A Clean-Beauty Expert Would Toss These Products From Your Vanity


(Image credit: @aysha.sow)

I’ll admit that I’m a beauty novice. If you were to ask me if I know anything about what ingredients are needed to create a lipstick and what defines a product as clean, I’d shrug my shoulders. But as I attempt to practice mindfulness in every aspect of my life, from shopping sustainably to supporting women in the workplace, I came to the realization that my beauty routine needed an edit. After all, some studies have linked commonly used beauty products to serious diseases such as cancer. But rather than ditch my beauty routine altogether, or acquiesce to using the same harmful products for lack of understanding, I decided to connect with a beauty expert, Pretty Well Beauty founder Jazmin Alvarez, to learn more about clean options. Ahead, Alvarez shares the fundamental definition of what it means to produce a clean beauty product, how to realistically transition your product lineup, and what beauty products you should completely toss from your vanity. But first, a bit more about Alvarez and her company.


(Image credit: Romer Pedrom/Courtesy of Jazmin Alvarez)

Pretty Well Beauty is an online platform, founded this year, dedicated to making clean beauty accessible to everybody. The brand's curation of products and clean-beauty consultations make it easier for anyone to experience a more holistic approach to beauty and wellness. Alvarez explains, "There’s a lack of education in the clean-beauty space, and I saw that as a chance to create a platform where I could help people understand why clean beauty is important. There’s no standard clear definition of what clean beauty is, so my mission is to define clean beauty and to do that by partnering with brands that adhere to the absolute strictest standards of clean and sustainability practices."

Alvarez has a pretty extensive vetting process before featuring a product on her site, which includes having conversations with product founders and learning about the ingredients, including where they come from and how they’re sourced. It is also important to know where the packaging comes from and whether it’s recyclable or biodegradable. Finally, Alvarez tests products for several weeks to know if they actually work.  

Defining Clean Beauty


(Image credit: @aimeesong)

Part of the problem is that there are all these buzzwords surrounding clean beauty that have different meanings depending on who you ask, and unless beauty brands are dedicated to complete transparency, it can be confusing and unclear which definitions they're using. Furthermore different countries have different standards for what's legally allowed to be in beauty products. So here’s how Alvarez defines a few common clean-beauty terms. 


As Alvarez further explains, buying green beauty products is beneficial not only so that containers won’t just sit around in our ecosystem for 1000 years but also because products that are packaged in plastic have the ability to absorb some of the chemicals from their containers, which can end up on your body. Finally, if the ingredients are not sourced sustainably, it can lead to overharvesting or environmental decay.

Natural is a tricky term because something can be natural and still be toxic. So for example, lead, which has been found in some lipsticks, is natural, but it’s very toxic for human consumption. Ingredients that are not natural are created in a lab, so synthetics, chemicals, and fragrance, for example. When you see fragrance listed as an ingredient on a product, that can include anywhere from a dozen to hundreds of different components chemically derived and made in a lab. 

On the flip side, nontoxic can get confusing because a lot of people assume synthetic ingredients are bad for you, but there are certain synthetics that aren’t harmful. So in a nutshell, since beauty terms and standards for products can be vague, it's best to opt for clean beauty products when you can and do your research on what's in your products. Ultimately it's up to you as a consumer to decide how comfortable you are with what's in your products, and we always recommend speaking to a dermatologist should you have further concerns. 

Products You Should Avoid


(Image credit: Stocky)

For anyone considering going clean, Alvarez doesn’t actually recommend doing a full overhaul at once; it’s just not realistic. Start by getting rid of a few things, and if you need help figuring out which ones, below are some suggestions.

Toss: Traditional Deodorant

Buy: Natural Deodorant 

Alvarez states, "If you can’t ditch any of your other holy-grail beauty products, at least switch to natural deodorant. The body is supposed to sweat, so by not allowing those toxins to release from our skin, it’s being trapped and can cause a host of health issues.”

