Easy, Clean Beauty Glossary

When I was younger, expanding my vocabulary was very important to me. Back in the day, I loved to go to my thesaurus or dictionary when I didn’t understand something or was looking for a new word (call me a geek!) Fast forward a few years, and I’ve realised that as an adult, I have become far more accepting of things I don’t understand – due in part to laziness, lack of time, but also I think, because I place trust. Trust in people who know more than me, people who are so called experts in what they do. That’s why I was heartbroken when I realised big consumer brands, brands that we know and love, have abused that trust by giving us products filled with ingredients we don’t understand and that can be potentially harmful to us. This is why clean beauty is so important to me. 

Take a look at your favourite moisturiser or daily deodorant and read the ingredients label. Do you understand what’s in it? If you don’t, are you comfortable with that? Unfortunately, words like “natural” and “organic” can be very misleading since they might only refer to some of the product ingredients still leaving room for harmful toxins. The beauty industry has until now been largely unregulated. Even in the US where the FDA regulates drugs and cosmetics, cosmetics do not require FDA approval before they can be sold. Whilst rules are stricter in Canada and the EU, it still means that many of our go-to products can be loaded with toxins and chemicals. 

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The effects of these ingredients vary. From hormone disruptors that have been linked to birth defects and affect reproductive tissues, to known carcinogens, or those affecting our immune systems. On the other hand, some ingredients such as microbeads, are also known to be increasingly harmful to the environment. 

Do you really want mercury in your mascara and lead in your lipstick? It’s time to take control of what we buy and use for ourselves. Fortunately, we no longer need to carry around a big heavy dictionary to look up words we don’t understand. We can just use the one on our ever present smartphone instead 🙂 Alternatively, you can download the EWG Healthy Living App where you can scan products to review the harmful ingredients in them – simple!  

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But just for now, here is a tiny (hopefully not too scary) glossary of a few of the key “nasties” that could be disrupting your health.


Found in most nail polishes and can be absorbed into our bodies through our nails. Enough said. 


These are present in many perfumes, deodorants, nail polishes and creams to name a few. If the word “fragrance” appears on the ingredients list, the product potentially also includes pthalates. 

Look out for: anything with the word “fragrance” or phthalate. 


These are a group of chemicals which are used as preservatives in many of our cosmetic products. 

Look out for: butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben….hopefully you get the idea! 

Sodium Laurel Sulfate/SLS

Is an emulsifier and detergent found in soaps, shampoos, bubble baths, toothpastes, mascara, skin cleanser, moisturiser, sun cream, the list goes on 🙁

As an ingredient it can be listed in many ways, many products now specify SLS free on the packaging but this is definitely one to use your dictionary for! 

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We all lead incredibly busy and full lives these days. I appreciate how hard it can be to research every product you buy and try to understand what’s wrong with it when it’s been working fine for so long. But by taking a few small steps, you can reduce the amount of toxins your body absorbs and become an empowered consumer! 

1) Read the labels! 

Become familiar with the key “nasties” and look for them in the ingredients list before you buy. As a general rule, look for shorter ingredients lists. 

2) Use EWG’s Healthy Living Mobile App to scan bar codes and research the products you’re buying

Good luck! 

All images from Stocksnap.io unless otherwise credited. Views expressed are the authors own and based on her own independent purchases, research, personal opinions and recommendations. 

This article was originally published on www.vanillabeige.com and may have been edited for this platform.

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