I feel necessary. I went through a large makeup & skincare purge over Labor Day weekend and am continuing to attempt to make more informed choices as I work through this overhaul.
To put it bluntly: The more I realized what harmful chemicals are in some of the products I love and use daily (lipsticks and facial products in particular!) the more I became nauseated by the lack of clarity in ingredients and the lack of regulation.
I started down this road by first tackling the categories of skincare, body care, sunscreen and makeup. I’ve yet to tackle haircare and, as I understand it good, clean hair products are really hard to come by. I also need to tackle household products.
One tactic I’ve taken in the testing process is purchasing minis and kits from the brands I’m interested in trying out. It’s a great way to discover and test for a few weeks before committing to an expensive new product. I also appreciate that retailers like Sephora have flexible returns should you purchase something you don’t like the color once applied or found ineffective. I am also lucky that I have relationships with certain brands where I’ve been able to request products for testing for possible inclusion in future blog posts.
So what clean products have I liked so far? I’ve compiled a comprehensive list by category below. These include new favorite finds from the past several months but also products I’ve used over the years that are deemed cleaner.
I like oil cleansers at the end of the day to really remove makeup, dirt and the day’s grime effectively and this one has been one of the best clean ones I’ve tried.
I’ve talked about this cream on the blog before and it may just be the first cream I finish in less than a year because I love the results that much. It provides intense moisturization in just one use so skin looks more refreshed, youthful and hydrated in the morning. So many of you have reported back that you also love its effects which makes me so happy to hear!
This mask is one of my new favorite discoveries during this process. (I got it as a part of this trial kit I ordered from Sephora). It is an overnight mask that hydrates, plumps, and brightens and my skin looked so good after using this every other night for a week. I also wore it one day as a moisturizer (on a no makeup day) and loved how my skin looked and felt. It has a great texture and absorbs really well unlike other overnight masks I’ve tried. I also just saw it won an Allure Best of Clean Beauty award. Highly recommend this one!
This oil-free serum has been a favorite of mine for some time because it goes to work to even skin tone and make skin more radiant quickly. I also love the silky smooth texture of it. I always bring a travel size of this with me when on the road. If you’re fighting any acne scars or dark spots it is great at correcting those, too. This product gets a bad score on Think Dirty, however, so I’m going to inquire after it with Caudalie as it is included in Sephora’s Clean at Sephora category and Caudalie is one of my go-to brands for cleaner skincare as their entire line is paraben-free. More to come on this…
This is a great cleanser. It was a beauty empty for me a few years ago and now I’ve come back to it. I love the texture of it and my skin always feels super clean and more radiant after use.
You guys know I have my beloved Mario Badescu Toners but in trying to find a cleaner replacement (the MB ones get horrible ratings on Think Dirty *cries*), I landed on this one. I like that it has salicylic acid to help prevent future breakouts but also that the formula helps to minimize pores which is always a struggle for me. My skin has been less oily with regular use of this.
This oil helps to improve skin’s texture, tone, and elasticity. I found it light and moisturizing however I wouldn’t recommend for day time use as I didn’t find that it penetrated into my skin as well following application as other oils I’ve tried. (I tried this from purchasing this tester kit.)
I have more masks that I can count but I am now being more discerning about the ones I use. I rediscovered this mask in my clean out and was reminded how much I like it for when my skin feels lackluster and congested.
This has long been a favorite product of mine because my under-eye area is extremely sensitive and one too many products has given me contact dermatitis after testing. Caudalie calls this “photoshop for the eyes” because it diminishes dark circles, puffiness, fine lines, and wrinkles. You look instantly more awake however I do tend to use this product more at nighttime, personally.
I really like the whole Elemis Superfood line but the standout for me has been the facial oil. It manages to be lightweight and penetrate quickly so skin is left hydrated and smooth pretty instantaneously. If skin is feeling dry in the morning, put a drop or two of this on before your daytime moisturizer.
Thrilled to share with you that one of my all-time favorite masks and exfoliators is considered clean! I’ve blogged about the magic of this product too many times to count.
Another mask I love for its hydrating properties and bringing skin back to life after traveling. Wrote more about it here.
