Clean Beauty—and Why It’s Important
The personal care industry is effectively unregulated—the last piece of regulation (a single page at that), was passed in 1938—which means that companies are essentially free to do whatever they want, with no government oversight, packing products that we use every day (mascara, face wash, shampoo, et al.) with toxic ingredients, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Because it’s a free-for-all, companies can use whatever adjectives they’d like when it comes to marketing and “greenwashing” their products—natural, green, eco literally have no enforceable definition. In other words, what is touted on the front in no way needs to match what lives on the ingredient label on the back.
At goop, we are creating a new standard of beauty, one that we simply call “clean,” which you’ll see in action in our own beauty lines (goop by Juice Beauty Skincare, goop Fragrance), the goop Clean Beauty Shop, and in our editorial stories. Clean, for us, is quite intense: It means a non-toxic product that is made without a long, ever-evolving list of ingredients linked to harmful health effects from hormone disruption, to cancer, to plain-old skin irritation. To name just a few: parabens, phthalates, PEGs, ethanolamines, chemical sunscreens, synthetic fragrance, BHT, BHA. We look at studies and decide what ingredients we can live with, and those we can’t. It can be a murky science, but we go with the clear offenders: Do you want antifreeze (propylene glycol) in your moisturizer? We’re going to guess no.
Do we love luxurious, incredible-smelling, super-effective, beautifully pigmented beauty products? We do—and we make them, sell them, and write about them. The real goal? That more people vote with their dollars so that someday, we won’t have to wonder what’s in this perfume or that face cream, because all of it will be clean and safe (more on that below).
goop Clean Beauty
While what we put on our skin is absolutely important, we also know that beauty starts from within. Red lipstick might be the finishing touch, but how we look (and feel) largely depends on our diet and health, what we put in our bodies, and how we interact with the world. The ways we navigate stress, environmental factors, rest, and repair all affect our glow. This foundational approach to beauty underlies our first book, GOOP CLEAN BEAUTY, which begins with these more internal matters, works up to best skin and hair routines, and ends with the fun stuff.Order here
Available online and in store—basically wherever books are sold.
Learn more about clean beauty
These stories give a good overview about what’s going on in the industry—and what’s at stake.
The Dirty on Getting Clean
Seeing as the United States is a country that knows how to regulate everything, we were pretty shocked—actually, floored—to learn that the federal government has not…
Clean, Non-Toxic Beauty
Those of you who have read goop for a long time know that we try to do well by our bodies, our kids, and the environment as much as possible—but we…
The 8 Known Carcinogens that Lurk in Most of Our Homes
Limited daily exposure to toxins is tough in a pretty toxic world, but it’s a reasonable expectation that we all want…
What it Takes to Create Non-Toxic Makeup
From lead, to petroleum, to endocrine-disrupting plastics, the chemicals conventional makeup exposes us to seem…
Our clean beauty products
Much of the allure of any great perfume lies in its mystery, and there’s no doubt that goop’s first, edition 01 — winter, is deeply mysterious. At the same time, though, it’s transparent in a fundamental and unique way—one that goes against all convention in the fragrance industry: Every one of its precious, evocative ingredients is right there on the label.
What’s more, points out GP, who collaborated with perfumer Douglas Little to create the scent, those ingredients go beyond non-toxic to deliver benefits to the wearer. Learn more here.Shop the collection
The three most important things to know
Why “fragrance” isn’t an ingredient:
The FDA has little power over the personal care industry—a point that is perhaps most glaring (and maddening) when it comes to ingredient labels: Cosmetic companies are not required to disclose ingredients that are considered trade secrets, namely fragrance. This loophole means that any skincare, makeup, or bath product can contain multiple toxic ingredients with no mention of them so long as they are considered part of the fragrance formula (which doesn’t just include scent, but also color, and experiential elements like how the fragrance sticks to your skin). Despite the unforgivable lack of transparency, what has become evident is that trade-secret label terms—fragrance, perfume, parfum, flavor—are often Trojan horses for thousands of toxic ingredients that are commonly used by conventional brands, making them the biggest red flag to look for when shopping.
The reason endocrine disruptors are so scary:
Chemicals that have the ability to mimic the body’s hormones are classified as endocrine disruptors. They include the ingredient class parabens (a routinely used preservative; look for words ending in paraben on labels, like butylparaben), and chemical sunscreens (which are often in moisturizers and creams, too, or fall under the guise of fragrance). As the name suggests, endocrine disruptors mess with the endocrine system, which regulates our body’s essential rhythms (like our metabolism, mood, and reproductive processes). The reason that endocrine disruptors are particularly dangerous is counterintuitive at first: They come in very tiny doses. It’s their micro-ness, though, that allows them to impersonate our own hormones (also very tiny), altering the production levels of our hormones and the way they behave. Endocrine disruptors have been linked to severe, long-term health damage, including reproductive issues, birth defects, metabolic problems, and cancer. (Parents take note: Endocrine disruptors are even more of a concern for littles with developing systems.)
The presence of carcinogens in beauty products:
It’s mind boggling but true: Today, ingredients that are known carcinogens—meaning they can cause cancer—and many more that are considered possibly carcinogenic, are frequently put into personal care products, and it’s completely legal to do so. A main carcinogen to be aware of is formaldehyde, which is used as a preservative in makeup, hair, body, and skincare products. To make matters worse, formadelhyde is never listed on labels; what is listed is the chemicals in formulas that release formaldehyde (when added to water, they slowly decompose, forming molecules of formaldehyde). Here’s what to look for: 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3 diol (Bronopol), diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, imidazolidinyl urea, sodium hydroxymethylglycinate, quaternium-15.
We take you through important considerations—chemical vs. mineral sunblock, the concern around aluminum in deodorant, etc.—and winnow it down to our very favorite products.
Where We’re At With Clean Beauty Legislation
As mentioned above, the only piece of legislation regulating the personal care industry, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FFCDA) was signed into law by FDR back in 1938 and hasn’t been updated since. The result: a severely restricted FDA that cannot require companies to disclose the amount of each ingredient they’re using in a product, puts virtually no funding towards uncovering potentially dangerous ingredients, and (shockingly) does not allow the FDA to recall products that have been proven to harm consumers.
During the last session of congress, the first amendment to update the FFDCA since 1938, the Personal Care Products Safety Act, was brought to the floor of the Senate. The act was co-sponsored by two senators: Democrat Dianne Feinstein (California) and Republican Susan Collins (Maine), and had widespread industry support from big industry players like Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble, Revlon, L’Oréal, Estée Lauder, and Unilever. Under this amendment, cosmetic companies would be required to register their facilities with the FDA and submit ingredient lists disclosing the amount of each ingredient to the FDA. In addition, salon brands and online brands, which currently don’t have to disclose any ingredients, would be required to do so as well. The FDA would have the critical authority to recall unsafe products (it’s currently voluntary), and be required to review five potentially dangerous ingredients each year. While many clean beauty advocates are pushing for an even stronger bill, there’s no denying that this progress is much better than the decades of stagnation we’ve seen on the subject.
Unfortunately, the Personal Care Products Safety Act never made it out of committee during the last congress. As a bipartisan bill with broad industry support, though, it’s widely expected to be reintroduced. The timing is still uncertain, so stay tuned for updates once the lawmakers are back in Washington, as we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure that this congress is the one to pass it once and for all.
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