Furthermore, because aluminum is found in traditional deodorants, there have been direct links to breast cancer as a result.

Toss: Perfume

Buy: Natural Oils

"Synthetic fragrance is one of the scariest ingredients that should be avoided as much as possible,” says Alvarez. "Companies are not required to disclose what this ‘ingredient’ is made of and is typically composed of anywhere between 10 and hundreds of synthetic chemicals that can cause hormonal complications, cancer, and several allergic reactions.”

Instead of perfume, opt for a natural oil blend with essential oils or try one of Jazmin’s favorite natural fragrances by the brand Vanessa Megan.

Ditch: Traditional Lipstick

Buy: Green and Cruelty-Free Lipstick

"Most traditional lipsticks can be toxic even in small quantities because they include things like lead or things like carmine, which is crushed up beetles,” Alvarez explains. 

Her suggestion is to opt for a lipstick made of only clean and green ingredients like the ones by Axiology. The great thing about Axiology is that there are a ton of colors to choose from, it’s 100% cruelty-free, and each lipstick comprises only 10 ingredients. 

Ditch: Nail Polish 

Opt: Nail Buffing 

Alvarez used to live and die by her weekly manicure, like many of us do, but considering the number of toxins in polish and how much we use our hands while eating, she highly suggests you rethink it. As she stated, "If you’re ready to ditch the lacquer altogether, opt for buffing your nails, and if you really can’t ditch the color, you can opt for water-based nail polishes.”

Ditch: Traditional Hair Spray

Buy: Eco-Friendly Hair Sprays 

"Hair spray is filled with toxic chemicals that not only are harmful to the body but also pollute the ozone and environment. Not to mention the waste after the product is done due to non-sustainable packaging,” Alvarez explained. Instead, try the hair sprays from Josh Rosebrook that use 100% clean, green ingredients that won’t jeopardize your health or the environment.

Ditch: Traditional Sunscreen 

Buy: Mineral Sunscreen 

As Alvarez stated, "Chemical sunscreens are a catch-22. On one end, you think you’re doing the right thing by protecting your skin from the harmful UVA/UVB rays, but there are toxic chemicals in traditional sunblock, such as oxybenzone, which is a synthetic estrogen that can disrupt the hormone system.” Instead, try a mineral-based sunscreen.

Ditch: Products With Retinol 

Buy: Products With Resveratrol

"Retinol researchers have linked its use to an increased risk of skin cancer when used on sun-exposed skin. Also known as retinyl palmitate or retinoic acid, this ingredient when found in products has been linked to s where more tumors and earlier onset tumors took place in studies. Also, conventional retinol is stabilized using BHT and parabens, which are linked to cancer and reproductive tissue damage. Retinol is especially dangerous for women who are pregnant as well, so doctors always advise you to stop using it when you’re pregnant, as it can affect your unborn child with vitamin A toxicity. If you still want to fight off aging, I’d recommend seeking out brands that use a natural form of retinol, which is an ingredient called resveratrol,” Alvarez explained.

Shop More Clean Beauty Products

Next: A Clean Beauty Routine That Actually Works, Straight From Blogger Geri Hirsch

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman

Jasmine Fox-Suliaman is a fashion editor living in New York City. What began as a hobby (blogging on Tumblr) transformed into a career dedicated to storytelling through various forms of digital media. She started her career at the print publication 303 Magazine, where she wrote stories, helped produce photo shoots, and planned Denver Fashion Week. After moving to Los Angeles, she worked as MyDomaine's social media editor until she was promoted to work across all of Clique's publications (MyDomaine, Byrdie, and Who What Wear) as the community manager. Over the past few years, Jasmine has worked on Who What Wear's editorial team, using her extensive background to champion rising BIPOC designers, weigh in on viral trends, and profile stars such as Janet Mock and Victoria Monét. She is especially interested in exploring how art, fashion, and pop culture intersect online and IRL.