The Ultimate Clean Beauty Dictionary
A is for ANTIOXIDANTS
Antioxidants protect skin by limiting the production of free radicals, which can damage skin cells and the real reason for skin ageing. Antioxidants are essential in our beauty routine as they are powerful age-delaying tools. They have other properties such soothing, toning and giving a healthy glow to our skin.
B is for BEESWAX
It has been the first emulsifier used in history. Back in ancient Greece, a physician called Galen blended together rose water, olive oil and beeswax. The original formula is called “ceratum galeni” and, later on after few modifications, it became “cold cream”. The original formula is back in fashion, as it is a natural and simple way of creating your own cream without blenders or sophisticated mixers.
C is for CHELATING AGENT
This helps to inactivate metallic ions (impurities) to prevent the deterioration of cosmetic products. These metallic impurities are quite common in naturally derived ingredients. If they are not deactivated they can discolour, reduce clarity of a shampoo or toner, make the cream go rancid, affect the fragrance and can even effect the stability of the foam in a cleansing product. How to spot them on the label: EDTA (synthetic) and Sodium Phytate, Phytic Acid, Tetrasodium Glutamate Diacetate. Unfortunately all of them are classified as skin-sensitizing . Try to avoid them if you can.. As a formulator I advise not to use them and only work with the purest ingredients.
D is for VITAMIN D
Vitamin D is the only vitamin that the body actually makes. It is made in the skin and converted to a hormone. When vitamin D hormone levels are balanced, auto-immune skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis and rosacea improve. It is not approved for cosmetic use in Europe as it is classified as a hormone.
E is for ETHYLENE OXIDE Possibly one of the most common synthetic ingredients used in the beauty industry. If you are a natural beauty avoid everything starting with a PEG and finishing with a –eth.
F is for FORMALDEHYDE
Formaldehyde and formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (FRPs) are common synthetic ingredients found mainly in nail polish and body/shampoo washes. They can be an irritant. They act as anti-bacterial agents. The main ones are: quaternium-15, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, diazolidinyl urea, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol (bromopol).
G is for GLUCOSIDE
A glucose-containing sugar derivative found widely in plants. You might have spotted it on labels as “cetearyl glucoside” which is an emulsifier with moisturising properties. Sugar derivates represent a clever way to hydrate the skin.
H is for Heavy Metal
Some heavy metals, such as iron, cobalt, copper, manganese, and zinc are required in small amounts by living organisms. Unfortunately we can find other heavy metals, such as mercury, lead and cadmium that have toxic effects especially in clays, powder based products. Challenge the brand and ask them for certificate of analysis.
I is for IMMUNE SYSTEM
Having a healthy immune system means your body is protected against bacteria, which stops you from getting sick. If you develop allergies, eczema, etc it means an exaggerated response of your immune system. This is why wellbeing and beauty come always together.
J is for JOJOBA
The fact that it doesn’t contain any glycerine makes it a unique oil, in fact from a chemical perspective it is a liquid wax. Due to this characteristic is easily absorbed by the skin and it is highly compatible with human sebum, as it is so similar. It is packed with natural antioxidants that avoid easy degradation. The name “liquid gold” couldn’t be more deserved.
K is for KAOLIN
It has moisturising, detox, soothing, anti-acne qualities. Contrary to popular belief kaolin is an inactive substance on its own, but if we mixed it with water it can work as a soap without making any foam. It can remove impurities by absorbing the dirt in our skin as it dries on the skin.
L is for LIPS
When it comes to skincare we tend to focus more on the face and the eye area, overlooking the lips. This neglected part of our body is one of the most unprotected and stressed, due mainly to a constant exposure to irritants like food, drinks, pollution, adverse weather conditions and especially a lack of protective oils that the rest of our skin has. My advice is to keep this area elastic, hydrated and protected.
M is for MICA
Mica is a naturally occurring mineral dust used in makeup and to create a shimmery effect in face creams and body lotions. It is not on my positive list due mainly two reasons:
- Inhaling mica dust while formulating can pose a long term accumulative health issue.
- As a consumer it can give you an instant glow but it won’t be real as it is only it is only reflecting particles. Mica can not beat the glow of healthy skin.
N is for NANOMATERIALS
In recent years there have been several studies assessing the safety of nanomaterials, creating a big debate within the general public on to use them or to avoid them. The idea of nanomaterials was to create ingredients so small that they should be able to penetrate deeper into the skin. In my opinion if it penetrates deeper it should classified as a medicine and not cosmetic product. What happens if a cell renewal booster encounters a cancer cell in our body, which our white cells in normal circumstances will destroy?. Cosmetic products shouldn’t go beyond the epidermis.
O is for OLEIC ACID
Known as omega 3, it has great skin benefits such as regulating oil production , boosting hydration, preventing acne, and can be used as anti wrinkle.
P is for POTASSIUM SORBATE
A natural preservative found even in the food and drinks which can be an irritant. My advice is try before you buy, especially if you suffer sensitive skin.
Q is for QUERCUS
It is the Latin name for all oak trees, which in the Mediterranean area represent some of the most advanced and mature form of untouched forests. I can not stress enough the importance of biodiversity. The beauty industry, which is one that benefits the most from nature must stop greenwashing campaigns and give back to nature part of the sales and not their profits.
R is for RETINYL
It comes in two versions, Retinyl Palmitate and Retinyl Acetate, both are forms of Vitamin A, which is an excellent anti-ageing ingredient that in small quantities can help with the formula preservation.
S is for STRESS
No matter how much we invest in our yoga outfits and how clean is our beauty routine, stress is one of the silent but dangerous elements that can affect badly our complexion. We need to be more flexible with ourselves, accept that the real perfection does not exist and make the most of every aspect of our life. A good start is less social media and more socialising.
T is TRADITIONAL INGREDIENTS
Despite a consumer growing demand for exotic ingredients I am a big fan of local and traditional ingredients which do the job perfectly. No wonder that even the big players in the industry use them all the time. My all time favourites are mallow extract, allantoin and aloe vera.
U is UNSAPONIFIABLES
It is the tiny but precious fraction of the vegetable oils and butters which is rich in active substances such phenolic compounds (antioxidants), vitamin E, carotenoids. This part of the oil determines its functionality. It is called unsaponifiable because if you blend them with alkalis to make a soap they don’t react, unlike other part of oils.
V is for VITAMINS
Not new but super effective, especially if they are blend together as work synergistically. Usually are encapsulated in liposomes (lecithin) to ensure stability. They provide an antiaging cocktail while secure cell renewal.
W is for WHEAT PROTEIN (HYDROLIZED)
One of the classic natural ingredients that has been found recently to be an irritant in rinse off products but safe as a moisturising leave on product.
X is for XANTHAN GUM
It is a natural jellifying agent, soluble in water. It is obtained from fermented corn starch with the help of friendly bacteria . It “swells” in contact with water and creates very stable gels.
Y is for YARROW
Sustainable ingredient rich in flavonoids, phenolic acids, and iridoids (natural antioxidants). It provides skin lightening (reduces sun and age spots). It helps to minimise the aspect of acne scars while even skin tones.
Z is for ZINC OXIDE
It is a natural soothing agent when used in concentrations of 15% and more. It can be used as a natural sunscreen as it reflects the UV rays, especially UVA. The downside is that can leave a white residue on your skin.