Clean vs. Green is kind of like Batman vs. Superman: two good guys fighting to save planet earth and humanity as we know it. Okay, maybe not as dramatic as the comic book heroes, but they’re at least on the same side, right?
Yes and no.
In my last post I described how I made the transition from run-of-the-mill product purchaser to a more informed one. I discovered that the brands I’d been loyal to for a lifetime cut corners with ingredients at the expense of my health.
Preservatives extend the shelf life of a product (think of all the sodium in canned goods that do the same). It’s not good for a company’s bottom line to waste inventory when a product expires.
Detergents and synthetics give a product it’s strong scent. Think of common name-brands that sell you on their powerful fragrances. Perfume is one of the largest grossing items worldwide, so it’s no wonder companies exploit our olfactory weakness. Some well-known fast food chains employ this method by injecting chemicals into, for example, French fries, to give them that irresistible smell that hypnotizes you into buying them.
Here’s the problem though. Just when I thought I was onto these companies and set out to change my purchase habits and go green and clean, I discovered there are a lot of wolves in sheep’s clothing in the organic beauty world. They might be various shades of good, but I want the best.
So how do you know?
I’ll admit I was a little overwhelmed by the research involved in becoming ingredient savvy, not to mention needing bifocals to read the lists on the back of many products. Even when I did find a comprehensive list, the names of the items often made my last name look simple. I needed help.
Enter Wonder Woman.
I’m grateful to Batman and Superman for fighting the good fight, but it’s refreshing to see a woman in the superhero mix, too. That’s how I see Jeannie Jarnot, founder of Beauty Heroes, a monthly subscription service that brings you the best in healthy beauty.
Jeannie had her ingredient epiphany way before mine and does the yeoman’s work in vetting hundreds upon hundreds of brands. It’s no easy task so she created a pocket guide for laymen like me that fits in your purse and lists the most widely found Superpower and Villain ingredients.
Her wealth of knowledge makes her a trusted source and I was excited when my first Beauty Heroes box arrived, which featured Bottega Organica, a farm-to-skin brand from Italy based off the research of a molecular oncologist. Along with a full size product, I also got a sample of another item from the line. An insert provides information on the product ingredients, use and benefits, and the backstory of the brand.
But the real test came two weeks later. I have sensitive skin so I never know how it’s going to react to something new. Let’s just say Bottega Organica has a new customer! I fell in love with the eye cream. The price points are higher than what you’d typically find at the drugstore, but after reading about the process involved in creating this product I have a new appreciation for the quality behind the craftsmanship, not to mention ingredients grown in nature versus a lab, one of which is wild carrots.
Jeannie is also an adviser for the Indie Beauty Expo, the largest curated event for independent beauty, wellness and lifestyle brands. That’s actually where I first heard about Bottega Organica, so I was happy to learn more and felt confident using the product knowing it made Jeannie’s cut.
Interview with Jeannie…
In my quest to learn more about what makes something clean, green or somewhere in-between, I asked Jeannie a few questions below. Thank you, Jeannie, for all your insight and expertise. As you would say, Hero On!
1.) Which came first, green or clean, and what is the difference?
In the grand scheme of things, green beauty definitely came first. Before the modern cosmetic industry emerged during the industrial revolution, all beauty was green. And what we are seeing in the modern green beauty movement is a desire to return to traditional, natural beauty.
There aren’t established definitions for green vs. clean, but here’s how I define them. Clean beauty focuses on formulations that contain ingredients that are generally known to be non-toxic and safe to use, without causing any adverse health effects.
Over and above that, green beauty focuses on using botanicals that have been minimally processed and extracted. Green beauty brands also focus on sourcing sustainable, wild crafted and organic ingredients that come from reputable sources. The emphasis in green beauty is definitely on ingredient sourcing.
I first learned that ingredients in the products I was using in my spa had harmful ingredients in 2001. As soon as I learned that some ingredients could be harmful to my clients, my staff and myself, I started a quest to clean up our products.
The desire to use the healthiest products available landed me squarely in what we refer to now as green beauty. While there are certainly different shades of clean and green, it’s exciting to see so many people become informed and interested in selecting products that are healthy for them and for our planet.
2.) Are these terms synonymous with the “organic” label in the food industry?
It may not be common knowledge, but the term organic is not regulated in the food or the cosmetic industry. So, if a food or beauty product is labeled as organic, it could mean that one ingredient, all ingredients or no ingredients are grown organically.
The USDA National Organic Program seal however is regulated by the USDA Agricultural Marketing department and does make sure all of the ingredients in that product are certified organically grown. The words natural, organic, clean and green are subjective and don’t relate to any specific standard.
3.) How does a consumer know if something is authentically green or clean?
The best way know what’s in your products is to learn about who is making them. Take time to read about a brand and discover how they source their ingredients and what is in their products. Good brands convey their values around healthy beauty and ingredients.
One thing I look for are companies that do not disclose their complete ingredient list on their website. That is always a red flag when I’m discovering a new product line. I’m always amazed when I stumble on a company that doesn’t fully disclose what is in their products, but rather highlights their “key ingredients.” This is still very common and usually a cause for concern.
There is no tool I know of that saves the consumer from reading the product label. At Beauty Heroes we have a tagline “Smart is Beautiful.” We encourage consumers to get ingredient smart. No one likes to have the wool pulled over their eyes by companies trying to pass a product off as healthy, when it’s not.
We created our free beauty ingredient pocket guide to simplify healthy and harmful ingredients, and there are several apps that help consumers look up ingredients and rate the safety of beauty products. But whatever tools you decide to use to support your ingredient knowledge, it’s important to read the label and to understand what you are putting on your skin.
4.) Tell me more about Beauty Heroes and your Inspired Beauty Curation process.
Beauty Heroes is a healthy beauty discovery service and online beauty store. I had the idea for the discovery service when I was a spa director many years ago when I discovered how much time, care and creativity went into crafting healthy beauty products.
My inspiration came directly from the owners of indie beauty brands who would educate me and my team on their products, ingredients and processes that would result in something exquisite that we would use in and sell in our spa.
I began talking about my favorite Hero products and it was such a fun and effective way to connect my clients to what we were using on them. I would translate what inspired me to bring that specific product or product line into our spa by educating them. My idea then, which is now Beauty Heroes, was to introduce one brand and one Hero product at a time to my clients and connect them to each product and brand through education and an experience.
So each month we deliver one, full size Hero product, along with some surprises coupled with the brand story, inspired beauty rituals and detailed ingredient information. My process for selecting my Beauty Heroes stems from all of my experience working with products and brands in a spa setting paired with my intuition and genuine love for the product and company that makes it. It sounds funny, but a lot of love goes into making well-crafted beauty products, particularly indie beauty products.
When I started the company in 2014, the first thing I did was research and outline a clear beauty product ingredient standard. I wanted the service and the store to be more than clean; I wanted it to be healthy and good for you. That was what drew me to the spa industry in the first place. By setting this ingredient standard, my intention is for Beauty Heroes is to be the most trusted source for healthy beauty.
5.) How does the Indie Beauty Expo stand apart from other trade shows in terms of the green and clean philosophy?
I haven’t seen another show embrace the importance of healthy ingredients as openly as IBE has. It is courageous (dare I say heroic) to talk about specific ingredients in the beauty industry, because you risk alienating brands that haven’t caught up with the consumers desire for healthy beauty. The Indie Beauty Expo has defined a clean ingredient and green standard. Taking that step is a clear message that, when it comes to beauty, ingredients matter.