Over the last five years I’ve come a LONG way in my learnings and understanding of what “clean” truly means in terms of skincare and color cosmetics. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but one of the biggest areas of growth I’ve experienced personally has been becoming a more critical thinker who knows how to ask the right questions and find the right answers even if I don’t know the answer off the top of my head. I’ve also learned to sort out what is just marketing BS designed to make products appear safer without actually being safer.
Most of the time I’m busy talking about skincare because I tend not to wear lots of makeup and think healthy, glowing skin is the best base for any makeup you put on top of that skin. But makeup is a topic that’s important to talk about and dive deeper into because of the high level of contamination of traditional color cosmetics.
You’ve probably heard companies market their makeup as “natural.” Sounds good, clean and safe for you to be using natural makeup, right? Not so fast. As you become a critical thinker about the products that you put on your body, you’ll notice those greenwashing marketing claims when you see them.
When it comes to “natural” makeup, the biggest issue is heavy metals. Are companies adding heavy metals to their products intentionally? No. BUT heavy metals are common contaminants as they are found in the raw materials of naturally mined colors used in makeup. When those colors are mined? Well, it’s not all that uncommon for those heavy metals to come along for the ride and be found in the finished product of the makeup you put on your face.
Your BS-meter should be going off if you hear a company say their products are “heavy metal free” or “lead free” because that’s simply not possible since these are naturally occurring contaminants. What’s more important is the amount allowed and the screening process for those heavy metals and contaminants.
For me, as a busy wife and mom wearing many hats, it’s important for me to trust that the company producing the makeup I put on my face. Especially as my girls get older and like to play with my makeup + my baby loves to kiss my face, I want to know that the product I’m using are not doing more harm to our family than good.
It’s also important to remember that the FDA does not have the authority to recall cosmetics as it does food and drugs, so even if a product is found to contain harmful substances there is nothing that would require a retailer to remove said product from their shelves. This was evident very recently with the case of asbestos found in kid’s makeup at Claire’s.
It can all feel a little overwhelming if this is the first time you’ve started digging into this. I totally get it! I felt the same when I was new to my clean living journey. Instead of learning to read each individual label and learn about each ingredient, I started by finding a company whose process and screening I trusted. Spoiler alert: that company was Beautycounter. Is Beautycounter the ONLY company doing this well? Of course not. But I think Beautycounter’s screening process is one of the best around.
Let’s dive in…
To get a full rundown of Beautycounter’s stance on color cosmetics and heavy metals screening you can do so HERE. What I respect and value most about their screening process is both their strict standards for the allowable amounts of heavy metals in their color cosmetics as well as their rigorous screening process before products are allowed to go to market.
From Beautycounter directly:
We test the ingredients used in our color cosmetics and finished cosmetic products obsessively—multiple times—before they go to market. We only use validated test methods and the most advanced laboratory equipment available (Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometer, ICP-MS). This allows us to test for heavy metals at concentrations ten times lower than what is standard practice in the beauty industry (1 part per billion vs 10 parts per million).
To break this down a step further, we check for heavy metals in products at the lowest concentrations scientifically possible through at least a 1ppb detection limit, whereas some equipment has detection limits of 10 ppm. Under this scenario, anything less than 10 ppm would appear as “passing” (or, in scientific lingo, “non-detect”). It is common to use less precise testing, if testing is performed at all. This is why it’s critically important to understand how brands are testing for heavy metals, since catchy headlines don’t tell the full story.
I’ll be back with a follow-up post about the makeup I’ve been using + loving lately – rich in pigment and with stellar performance without the questionable ingredients. But I hope this gives a little insight into WHY I think it’s so important to make educated choices as it relates to the makeup we use.