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Clean. Natural. Green. Nontoxic. Organic. It's easy to get overwhelmed by these wellness buzzwords. While we prioritize our physical and mental well-being, taking care of ourselves encompasses more than diet, meditation and exercise. We should be equally as discerning with the foods we're putting in our bodies as we are with products we are using and putting on our bodies.
When it comes to beauty products, steering clear of parabens and phthalates might be a no-brainer. But Decoding labels and marketing jargon isn't exactly easy, especially when there's a new "danger" or nontoxic product everywhere you turn! So, how do you know if your beauty and skincare routine is really safe?
At Ghost Democracy, we're helping you break down what clean beauty means to us, why it matters, and how it differs from natural, organic makeup—because who doesn't want to glow (and feel good) about what they use.
There isn't an "official" agreed-upon definition for clean beauty. Though many companies greenwash their products with labels like "natural" or "eco," that doesn't necessarily mean they're nontoxic. If you really want to find the safest skincare products, you have to take matters into your own hands —and that starts with looking at the list of ingredients.
To us, clean beauty means products made without ingredients that have harmful health effects. The U.S. restricts only 30 ingredients from being used in personal care and cosmetic products. Compare that to the EU, which has banned around 1,400. Now, you'll see why it's essential to look at each ingredient yourself and see what research (if any) has been done so that you can make the best decision for you.
Clean Beauty Tip: The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) Skin Deep Cosmetics Database can be a useful resource when reviewing ingredients in your beauty products. It's worth noting, though, that the EWG errs on the side of caution when it lacks information, so take its ratings with a grain of salt.
We know that some chemicals make their way into our bloodstreams through the skin, nose, and mouth. What we don't know is how much of these chemicals get absorbed or the long-term effects they have on our health. However, several common personal care ingredients have been linked to endocrine (or hormone) disruption and cancer, and many others contain irritants or potential allergens. At Ghost Democracy, we prefer to avoid these potentially harmful ingredients whenever possible, especially when there are so many effective clean beauty products that don't use them.
Another potential concern is body burden. Have you ever heard of it? From cleaning products to pollution, and, yes, beauty products, body burden is the total accumulation of chemicals in our body. By limiting our exposure to these potential toxins where we can—like by using clean skincare products—we may be able to lessen our overall chemical burden.
While, there's no single list of harmful ingredients to avoid, individual company's set their standards around what they will (or won't) allow in their skincare and beauty products. One consequence of the FDA having very little control over the personal care industry is that many brands get away without listing everything on the label. Seek out companies that are transparent about what goes into their products and don't hide behind the sticker.
At Ghost Democracy, we believe the best clean skincare products are paraben-free, phthalate-free, sulfate-free, formaldehyde-free, dye-free, and talc-free. That's a lot of free! We also suggest steering clear of the following when choosing what products you use:
- Added fragrance
- Essential oils
- Mineral oil
- Drying alcohols
- Polyethylene glycol
Instead, look for beauty products with nontoxic, science-backed ingredients such as glycolic acid (a powerful exfoliator), bakuchiol (a natural alternative to retinol), and niacinamide (vitamin B3, which soothes and strengthens skin).
Clean Beauty Tip: When looking at labels, watch out for broad names like "fragrance" or "perfume"—they may be hiding less-than-stellar ingredients under the disguise of it being a trade secret.
Organic makeup generally means that the ingredients used were grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides—but organic says nothing about the product's efficacy or its safety. A beauty product can be organic and still contain potentially toxic ingredients or allergens.
The same goes for the term natural.
In theory, natural cosmetics are made with non-synthetic, plant-based ingredients, but just putting "all-natural" on a label doesn't make it so (remember, companies can market their products however they want). Natural ingredients aren't necessarily safer or better for you.
When we talk about clean beauty, we're referring to skincare products that use safe, proven, non-irritating ingredients that actually work.
Clean beauty products are even better if they are vegan (no animal or animal-derived ingredients) and cruelty-free (never tested on animals). It's a win-win for Mother Earth... and you!
February is Black History Month—a celebration of the achievements and contributions of African Americans in society. As the beauty and wellness industry becomes a more welcoming and inclusive space for all, we are taking this opportunity to continue to shine a light on the gap of inclusivity and diversity in our industry, and take action to promote, empower, and honor the Black community that shapes and grows wellness.
While the beauty industry is making improvements—it's important to showcase and support Black businesses and the creatives in this space every day. To honor them, we're shouting out some of our favorite Black-owned beauty and wellness businesses to support.
Beauty Bin is a full-service day spa and dry bar located in Asheville, NC. With a focus on inclusivity for people of all backgrounds, genders, and races, their MO is to match the outer beauty of every client to their inner beauty. From eyelash extensions and hydrafacials to waxing and massage, Beauty Bin is a one-stop-shop for all the spa services.
The KIKA Method® is a gentle assisted stretching process that loosens up tight muscles freeing your body from pain and stress. By practicing this method, clients can experience decreased muscle tension, increased energy, enhanced flexibility, a substantial reduction in stress, improved posture and relaxation, and increased mental clarity. While its headquarters is located in Las Vegas, NV, they have multiple locations sprinkled throughout the US, including Atlanta, New York City, and Dallas—just to name a few.
At Kimberly Coleman Salon, their philosophy begins with promoting healthy tresses, elegant sets, unique accouterments, perfect pampering of hands and feet, and precision cuts. Known for working with models and celebrities, they fully appreciate and celebrate the diversity of their clientele which also includes super moms and warrior dads.
Pressed Roots was developed with the simple concept in mind—that everyone deserves access to easy, and quality hair care. What started as a single pop-up shop in Boston, grew to a multi-city pop-up tour, and is now slated to be the largest national hair salon franchise specializing in the care and styling of highly textured hair, they launched their first flagship location in Dallas, TX.
Jersey City resident, Alyza Brevard-Rodriguez started SW3AT. The company began as a fitness apparel line in 2015 but evolved into a sanctuary catered to health and wellness now known as SW3AT Sauna Studio—the first infrared sauna studio in Jersey City. The healing power of infrared heat therapy is a phenomenal option for holistic health proven to strengthen the immune system and provide relief from joint stiffness and muscle pain. It is also supportive of any fitness program as it aids in weight loss (you can torch up to 900 calories in a 45-minute session) while also detoxifying your body from some of the most harmful toxins.
Kelli Coleman and Anika Jackson opened The TEN Nail Bar in Detroit to address a void in their city. They saw a need for a quality, modern nail bar that could also serve as a fun social space for Detroit’s residents and professionals. They designed the TEN to provide their clients with a #Perfect10 experience—where you can relax, enjoy music, a drink, your friends, a clean and precise manicure, and a much-needed break from all your hectic days.
Located in the beautiful downtown Hyde Park Chicago area, Bettye O Day Spa specializes in first-class treatments. They aim to nurture and relax each of their clients with individualized and innovative therapeutic techniques. From body wraps and massages to facials and hydrotherapy, this day spa promises to be a safe place for healing to occur.
Looking for more businesses to support? ClassPass has also created a list of Black-owned business to check out all year-round. While both of these lists are a great start to get you familiar with many of the Black-owned businesses either in your neighborhood or around the globe, we have only scratched the surface. We'd love to keep these lists growing.If you have any businesses you'd like to see on this list, click here to submit a Black-owned business we should be highlighting as well!