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Clean Beauty: What Are You Actually Putting On Your Skin

When you think of “clean” beauty, what comes to your mind? Maybe it’s organic or natural, vegan or free of chemicals.  There is really no set definition. Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not clearly defined "clean", the term clean beauty is really open to interpretation. That’s why we decided to do our research to determine what exactly we should be looking out for in our beauty products.  

It's always overwhelming strolling down the beauty aisle. There are so many different labels that claim to be natural, organic or vegan, it can get very confusing. Buying the right products can be a big decision. I mean, we want to make sure we are putting safe products on our skin! So let's break down the difference between these labels.

Organic products are made without pesticides, herbicides, synthetic chemicals, and synthetic fertilizers. You’ll know it’s truly organic if it’s USDA certified – products that are labeled “natural” have no regulations. Any company can call their product “natural” and define that term however they want. Unfortunately, it is usually used as a marketing strategy because companies know shoppers will respond to it. Many consumers think natural is better because frankly, it sounds safer. In reality, any brand can claim their product to be natural while still containing toxic chemicals. 

Vegan products don’t contain any ingredients derived from animals – including honey, collagen, albumen, carmine, cholesterol, and gelatin. But is it safer? Not necessarily. Vegan doesn’t mean it’s clean, they can still contain harmful chemicals. 

Products that are labeled “chemical-free” is also a marketing trick. Think about it... everything is a chemical! The water you drink (H2O), the food you eat (starch), and the air you breathe (oxygen). It’s the type of chemicals that's important to be aware of – ones that are harmful to the skin. 

According to a 2004 study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), one of every five adults are potentially exposed every day to carcinogenic impurities in their personal care product. These are cancer-causing chemicals that are legal. It's astonishing, but sadly, the FDA has little power over the ingredients that go into our beauty products. This leaves it up to the consumers to do their research and read their labels. So here is a few ingredients you should look out for:


The most common carcinogen – a colorless, strong-smelling chemical used in building materials, many household products, and yup, your everyday beauty products. This is preservative that can irritate the skin and is capable of causing cancer in living tissue. According to the EWG,12.2 million adults are exposed to carcinogens found in personal care products. This chemical is typically found in color cosmetics, nail products, hair gel, hair-smoothing products, and eyelash glue.

Alternative names to look out for: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, quaternium-15.


A man-made preservative that mimics anti-microbial agents in plants. This chemical is used in products to prevent mold, bacteria growth and stimulate hair growth, however, it comes with unwanted side effects if used too often. Not only is it a hormone-disruptor but parabens have been linked to skin conditions like dermatitis and rosacea.

Alternative names to look out for: propylparaben, isopropyl paraben, butylparaben, and isobutyl paraben

Diethanolamine (aka DEA)

The chemical that lathers your skin leaving it silky smooth can actually be quite damaging. More so when it’s mixed with nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), another substance widely used in beauty products. When they are paired together, it absorbs through the skin leading to stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancer. These chemicals have already been restricted in cosmetics by the European Commission due to concerns about the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines, but is still widely used in products in the U.S.

Alternative names to look out for: Cocamide Diethanolamine, Triethanolamine, Oleamide Diethanolamine, Linoleamide Diethanolamine, and Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate.

Synthetic Fragrance

An ingredient you should think twice about before putting on, especially if you have sensitive skin. The FDA has little control so companies are not required to disclose ingredients that are considered trade secrets. Fragrance is one of them – which itself contains other ingredients. This means companies do not have to label the toxic ingredients as long as they are considered part of the “fragrance formula”. What's not typically labeled is scent, color, and experiential elements like how the fragrance sticks to your skin. If you are experiencing skin irritation or dryness after using a product, there’s a chance it’s coming from a synthetic fragrance. Other effects include allergic reactions, cancer or reproductive toxicity with long-term exposure. 

Alternative names to look out for: perfume, parfum, essential oil blend, aroma, and flavor


When looking for beauty products, we often look for products that are effective with fast results. Regardless if you're looking for a vegan, hypoallergenic, or an organic product, quality is a very important function of its ingredients. From make-up to lotion to face wash, it’s common for these products to carry chemicals that can be damaging to your skin, which ultimately is what you want to avoid when looking for beauty products. If you’re having skin issues, Nouráge contains natural ingredients that fortify the outside layer of your skin while maintaining the dermal-epidermal junction — the key to creating a healthy complexion. We suggest you minimize the number of toxic chemicals you apply to your skin and take your vitamins to keep your skin nice and healthy.