Do You Know What's In Your Beauty Products? Why You Should Care About Transparency
For a statement that will surprise no one: Ingredient lists on beauty and personal care products are confusing. If you scan the INCI list (what we call it in the biz), you might see some names you recognize, such as botanical oils, essential oils, and other plant extracts. You may even see some wordier monikers that you recognize because they've entered the beauty zeitgeist, such as silicones and parabens. But ultimately, you'll probably see a bunch of scientific terms for ingredients that don't sound familiar at all.
Now some of these in the last category might be ingredients you personally want to steer clear of, but many are perfectly fine—and just come with complicated names. (I personally do not subscribe to the "if I can't pronounce it I don't use it" beauty philosophy. For any of my avid Clean Beauty School listeners, you'll know there are many words I stumble over.) But how can you tell the difference? It seems your two options are to become a chemist or to live blissfully unaware.
Why you should care about ingredient transparency.
Well, in this episode of Clean Beauty School, I chat with Sabrina Noorani, founder of ClearForMe, a platform to increase ingredient transparency for brands and retailers. If you browse beauty products online, you've likely used CFM without even knowing it. Ever click on an ingredient and see a small box pop up that explains exactly what it is and its function? Well, you were likely on that very platform.
Noorani actually didn't have a beauty background at all—in fact, the company was born from her frustrations as a consumer. "The biggest surprise to me was the fact that at the core, there is no standard for how ingredients are labeled. So something as simple as vitamin C, which is a great ingredient that helps with so many things—there are 35 different synonyms for vitamin C. Fragrance has 32 different synonyms, formaldehyde has 12, gluten 27, and even water has over 60 different ways that it could be labeled—and it's water. How can a consumer be expected to find the right products for themselves and tailored to what they need?" says Noorani.
And according to Noorani, it's not about "good" or "bad" ingredients—it's about giving people the power to make decisions that are right for their skin and health needs. "We have to stop shaming people for using certain ingredients," she says. "There's so much guilt associated with doing the right thing and using the right products. We're all too hard on ourselves, and we should cut each other some slack."
For more thought-provoking conversations around ingredient transparency and regulation, tune in below.
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Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.