What is a clean beauty product? Unfortunately there is no official definition, meaning ‘clean’ can be misused as much as ‘natural’ in the beauty world. Broadly speaking, a clean beauty product is one that does not use toxic ingredients. An example of a group of ingredients considered toxic: parabens, which typically extend the product’s shelf life. They’re also believed to disrupt hormonal function. Navigating cosmetics’ ingredients lists can be a minefield, which is where Purpicks come in, providing consumer reviews of beauty products that are third party-certified organic, natural and/or non-toxic. As well as being a Clean Beauty Awards judge two years running, I’ve participated in their Clean Beauty Swap campaign, where beauty influencers propose clean alternatives to a conventional product. What will be your swap?
1. Body wash
Body washes aren’t products I used to pay much attention to compared to skincare. But considering I wash the vast majority of my skin with this product I’ve recently taken more care in what I use, focusing on clean formulations with a low impact on the environment. I’ll admit I do love trying out brands that offer something a little different. In that respect Rituals’ Foaming Shower Gel, which I reviewed in How to Create a Spa Experience at Home, was fun to use as the gel gradually transforms into a light creamy mousse. But with Zero Waste Path offering a shorter and cleaner ingredients list, streamlined easy-to-recycle packaging and strong ethos to reduce waste, their charcoal soap bar is now my go-to body wash.
I used to be a fan of L’Oreal Elvive Nutri-Gloss shampoo – that promise of shiny hair all wrapped up in a pink bottle. Then last year I developed a really itchy scalp. It wasn’t until I attended one of The Soil Association’s One Small Swap campaign talks that I took notice of what I was putting on my head. The panel featured hair brand founder Tabitha James Kraan, who highlighted that shampoo may be a wash off liquid, but we were nevertheless massaging it into our scalp, and that build up of toxins was doing us no favours. So I switched to her certified organic aloe vera-rich Clean Shampoo and felt an immediate difference in my scalp health. I’ve not looked back since and have even moved on to a solid shampoo from Earth Kind. With Sodium Cocoyl Isethionate (derived from coconut oil), it creates a velvety lather without dehydrating skin, resulting in a decidedly less irritated scalp.
OK so this is not exactly a direct swap. When it comes to underarms I typically reach for a Dove antiperspirant roll-on, but as I’ve yet to find a clean antiperspirant the swap I’m proposing is Aurelia Citrus Deodorant. Deodorants don’t block sweat ducts, rather than stop perspiration they absorb it and mask any stale odour with fragrance (which can be natural thanks to oils). For light perspiration this is fine but if you’re running every morning to catch your commuter train this isn’t going to get you through the day, and your colleagues might be wishing you were back on the aluminium antiperspirant.
4. Makeup remover
When my skin was younger and oilier, I would exclusively use wash off cleansers and shy away from milky or balm-type makeup removers. As my skin has evolved it’s required more nourishing formulas and richer textures. Elemis’ Pro Collagen Cleansing Balm remains a classic, boasting an impressive list of deliciously smelling oils: sweet almond, elderberry, wheat, oat, lavender and coconut. But for a 100% natural take, I’m currently using Alexa Sky Botanicals The One Balm featuring some of my favourite oils: jojoba, hemp, rosehip, lavender, geranium and bergamot. The unctuous texture melts away all makeup, even mascara, which I then wipe away with my favourite dual-sided cloth from Pai. You can even choose to order the balm with or without essential oils, depending on your skin sensitivity – talk about bespoke service.
If you’re mainly after a moisturiser that delivers a great performance on your skin then the likes of Clinique Moisture Surge is, for me, a winner. But if you’re looking for a cleaner alternative then I’ve found Fushi’s Biovedic Radiance Face Cream ticks all my boxes. Vegan and cruelty-free, this rich cream is packaged in a glass bottle and delivers fantastic hydration throughout the day, which you can further enhance with a few drops of the Biovedic Radiance Face Oil mixed to it.
I’ve never been truly disappointed by the performance of a sheet mask, and yet they score very poorly on the sustainability front, being single use and packaged in non-recyclable pouches. So do we have to give up masking all together? If sustainability is high on your beauty agenda, you could look at swapping your favourite sheet mask with Evolve Radiant Glow Mask. Featuring upcycled blueberry particles for gentle skin buffing, this 100% natural, vegan and cruelty-free formula comes in a pot rather than on a sheet, so you’ll be dipping into it again and again for smooth, polished skin.
Elizabeth Arden’s Eight Hour® Cream range has been a staple in my skincare arsenal for years, but when it comes to lipbalm I’ve found that I’m quite happy swapping the range’s offering for more natural options – especially as I’m probably eating a load of whatever I put on my lips. Lowens Ice Ice Baby Vanilla lipbalm may look quite functional, but with protective beeswax, refreshing menthol and soothing organic canola oil it feels just right for my dry lips.
8. Hand cream
It can take me a while to get through my beauty stash. Case in point: Elemis British Botanical Hand & Nail Butter, which I’ve finally come to the end of, by which time the brand has discontinued the whole range. So I’m moving on to Buff’s 100% natural and plastic-free Hand & Body Butter. Deliciously scented thanks to lavender and mandarin essential oils, you only need a small amount of this ultra-rich butter to keep your hands super nourished.
I’ll be honest, I’ve yet to find a clean mascara that performs as well as a standard one. The Dior mascara I used in my early twenties gave me long full lashes that actually brushed the top of my eyelids. But having recently trialled six new clean mascaras for the Clean Beauty Awards, I’ve discovered that Elate’s vegan and cruelty-free Essential Mascara delivers fantastic – albeit quite natural-looking – results: lengthening, thickening, great hold and not a panda eye in sight.
10. Nail polish
As nail polishes tend to last a few years I’ve accumulated a bit of a collection, somehow quite a few of the shades are from Ciate. They offer an array of fun topcoats and I’ll always remember them for their incredible caviar pearls manicure, but for a cleaner formula try Sensationail Nailtural strengthener. This 85% plant-based clear varnish has a 10 free formula, excluding skin irritants, animal-derived ingredients and synthetic fragrance. Results-wise it provides a groomed and glossy finish, keeping breakages and splitting ends at bay.
Have you made any clean beauty swaps in your bathroom cabinet or makeup bag? Please leave a comment below to let me know.
Includes gifted products