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Style Magazine

The Dirt on Clean Beauty

“What we put on our [skin] goes into our blood system just like what we eat,” says esthetician Gaelle Kennedy, founder of Gaelle Organic ( A former model, Kennedy says wearing heavy makeup wreaked havoc on her skin. An assignment at the Dead Sea 50 years ago opened her eyes to the healing power of nature—and ignited a passion for natural, organic skin care.

Many cosmetics and skin care products contain potentially harmful chemicals, such as parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances. These chemicals are known “endocrine disruptors,” meaning they interfere with the body’s endocrine system, which regulates hormones that control metabolism, mood, blood sugar levels, and growth and development, among other functions. Other ingredients, such as formaldehyde and talc, have been linked to cancer.

“In the U.S., we don’t regulate skin care,” says esthetician Amanda Reinhard, owner of Pure Holistic Skincare ( “Most products contain harmful chemicals that, when applied to the skin, leach into the body and, with long-term usage, can cause ill effects on your health.”


The clean beauty movement aims to offer healthy alternatives. While there’s no standard definition of “clean,” experts agree it refers to products that are non-toxic for both people and the planet, ethically sourced, and not tested on animals.

“’Clean’ is an umbrella term used for products that do not include highly toxic ingredients, but it can be used loosely and lead to confusion,” explains esthetician Haley Judge, owner of Rosewater Holistic Skincare Studio. “’Natural’ typically refers to products derived from nature versus a lab but doesn’t guarantee the ingredients are grown without the use of chemicals. ‘Organic’ is the only very specific term used within the beauty industry. Organic products are only made with natural ingredients that are grown without the use of chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified organisms.”

Judge struggled with severe eczema and acne after the birth of her first daughter. Unable to find solutions in traditional esthetics, she opened her own studio and created a line of products called Rosarium Organic Skincare (

She is among a growing number of small-business owners stepping up to meet the growing demand for safer products.

For Placerville mom Megan Taber, what began as a hobby and effort to clean up the environment around her home evolved into a business. Her company, Among the Flowers (, creates natural, non-toxic body and home care products.

And Reinhard makes her products with herbs harvested from her organic garden. “From the earth to the bottle,” she says.


When it comes to skin care products, “The most important thing is to check the ingredient list,” explains esthetician Julie Ann Hill, owner of organic spa Brilliant Body & Skin ( “Just because something says it’s ‘clean’ doesn’t mean it’s devoid of potentially harmful ingredients. Buy from reputable sources and do your homework.”


Consumers need to look beyond labels and research the ingredients and the company’s practices, Taber agrees. “A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not good to use on your body or consume.” The ingredient list should “read like a recipe, not a science project,” adds Judge.


Ready to clean up your beauty routine? Kennedy suggests giving your skin a break from products containing alcohol, perfumes, and synthetic ingredients. Then, use high-quality organic products.

Aim for progress, not perfection, encourages Taber. “Start with one product! Even if it’s just switching to lye soap instead of a detergent-based face/hand wash. Simple switches make a big impact.”

A clean routine doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated, says Judge. An organic jojoba oil can be used as a facial cleanser, moisturizer, body oil, and hair oil, while an organic hydrosol (floral water) can be used to tone and hydrate, she explains. “Use a warm washcloth to gently clean and exfoliate the skin. Just two ingredients and a washcloth, and your skin will be glowing in about four to six weeks.”

To educate yourself about potentially harmful ingredients, Hill recommends an app called Yuka. Simply scan a product’s bar code and the app rates it on a scale of 0-100, providing details about each ingredient.


Many clean beauty advocates argue that better regulation is needed to protect consumers and the environment. Beautycounter, one of the early companies in the clean beauty space, created a Never List: 2,800 harmful or questionable ingredients it never uses in its products, including nearly 1,700 already banned or restricted in Europe. Founder Gregg Renfrew has testified before Congress for better regulation in the U.S.

California is taking the lead in making products safer with two new laws. The first, set to take effect on January 1, 2025, bans 24 potentially harmful ingredients, including mercury and formaldehyde. The second, which will take effect in 2027, bans an additional 26 ingredients.

“There is more transparency now than ever,” says Hill. “We are aware of the extent to which chemicals have been used unnecessarily in food, skin care, and cosmetics. “Know better, do better,” she says.

by Jennifer Maragoni
Photo ©Liubov Levytska - Photo ©Anna_ok -