I will have a hard time saying farewell to my Skinceuticals Vitamin C serum but this one I’ve used over the years and think it is a good natural alternative for the ever-important Vitamin C.
This mask is sooooo good. I’ve been using it for three years and love it for so many reasons. It does wonders for healing dry skin, its honey formula helps to battle breakouts and I love that it warms on contact. Makes it utterly amazing to use in the Winter.
Never before has a product been so aptly named. I’ve loved this product since it came out for its ability to instantly perk up skin. Don’t leave it on longer than 2 minutes though! And definitely test it out before any big event as it does have some redness inducing capabilities. But my skin always calms down after and looks like I’ve just come from a facial.
Another great facial oil that I have loved using in winters past in place of a cream moisturizer.
This stuff is amazing! It is like putting pumpkin pie batter on your face and getting instant radiance benefits. My skin felt SO smooth afterwards. I love peel products so this was such an exciting discovery.
My dermatologist advised me I should only be using sunscreens that contain Zinc Oxide and/or Titanium Dioxide moving forward. These are physical blockers from UV rays and therefore do a better job at sun protection vs. chemical sunscreens. Over Labor Day weekend I cleared out all sunscreens in my home that didn’t have one or both of these ingredients and I’ve since tested a variety of SKUs from different brands but the following were the clear winners.
Zinc-based sunscreens that don’t leave you all white and chalky are so hard to come by so I am so glad I liked this product after testing it. Approved by my dermatologist, this is a 100 percent mineral face lotion that delivers broad-spectrum protection and lightweight hydration. It helps protect your skin from UV rays, blue light, infrared radiation, and pollution and the part I like best? The skin-brightening pink tint masks mineral actives (aka: reducing the white cast zinc is known for) so it wears well under makeup. This was definitely one of the most exciting finds through this process of mine!
This is another mineral sunscreen I’ve tested and liked. It acts like a primer of sorts in addition to providing sun protection. It’s ultra-light, translucent (despite the look of it), weightless and non-whitening. It can get a bit runny however so be sure to shake it up before you go to apply it. This sunscreen has both Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide.
Kosas was one of the first clean brands I ever tried and liked so I have kept coming back to them. After seeing more and more makeup artists on Instagram recommending using cream blushes, I ordered this duo that has both a cream blush in a pretty soft pink color and also a highlighter. I like both items in the duo.
I had heard great things about this setting powder from beauty editors so decided to test out the mini size to see if it could serve as a replacement for my beloved Laura Mericer Translucent Powder. This one is talc-free unlike the Laura Mercier one (*cries* – Talc is on the list of ingredients to steer clear of.) I like it so far but am not sure it mattifies as well as my Laura Mericer one just yet. The testing continues…
While this is a bit heavier of a foundation than I usually go for, I appreciate that it is clean and blends well unlike a lot of other facial makeup products I’ve tried that are clean. It is more full coverage so I have worn it for shoots like the photos in today’s post but I’m still looking for an alternative to my beloved Laura Mericer Tinted Moisturizer.
This has proven to be a great clean dupe for Glossier Haloscope. It is dewy and adds instant radiance. It doesn’t dry as well as I would like but I have found you can counteract this by adding a powder highlighter over it.
I own this in two shades now and every time I come back to it I am reminded what a great product it is. Particularly, I love carrying it in my bag for quick mid-day touch ups when blush has faded and you don’t want to re-apply lipstick. I love that it is such an impactful multi-tasker.
This is a great double duty product that you can use on your lips and cheeks as well and I particularly love the matte finish of it. I have the shade Lady Bird.
This is a great lip color and one I’ve been using for several years now. I have it in Stardust, Undone and just bought Rosewater via Ibotta & Sephora. Rosewater and Stardust are such pretty everyday shades.
This palette is a great option for everyday wear and the colors are decently well pigmented and buildable. Not as great as my Urban Decay palettes but will suffice.
This is an excellent substitute for the Benefit bronzer I had been wearing previously.
I have the shade Om Yea and love it during Fall and Winter. This lipstick is silky smooth and stays on well.
’ve raved about this body wash many times (most recently here) but this is a great, affordable (find it on Amazon and Target) body care brand that is clean.
