Have you ever been stuck in Target's beauty department trying to figure out what is really non-toxic and what isn't? There are a lot of words that commercial brands use to make you think that their products are natural in someway. This is what we like to call greenwashing my friends. 

And man they are good at this! their wording plays tricks on your head and you end up buying a product you thought was as natural as can be and, oh to your surprise, it is full of chemicals. It has happened to me many times before I learned to read labels and ingredient lists. Now, I'm not going to say that I'm an expert, but at least I know how to recognize a good ingredient from a bad one.


Marketing strategy used by brands to make innocent buyers think their crap is environmentally friendly. So, let me clarify some terms for you that you might come across when reading a product label that might be confusing you. Brands that use words like green, bio, naturally derived, plant-based, clean, eco on the labels of their products are usually, not always, trying to trick you. That is why it is so hard to tell. 

One thing you can start doing is reading ingredient lists, that way you can get a better idea of how good or bad the product really is. To start with, here are some of the ingredients that I avoid at all costs, and it might be a good guide for you to get started:
- Fragrance or Parfum
- Any ingredient that ends in -paraben (example Propylbaraben, Methylparaben, etc.)
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate
- Mineral Oil
- Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane (what?!?)
- Phenoxyethanol
-Palm Oil
-Coloring Agents
-Anything that is impossible to pronounce

Aside from the ones in this list, there are many other ingredients that are harmful and could cause illnesses, endocrine disruptions, etc. I could explain why each of these is bad but the post would be too long and you would probably fall asleep. Basically, they won't be doing you any good.

Now that we are past the check-the-ingredient-list portion of the programming, we can look at the terms and symbols you might see on the labels as well of promising products.


This means that they don't do any testing of their products on lil bunnies, monkeys or puppies etc. This is the most important term I look for in a label, and I never compromise on it. There is no need to have animals in a lab to test products for the sake of beauty.  

- Some brands can be cruelty-free but their mother company isn't, such as Herbal Essences, that claims to be cruelty free, but it is owned by Clairol, which is NOT. One that surprises a lot of people is Origins, which is owned by Estée Lauder. I avoid these companies.
- Companies that sell their products in China are required to have animal testing. 
- PETA has a good list of a lot of brands that are cruelty free. You can check it out here.
- These are some of the symbols that you can see on a cruelty free product.


Means that none of the ingredients come from animals or animal byproducts. That means no beeswax, dairy derived ingredients, etc. 
-  Not because a product is vegan means it is good for you, it can still be a chemical cocktail.
- A product can be vegan but still be tested on animals. 
- Vicky from the Ethical Elephant has a great article on her website about the differences between cruelty free and vegan. You can check it out here. It explains in great detail the two terms and has great visuals.   
- These are the symbols to look out for vegan products

Photo © Urban Oreganics Insta 


A beauty product is organic when the ingredients used are organically farmed ingredients without using fertilizers, pesticides, GMOs.

- A product can be made with organic ingredients but not entirely organic. Shea Moisture has a lot of products made with organic ingredients but are not 100% organic.
-A lot of the times I buy products that are not certified organic
- These is the symbol to look out for organic products. There are other third party certifications but I couldn't find logos or legit info to include them here.


This term would usually mean that the ingredients used to make a certain product are not man made and they come from nature. You can confirm this by reading the ingredient list.


It means the product doesn't contain any form of paraben or sulfate, which may cause all kinds of illnesses. 

-Again, a paraben and sulfate free product can still contain other harmful ingredients.


I mean I guess this is obvious but still. It means it contains no wheat or other grains derived ingredients. 

-  Not because it is gluten free it means it is totally safe. A gluten free product might not cause a reaction on people with celiac disease or allergy to wheat, but it can still contain other toxic or carcinogenic ingredients.  
- If you are not allergic to gluten I don't see why you should look for gluten free products, if not merely for a lifestyle choice. I couldn't find information from good sources to be honest. 


Personally, I consider a product to be safe when it is all of the above (except maybe for gluten-free, since I am not allergic to gluten), but of course I always check the ingredient list and double check on their website for more information if I'm ever in doubt. That is one way I make sure a product is good for both me and the environment. 

I have stopped buying products from famous name brands and have started buying only from brands that I consider are safe and as natural as possible, which means, there are only limited aisles on Target, Ulta, Sephora that I get to pick from, that is why now most of my purchases are made on small spas and boutique shops that stock independent brands, and, of course, online.

And even though it is was hard at the beginning, I now feel very confident when it comes to buying new products, specially when they are recommended by my favorite influencers (I hate that term btw, maybe I can call them my gurus?)

I hope this was helpful for everyone out there and so that next time you are in need of a new product, you can feel confident too!

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