This Is What 'Green Beauty' Really Means

by Miki Hayes

In the world of beauty, products that are natural, organic, green, and clean are having a moment. And with good reason. I mean, who wouldn't want to use makeup and skin care with an ingredient list you can actually understand? The only issue is knowing what qualifies beauty products to be green. Is it just about not including synthetic ingredients or is it more about including a certain amount of pure and natural ingredients? To find out how these classifications actually work, I emailed with a couple of experts.

Amanda Hume, green beauty expert and founder of VERT Beauty Boutique, and Rachel Winard, founder and formulator at Soapwalla, both let me in on how to best select natural beauty products that fit your personal standards. The first thing you should know? "'Green' and 'clean' are terms that aren't regulated in the United States," says Winard. Hume adds that, because the terms aren't regulated, brands can claim to be green or certified clean— even if their products include ingredients that don't fit the bill. To ensure your makeup or skin care is as natural as you want or expect it to be, both experts stress the importance of reading through ingredient labels before purchasing or using a product. So you have an idea of what to look for, here's how these experts classify natural, organic, green, and clean beauty:


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Try: White & Elm Deep Pore Oil Cleanser, $18, White & Elm

"Natural products are made with the most effective, nature-derived ingredients possible and are free of all the genetically altered ingredients and chemicals that can be harmful to you and our planet," says Hume. When inspecting an ingredients label, Winard says to "look for ingredients that come from plants and herbs, and ask questions if you are unsure of an ingredient" so you know exactly what's in the product.


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Try: Nourish Organic Lightweight Moisturizing Face Lotion, $24, Nourish Organic

Many labels will include notation to indicate whether certain ingredients are organic, and it is possible to be USDA-certified organic. In order to meet the requirements of this certification and have the seal on a product however, Hume explains that at least 95-percent of the ingredients have to be organic.


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Try: Ilia Lipstick, $26 each, VERT Beauty

"Green beauty can mean many things, but mostly that the brand uses all-natural ingredients and eco-friendly packaging for their products," says Hume. When looking at the product label, check to make sure there are no synthetic ingredients and that the packaging has been made from recycled materials and/or is recyclable.


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Try: Soapwalla Restorative Face Serum, $56, Soapwalla

For products or brands to be considered clean, says Hume, the ingredients must be "completely non-toxic and free of synthetics and harmful chemicals, preservatives and/or altered ingredients." When checking a product label to ensure ingredients are processed or tampered with as little as possible, Winard suggests looking for cold process, raw, and ethically harvested ingredients.

Ultimately though, selecting your beauty products based on these standards comes down to what you feel is ethically right. To find brands and products that you're comfortable using, Winard says to not only look at labels but also the brands themselves. "Align yourself with brands that have the same ethical standards that you do." Do this, and you can't go wrong.