Since I first properly thought about “going green” back in 2012, I’ve learnt a lot about the process and wish there had been more advice available back then. I thought I would share some tips to hopefully help any of you thinking of making the switch to more natural beauty products.
Why go green?
Everyone has different reasons for deciding to make the switch. My first bit of advice is to ask yourself why you want to “go green”. There are many reasons why you might want to make the switch. I won’t bore you with an exhaustive list, but often the main consideration is the impact that certain toxins in many conventional beauty products may have on the body such as skin microbiome changes and irritation, endocrine (hormone) disruption, liver congestion and much more. Regulations on ingredients permitted for use within cosmetic industry are more strict in Europe, however in the US they are poorly regulated (at the time of writing) so this is definitely something to consider depending on where you live. Environmental impacts are also worth thinking about.
For me personally it was knowing that the skin is the largest organ and the potential for topical products absorbing into your bloodstream. I basically had that sudden moment of realisation that it’s also imperative to take note of what you are putting on your body, not just what you are putting in nutritionally. Aside from that I’ve always considered myself to have more of a sensitive skin type and I also deal with the odd outbreak of dyshidrotic eczema so I wanted to use products that would be more suitable – although it’s important to remember that natural, organic and non-toxic does not automatically mean irritant free as we are all unique and may react differently to others.
There is a general lack of transparency for us as consumers so one of the most important things to make informed decisions is to get clued up on ingredients. A good resource is EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database which is essentially a library of ingredients and products which gives them a hazard score from 1-10 (low hazard-high hazard). Sometimes on the Skin Deep website an ingredient might be given a higher hazard rating (or sometimes even a lower rating) because there’s isn’t enough data on it, so watch out for that! You can also do a web search on toxic cosmetic ingredients and you’ll find an huge amount of information.
It can all be a bit overwhelming and there’s a certain amount of scaremongering and greenwashing out there, but decide for yourself what specific ingredients you want to avoid and how “clean” you want to go. You don’t have to be a total purist, unless you want to of course! Just be mindful of the pressure to be “perfect” and remember that it’s perfectly natural not to be – especially when you are first learning about different ingredients.
The 80/20 Rule
In terms of how “clean” you want you want to be, it can be helpful to give yourself an overall percentage to aim for. I personally started off with an 80/20 goal for buying new products, so the 80% majority being natural, but leaving a 20% leeway for the odd few products you might not be able to replace yet, or can’t quite bring yourself to give up. Later on down the line you may find you don’t need the goal anymore as you start to find effective natural replacements for most of your current products. Nowadays mine has shifted closer to 95/5 after years of transitioning and trying hundreds of different products to find what works for me.
You don’t necessarily have to go cold turkey and throw out everything (unless you’re feeling spendy of course)! If you do decide to get rid of everything and start from scratch though, try to give some of your old products to family or friends who will make use of them, or research if there is a local charity looking for donations. Switching to natural products can sometimes be expensive so honestly don’t feel you have to switch everything at once. There are more and more great budget-friendly brands available as the green beauty movement gains popularity.
An ideal way to start is by looking at which products you use most often and replace them with a better alternative when they run out. It took me around 6 months or to initially transition all of my skincare and bath/shower products. My make-up collection on the other hand took much longer. It’s totally fine to do it gradually, whether it’s just as and when you can afford it or when you finish off an old product.
Yes, you might make the occasional mistake at first and buy something thinking it’s a good choice, only later to find out that one or two of the ingredients are on your avoid list. We’ve all been there, but the main thing is you can learn from it! If there’s a product you’re interested in buying online but you can’t find the full ingredients list, it can sometimes be a red flag so your best bet is to reach out to the brand and ask them or give it a pass and move on. You’ll start to notice you spend a lot of time reading ingredients lists when you’re deciding if you should buy something – this gets easier the more you get to know!
Where to shop green beauty
Some of my favourite places to shop online for natural beauty products in the UK are LoveLula, Naturisimo, abeautifulworld, Content Beauty, Ethical Superstore and Holland & Barrett. You can also find an increasing number of more natural products in places like Boots and even supermarkets now too.
It can all be a bit of a minefield for a while, but it really does get easier with time and you skin will definitely thank you for it! If you’re struggling to find like-minded people there are a lot of lovely friendly green bloggers out there and I found chatting to them on their blogs and through Twitter and Instagram a great help for product recommendations.
If you’ve already “gone green” feel free to share any tips you might have in the comments 🙂