Clean Cosmetics: Not all chemicals are bad.

Clean Cosmetics: Not all chemicals are bad.

Conventional personal care products are loaded with toxic chemicals, but that doesn’t mean that clean cosmetics contain no chemicals at all. Some chemicals are toxic and others are not.

Liz Thompson at our sister site Feelgood Style is a clean cosmetics whiz. She’s been in the organic beauty biz for a long time, and she’s written extensively over there about toxic ingredients in our cosmetics. She recently shared the list below of safe cosmetic ingredients that only sound toxic, and it felt like such a wonderful change of pace.

Of course, we still need to talk about toxic ingredients. Companies aren’t going to start making clean cosmetics unless we educate ourselves and stop buying the harmful stuff. But when you’re reading labels, it’s easy to dismiss any polysyllabic ingredient as harmful. It’s just as important that we spot safe ingredients as unsafe ones. Thank you so much for sharing this list with us, Liz!

Clean Cosmetics: 6 Safe Cosmetic Chemicals

1. Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride

It definitely sounds unnatural, but Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride is actually the combination of plant sugars and fatty acids derived from palm and coconut oils. The result is a much silkier, lighter feeling oil with a longer shelf life. This oil is also very mild and suitable to most skin types, another reason you may seem to run across it often.

EWG rank = 1

2. Cetearyl Alcohol

We’ve been taught to avoid alcohol because of contaminants and its skin irritating properties. And yes, benzyl alcohol is irritating and should be avoided if you are highly susceptible to allergens. Cetearyl alcohol is a combination of fatty alcohols derived from vegetable sources, such as coconut or palm oils. It is used in cosmetics as a surfactant and emulsifier, and is much milder than benzyl alcohol.

EWG rank = 1

3. Xanthan Gum

You’ve seen this on food labels your whole life but never really knew what it was? Sounds anything but natural, right? Xanthan gum may have an unfortunate sounding name, but is simply a carbohydrate derived from plant bacteria. A little gross, maybe. But this nontoxic thickening agent is harmless and works in cosmetics to keep the product from thickening.

EWG rank = 0

4. Coco Glucoside

Made from dried coconut pulp and fruit sugar, this mild surfactant is commonly used in cosmetics. Coco Glucoside is gentle enough for all skin types, and is biodegradable and nontoxic. Not to be confused with other surfactants which are much less safe.

EWG rank = 0

5. Sodium Hyaluronate

This one crops up a lot on anti-aging product ingredient listings. Sodium hyaluronate is the sodium salt of hyaluronic acid. Same great skin benefits, but a smaller molecular size allows this ingredient to more readily sink into skin. Sodium hyaluronate retains water, giving the skin that plumped up hydrated appearance.

EWG rank = 0

6. Glyceryl Stearate Citrate

Has to be toxic, right? Wrong. Glyceryl Stearate Citrate is a combination of vegetable oils and citric acid. It is used in cosmetics as an emollient and fragrance ingredient.

EWG rank = 1

Image Credit: Makeup photo via Shutterstock

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About Becky Striepe 36 Articles
Hi there! I'm Becky Striepe, a green crafter and vegan foodie living in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and two cats. My mission is to make eco-friendly crafts and vegan food accessible to anyone who wants to give them a go. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .

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