When it comes to personal products, we allow a lot more unknowns onto our skin & into our bodies than we’d like to admit (or even know). In the age of information, it’s as much the responsibility of the consumer as the manufacturers to be ethical in our practices. Many companies have taken the initiative to remove many toxic & irritating ingredients from formulas & controversial means of production from assembly lines. Some companies have been shamed into changing their ways through the spread of knowledge, some have been true from the start. While there isn’t as much federal regulation as there should be, several organizations have made it their mission to provide accurate information for the ethical consumer. The list of responsible personal product brands is longer than you might realize & is ever growing.
Let’s start with the basics:
This claim refers to the production of the product. peta2 explains that cruelty-free “simply means that a product and its ingredients weren’t tested on animals,” but they go on to say that they’re really wasn’t a way to prove these claims when brands first started making them.
Leaping Bunny has developed the industry leading Standard & created a database of worthy brands based on that. While not all Leaping Bunny Approved brands feature the signature (& trademarked) Leaping Bunny logo, all are listed within the database. Many companies have their own cruelty free logos, but only one should be trusted without question. Also note that companies cannot buy their way onto this list, they must apply (for free), making this list as uninfluenced as possible.
Vegan: This claims refers to the formula of the product. Tree Hugger explains that vegan means “a product does not contain any animal products or animal-derived ingredients,” but there’s the same issue with brands making inaccurate or incomplete claims. Vegan Beauty Review was allegedly the first vegan beauty blog, started in 2007, and has since amassed a list of 150 100% Vegan brands. Sunny, the site’s administrator, disclaims her list saying if she’s “overlooked any vegan beauty brands,” to let her know, so she can “update this list as often as possible.” There is no set marker for vegan products, but many companies have made their own to promote their formulas. That being said, don’t blindly trust a logo.
ALL THIS BEING SAID, PLEASE NOTE: Cruelty-Free & Vegan are not mutually exclusive terms. For example, many Cruelty-Free brands use insect derived dyes, so they’re not considered Vegan. Also, NEITHER Cruelty-Free nor Vegan means it’s automatically good for you or the environment. Do your research & know your skin.
Cruelty-Free & Vegan are the two biggest claims cosmetic companies make & many consumers are calling for both to be industry standard. However, there are lots of other claims beauty brands can make & it can all get very confusing. Here are just a few:
- Gluten Free
Gluten is “a substance present in cereal grains, especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough.” Those with allergies / sensitivities to gluten should avoid it.
- Soy Free
Soy is “protein derived from soybeans, used as a replacement for animal protein in foods and fodder.” Those with allergies / sensitivities to soy should avoid it.
- Paraben Free
Parabens are “any of a group of compounds used as preservatives in pharmaceutical and cosmetic products and in the food industry.”
- Sulfate Free
Sulfates are “a salt or ester of sulfuric acid, containing the anion SO42− or the divalent group —OSO2O—.”
- Talc Free
Talc, or talcum powder, is “a cosmetic or toilet preparation consisting of the mineral talc in powdered form, typically perfumed.”
- Phthalate Free
Phthalate is “a salt or ester of phthalic acid,” and used as a solvent in cosmetics & typically exists as “parfum.”
- PABA Free
PABA, or para-aminobenzoic acid, is “a crystalline acid that is widely distributed in plant and animal tissue. It has been used to treat rickettsial infections and is widely used in suntan lotions and sunscreens to absorb ultraviolet light.”
- Oil Free
Oil based products can be a problem for anyone with already oily skin or large pores, but isn’t generally harmful.
- Alcohol Free
Alcohol based products can be a problem for anyone with already dry or sensitive skin, but isn’t generally harmful.
Organic means a product is made up of of ingredients “relating to or derived from living matter.” As with Vegan make up, just because the ingredients are organic doesn’t mean the products are good for you or the environment. Likewise not all non-organic formulas are bad. M’kay?
Hypoallergenic is defined as “(especially of cosmetics and textiles) relatively unlikely to cause an allergic reaction,” and is easily the most unrealistic claim a company can make.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project developed & maintained by Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, outlines facts & offers proactive steps for ethical consumers. I’ve linked many of their informational pages above, but one post is not enough to encompass this entire topic. Refer to their Safe Cosmetic Tips & Red List for quick reference & be sure to dig into the conversation yourself!
It’s important to understand that there are many federal regulations placed on cosmetic companies, there just aren’t enough (in my opinion). Without more specific federal regulation on formula & production transparency, cosmetic companies can make a variety of claims that can end up being false. That’s not to say all companies are lying to you. Many now realize (or always knew) truth sells more than lies in the long run. If you want to be an informed consumer you have to be an proactive consumer. Know your skin. Know your standards. Know the law. Know the companies standards. Know that nothing you used to use makes you a bad person if you actively choose to change for your better. Know that if you know & choose to ignore the questionable practices of the companies you buy from, you are silently supporting them though your purchase. 🍵🐸