In 2015, I became the first audience development director at goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s luxury lifestyle empire. I was an unlikely hire, not because I was lacking any particular skill set, but because I’m not a traditional goop girl. I’ve never been to a Tracy Anderson class, I’m dubious about vaginal steaming, and the word “detox” gives me hives. Despite this, my tenure at goop turned me into a clean beauty guru thanks to their thought leadership on non-toxic personal care products.
What many people don’t realize is that the U.S. beauty industry has not been formally regulated since 1938. This means that brands can, and do, put parabens, carcinogens, endocrine disruptors and other toxins in their products. Even worse, they can use whatever marketing jargon they please —“natural,” “green,” and “eco”—even though, in general, these terms mean nothing. To put this in context, the E.U. has banned over 1,300 ingredients in cosmetics; the U.S. has banned only 30 (though the “Personal Care Products Safety Act” bill proposed in Congress this month will hopefully change that).
So that mascara you’re coating your lashes with? It’s probably full of formaldehyde and coal tar dyes (which are linked to allergic reactions, asthma attacks, headaches, nausea, and diminished brain function). And that red lipstick you swear by? There’s likely lead in it. And that shampoo you’ve used for decades? It contains sodium lauryl sulfate, a cancer-causing insecticide.
Luckily, switching to non-toxic beauty products doesn’t require any sacrifice in quality or efficacy, and it’s possible to do within a budget. Since 2015, I’ve tried nearly every prominent “clean” brand on the market and winnowed it down to this list of favorites. Added bonus: They’re all female-founded.