In a world of buzz-word marketing and false labels that capitalize on people’s desires for sustainable, organic, or more natural products, what does it mean for a product to be “safe” or “clean”?

Clean Beauty Labels: Legitimate or A Scam?

An article by the HuffPost questions our reliance on the label of “clean beauty”, “natural”, “organic”, and “ethical” by raising concerns about dangerous components that still remain in products that have these labels.

In 2019, a documentary called Toxic Beauty exposed the cosmetic industry’s usage of harmful chemicals in their products, leading to increased risk for skin damage. Even companies that market themselves as safe (safe enough for a baby’s skin, in fact! is their claim) have been sued and questioned about the presence of harmful ingredients in their products.

Talc: A Carcinogen Found In Our Cabinets

Talc, for example, is a main ingredient in baby powder and other cosmetic products for its ability to make makeup feel soft and silky. Talc is actually a form of asbestos, which is a known carcinogen. The Food and Drug Administration, however, has not banned the use of talc in common cosmetics.

Talc can be found in makeup such as :

  • Lipsticks
  • Face powders
  • Foundations
  • Deodorants
  • Eyeshadows
  • Face masks
  • Products that address oily skin
  • Children’s makeup (e.g. glitter make-up sets)

Claire’s makeup recalled for asbestos contamination – Source: asbestos.com

Read more about the dangers of talc in our makeup here: Cancer May Be the Cost You Pay for Smooth Skin.

What defines a make-up as safe?

Surprisingly, there is no clear definition of clean or safe make-up. The FDA has only banned 11 total ingredients for use in cosmetics, although the list of harmful ingredients is far larger than that. Even for products that are touted as organic or natural, there isn’t an official definition that is regulated.

For some companies, their claims of natural can mean that the ingredients are derived from plants (botanical ingredients). But it doesn’t address what percentage of the products are from botanical ingredients, or what effect these natural ingredients really have. For products that have the label of natural, it can mean that they are primarily sourced from botanical ingredients but still contain smaller traces of toxic heavy metals.

As quoted in the HuffPost article, Hadley King, a dermatologist in New York explained it in this way:

“Toxic heavy metals like aluminum, cadmium, lead, mercury and arsenic sometimes end up in cosmetics, particularly mineral makeups.”


When toxic heavy metals accumulate, that’s when it can spell danger for the consumer as it leads to potential stomach distress and organ damage. This is especially true for babies and young children that may be exposed to these products.

This information certainly makes the reader re-think about the cosmetics products that we intend to purchase and makes us take a closer took at the ingredients list. But will it make the cosmetics industry rethink its “organic” and “clean beauty” marketing practices too? Only time will tell.

To read more about the dangers of “clean beauty”, check out the full article at the HuffPost.


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