This scrub is just as heavenly to use as the body wash is.
I’ve written about this product on the blog many times because it made me a believer in body products. I’m not big on body lotions or body oils with the exception of this one. It absorbs so quickly and really, really makes skin feel oh so good. It is pricey but worth every penny as a little goes a long way and skin feels amazing afterwards.
I really, really like this body wash. But if you’re not looking to spend $25 on body wash, The Seaweed Bath Co. one is an excellent affordable dupe that also has invigorating eucalyptus.
This may be one of the only body lotions I’ve ever used and not been annoyed about. I am so picky when it comes to body products and this one is worth the hype it has gotten. It absorbs quickly and I love that it is fragrance free. My skin definitely looks smoother and firmer after use which is quickly making me a converter.
This gorgeous clean fragrance instantly transports me back to my summer in Provence. It has notes of bergamot and mandarin with geranium and it is just so lovely. This brand has several other clean fragrances here.
Phlur is such a cool concept and is definitely pioneering transparency in the fragrance industry. All fragrances from PHLUR are created to be safer for skin, and safer for the planet. The brand has been recognized for its commitment to sustainability and giving back and is always cruelty-free and vegan. They have a sample set if you’re interested in testing out the fragrances.
. . .
I am continuing to work through the products I own and individually evaluate and/or eliminate them from my routine but it’s certainly a lengthy process. I’m having a hard time parting with certain ones until I find a solid replacement. But, bit by bit…
I also have a variety of both clean makeup and skincare in my pipeline that I’m looking forward to trying. It is a slow process though as I want to ensure I don’t introduce more than one new product at a time to ensure I can account for any allergic reactions and can also use a product for a couple of weeks to ensure results. A few other products I have but haven’t started testing yet include:
- Osea Ocean Cleanser
- Osea Hyaluronic Sea Serum
- Herbivore Botanicals Bakuchiol Retinol Alternative Smoothing Serum
- Herbivore Botanicals Orchid Youth Preserving Facial Oil
- Naturopathica Sweet Cherry Brightening Enzyme Peel
- A sampling of product from Ilia. I’ve heard great things about their mascara in particular!
- Kinfield Golden Hour Bug Repellent. I’m going to bring this to Australia with me. It’s a clean bug spray that has gotten great reviews.
- A variety of sunscreen with my required active ingredients from Sun Bum that I plan to test in Australia.
- A few SKUs from Beautycounter that I’ve heard good things about. I went to the Soho store this past weekend and bought this foundation hoping it is a good replacement to what I wear every day now and also this sunscreen to test while in Australia as well (people really love their sunscreen I’ve heard) and also this body balm that I’ve heard so many people rave about.
I learned that buying cleaner beauty products is, in fact, more work. But it is getting easier! And product quality has definitely improved and assortments are more varied than they were even just three years ago when I began testing clean brands here and there.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to have a 100% clean routine in the near future as I do have some staples that I’m just not sure I’ll ever be able to replace such as my Bobbi Brown Gel Eyeliner, Giorgio Armani Foundation and Stila HUGE Mascara, but I can say that I am committed to trying to find replacements. I am new to the clean beauty space and still have a lot to learn but I do want to improve the products I’m putting on my skin every day and look forward to being more educated in this space and making smarter purchases down the line. You’ll start to see more and more clean beauty here on wit & whimsy, no doubt.
Next up on this journey? This week I am going to pay a visit to clean retailer Follain where I’ll be doing a clean consult. They help you look at the products you’re currently using and love and help you find clean alternatives. I love that they offer this service. (You can also do a version of it virtually!) Follain’s whole mission is to make clean beauty less complicated and I love that they are demystifying the experience. They also share the list of the ingredients they don’t allow in any of the products that they carry. I also plan to begin looking into cleaner hair care options and household cleaners that aren’t as toxic.
I am now of the belief that clean beauty is the future and I, for one, am looking forward to continuing my education in this space.
Do you have any favorite clean beauty products you swear by? I’d love to hear what they are!
Thanks to Ibotta for sponsoring this post. All Ibotta offers were valid as of publish date. I appreciate you supporting brands that wit & whimsy partners with!