What Does Non-Toxic Beauty Mean, Anyway?

Want a horror story quick fix? Just read the ingredient list on your beloved beauty products. Those labels look innocent on the surface, but your body may say otherwise. Exhibit A: the hairspray you thought could do no wrong also contains the impossible-to-pronounce methylisothiazolinone — dear Google: what is that anyway? You could say I'm now questioning the dangerous chemicals I'm slathering my tresses in. But, fear no longer: non-toxic beauty products is here to save the day. Not all heros wear capes, after all — just (chemical-free) angel wings.

Meet Follain, your ultimate destination for toxin-free skincare, makeup and hair products. Follain curates its selection from over 70 "Makers" — niche brands who all share the belief that safety should be a standard in the beauty realm. All products must pass a meticulous five-step test that includes ingredient research, testing and validation. Every product on the site — whether that be a petroleum-free lip balm or a vegan stem cell serum — has been blessed with the Follain stamp of approval.

Founder Tara Foley spent years learning the trades of clean beauty before starting Follain in 2013. "I worked on a lavender farm to learn about terroir and organic growing practices of natural ingredients," Foley tells Bustle over email. "The farm was in Lherm [France], and it was run by this amazing British couple. Being there gave me such a sense of respecting ingredients, understanding the growth cycle, and really committing to keeping them pure. You’re honoring the ingredients, deriving the most effectiveness from them, and also keeping them in their most healthful, natural state." Today, Follain operates brick-and-mortar stores in NYC, Boston and (seasonally) Nantucket.

The dreamy offerings at Follain's Boston Beacon Hill location

Recently, Follain underwent a relaunch to enhance the online customer experience. The site's new Matchmaker Tool leverages technology and data science to match shoppers with products and brands that best suit their skin and concerns. "My goal is for Follain to be a trusted resource for all things clean beauty, a destination for for learning about and making the switch to non-toxic," Foley says. "Beyond that, we are changing beauty for good. Meaning the industry as a whole and the way we all view and interact with it. I don’t want to rest until every one of us refuses to sacrifice health for beauty."

Step by step, Follain is introducing ethical indie beauty brands to the mainstream masses. For the unintiated, navigating the waters of clean beauty can be intimidating. Where's one to start? Well, for starters, the decision to go chemical-free is already a milestone. As Dr. Erika Klemperer, a dermatologist from Santa Barbara, California tells Bustle over email: "Personal care products are a significant source of potential toxic exposure and this is a place where we can reclaim control. We no longer need to compromise efficacy or luxury with such products, as natural plant-based products are leading the way in the green beauty movement."

Foley adds that synthetic ingredients arise from conventional beauty brands attempting to recreate natural ingredients — but in cheap fashion. "You are always better off going straight to the natural ingredient, as it will be more potent and free of toxins," she says.

Ready to dive into clean beauty utopia? Here's a round-up of sustainable treats to add to your collection, stat.

1. OSEA Ocean Cleanser

OSEA Ocean Cleanser, $44,

According to Dr. Klemperer, many foaming face cleansers contain an agent known as SLS — sodium lauryl sulfate. "SLS can not only cause significant skin irritation and potentially trigger skin allergies and even become toxic, but may even promote skin aging by having a degenerative effect on cell membranes," she warns. "We have been lead to believe that we need our cleansers to be soapy, but many of the most innovative cleansers don’t foam. Instead of stripping the top protective layers of the skin, these cleansers keep the crucial skin barrier intact and are nourishing."

Meet the OSEA Ocean Cleanser — a cocktail of organic sea minerals and USDA-certified red algae that not only detoxifies but boosts collagen, lightens hyperpigmentation and fights free radicals. It's gentle enough to use as a daily cleanser, so you truly have no excuse sitting this one out.

2. Kjaer Weis Lip Tint

Kjaer Weis Lip Tint, $49,

After Follain expanded outside the US, Danish-born, NYC-based cosmetics line Kjaer Weis entered the scene. From almond oil cream blushes to tar-free mascaras, Kjaer Weis is Foley's current favorite namesake. "We recently took our portfolio international, and no one (including me) can get enough of Kjaer Weis. The product itself is flawless, and so is the packaging — super chic retractable mirrored tins that are refillable. That to me is a win-win," she tells Bustle.

Kjaer Weis Lip Tints are no exception. Featuring five hues, these lip formulas are infused with shea butter, beeswax and rose hip seed oil for ultimate hydration and vitamin goodness. Bonus: apply to cheeks for a dewy blush!

3. Vered Organic Botanicals Signature Scent Body Oil

Vered Organic Botanicals Signature Scent Body Oil, $90,

This is pampering done right. From Vered Organic Botanicals comes the Signature Scent Body Oil — a sultry concoction of orange blossom, rose, jasmine and amber notes that leaves skin a silky dream. Ingredients include cinnamon for soothing dry skin and ylang ylang oil as a calming antiseptic. Apply to damp skin and watch the magic unfold.

4. Rahua Omega 9 Hair Mask

Rahua Omega 9 Hair Mask, $58,

Because protecting your mane matters too. Your locks will thank the heavens for the godsend that is rahua oil. Packed with essential omega fatty acids, rahua nut oil delivers hydration to parched tresses and resuscitates hair back to its original shine. The Rahua Omega 9 Hair Mask is easy to use — after shampooing, apply generously all over, comb from root to tip, leave in for 10-15 minutes, then rinse. For a deeper treatment, leave in overnight.

It's official: I'm converting to team non-toxic beauty for good.