What The Labels on Your Favourite Beauty Products Aren’t Telling You

What's hiding in your makeup?

In a world where we’ve become increasingly aware of what we’re putting into our bodies, it’s no surprise that we’ve also become more conscious about the ingredients we’re putting onto our skin. We’re no longer dazzled by brands with the brightest eyeshadow palettes, but rather the values and ethics behind those companies.

With buzzwords like “paraben-free,” “cruelty-free,” “clean,” “natural” and “vegan” being tossed around, it’s hard to keep track of what we should and shouldn’t be using on our skin.

We break down the most common terms used by the beauty industry so the next time you’re shopping for a new product you understand what to look for…

What’s the deal with parabens?

Parabens are a group of chemicals (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben and isobutylparaben) used as preservatives in cosmetics to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria and mold. Sounds good in theory, right? But prolonging the shelf life of your favourite serum comes at a price, as studies have shown that parabens can interfere with hormone function by penetrating the skin and mimicking estrogen, a hormone that can trigger an increase in the growth of tumors.

Now, that’s not to say you need to immediately panic and scan the list of ingredients on every product you own as there’s been no direct link between parabens and cancer. But what we do know is that parabens can pass through the skin and into your body, hence why some companies are erring on the side of caution. It’s about making conscious and informed decisions when deciding what brands to use.

Is there a difference between clean, natural and vegan beauty?

Yes. Although all three words would seem to have similar meanings and may overlap, there are important differences between them.

Anything labelled as “clean” beauty means products are non-toxic and free from potentially harmful ingredients like sulphates, parabens, pesticides, silicones, etc. Keep in mind that these ingredients are usually synthetically made but that doesn’t make them bad. The motivation behind clean beauty brands is to formulate products that do not harm your health or skin.

A “natural” beauty brand will source ingredients from plants, minerals and botanical extracts‘pure’ ingredients found in natureand avoid artificial fragrances, dyes or any other chemicals, but still may require some level of synthetic preservatives. Products that are 100 percent natural will have a significantly shorter shelf life. Although you may think that natural beauty would be vegan, that’s not always the case, as extracts such as beeswax may be used in products.

Vegan cosmetics and beauty products will not contain any animal extracts (i.e. beeswax) or animal byproducts in the development process or ingredients. It’s worth noting that just because a product is vegan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s natural, which again isn’t a bad thing as synthesized ingredients may be used in place of animal-derived ingredients.

Note that you’ll find the above terms in various combinations on product labels. For example, a clean product may use synthetic wax instead of pure beeswax, meaning it won’t be labelled as natural but has the added bonus of being vegan. So it ultimately comes down to us, the consumer, to decide what is most important to us when selecting products.

How do I know if a product is cruelty-free?

The quickest way to recognize if a product is cruelty-free is to look out for the Leaping Bunny Logo to guarantee no animal testing was carried out in the development of the product. You can also check animal protection groups like PETA or email the company directly. Although your country of residence may not require animal testing, it’s important to note that all products imported to China are required by law to test on animals before being sold on the market. So it’s always important to do your own research.

So, what’s next?

The best way to find what products work for you is by doing your own research. Do you support vegan beauty? Find which brands align with that belief. Think clean beauty is the way to go? Look for companies and products that are non-toxic and benefit your skin. Although you may be completely loyal to that favourite lipgloss of yours, take a closer look at the fine print, all may not be what it seems.

Don’t be afraid to try something new.

There are so many new and exciting brands within the beauty industry that are committed to this change, and do so without compromising on quality.  Building their whole company around the clean and vegan beauty pholosophy from the ground up rather than changing one or two products like some of the bigger companies are doing. 

One company doing just that started right here in Vancouver.  Evalina Beauty an indie makeup brand that launched late last year has been quickly become a favourite in our office by creating a clean cruelty-free makeup line that hasn’t sacrificed quality and as an added bonus is giving back to women in need.