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Roes Cosmetics

Beginner's Guide to Clean Beauty

Written by Shina Chopra, in collaboration with Roes Cosmetics

“Clean beauty” is a term frequently thrown around these days. Some say it’s fear-mongering, and others say it supports calls for a more controlled and safer cosmetic and personal care industry. Regardless of which side you lean more towards, here at Nona + Roes we believe that you should know the main points of contention surrounding “clean beauty” and why we believe it matters greatly. 

Firstly, what is “clean beauty”? 

The term itself isn’t defined or regulated, but a widely accepted definition is that clean beauty products are those that are made without ingredients that are shown to or suspected to cause harm to human health. 

Who decides what counts as “clean beauty”?

Each platform, brand and customer has their own agency in deciding what constitutes as “clean beauty,” but ultimately, it should be in the hands of the government and regulatory offices to dictate what is safe to use in our cosmetic and personal care. BPOM, in Indonesia, is the national agency which regulates which ingredients are deemed “safe” and which aren't. Despite new and evolving research on specific ingredients such as Parabens, Phthalates and Paraffins, these ingredients are not banned by BPOM, or even other larger federations such as the FDA, in America. 

Why is “clean beauty” important? 

Who we are (physically) is made up of first and foremost our DNA, but also largely what we consume through food, and even what we consume topically through our cosmetics and personal care products. The average woman uses 12 personal care products daily, which can amount to more than 128 chemicals (Why Clean Beauty is More Important than You might Think | Well Daily). And that’s just considering the products we consciously use on our skin, and not including the chemicals we may come into contact with while cleaning, disinfecting and going about our daily routines! 

Although single beauty products may each only have small amounts of harmful chemicals, our overall exposure and the combination of different chemicals is what may cause issues in the long-term. More research is showing that the chemicals in the products we regularly use can have an effect on our hormones, our fertility, and overall skin health. Here at Nona and Roes, we feel that this is an issue that our consumers, and consumers in general, need to be aware of in order to make the most informed choices about what we put on our skin. 

Clean Beauty skeptics say that clean beauty is just fear-mongering, or just another marketing tactic. They claim, the dose makes the poison, and that absolutely is the case. Even too much water in our system can be dangerous. However we believe that prolonged exposure to certain specific chemicals at combined larger doses can lead to unwanted side effects. If every single product you use has dangerous chemicals in it, and you’re using it daily with each product, you’re increasing your dose and exposure, causing the potential side effects to be greater. 

This is why we’ve made an active choice to include safe and clean ingredients in our products to ensure the health and safety of our customers using our products, but also to minimise your overall exposure to potentially harmful ingredients, and therefore helping to eliminate the unwanted side effects.  

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty, what do we think are some of the top ingredients that we DON’T use and that you should avoid!

  • Phthalates
    1. What are they?
      Makes the product more durable and used as a solvent.

    2. Often disguised as;
      Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), Di(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate (DEHP), Diethyl phthalate (DEP). 

    3. Why you shouldn’t use it:
      Phthalates have been linked to endocrine disruption, (messes with your hormones), reproductive toxicity and can be carcinogenic in both humans and animals.

    4. Commonly found in:
      Synthetic fragrances in perfumes, nail polishes, menstrual pads, tampons and cosmetics. 
  • Parabens 
    1. What are they?
      Preservative to keep formulas fresh by stopping the growth of bad bacteria and mold. 

    2. Often disguised as; 
      Benzylparaben, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Methylparaben, Propylparaben and their sodium salts derivatives.

    3. Why you shouldn’t use it:
      Parabens have estrogenic properties which can cause hormone dysfunction and can lead to hormone-related cancers, create harm and imbalances in reproductive organs, and disrupt thyroid systems

    4. Commonly found in:
      Makeup, moisturizers, hair-care products, and shaving creams
  • Paraffin 
    1. What are they?
      Can be used for a multitude of things such as preservatives, gelling agents, solvents and stabilizers.

    2. Often disguised as;
      Mineral Oil, Polybutene, Petrolatum and Paraffin.

    3. Why you shouldn’t use it:
      They are essentially liquified plastic that carries high carcinogenic impurities and are highly persistent in the environment (aka they don’t really degrade). They are also known as organ disruptors and comedogenic (acne-causing).

    4. Commonly found in: 
      Candles, wax paper, nail and furniture polishes and cosmetics. 

Notable mentions are Formaldehydes (Cancer causing), Triclosan (affects hormones and menstrual cycle), Triclocarban (causes organ toxicity) and Animal byproducts (can cause adverse skin reactions). 

Overwhelmed and confused? We’ve got you. Navigating what is and isn’t clean beauty can feel daunting and scary, but there have been some amazing advances to help us navigate our choices into making the best, more informed decisions for our health and our bodies! 

Because products are made up of several ingredients and all of them vary in dosage, potency and quantity, it’s easier to think of Clean Beauty as less black/white and more on a scale. Some products may be more or less clean than others, and that's where it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s for you! 

To help us make the most informed choices, we love using amazing, widely available tools such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics database that allows you to browse and search up your favourite cosmetic and personal care products before buying! We also love the THINK DIRTY application available on both iOS and Android phones! 

Read more on Nona’s Organic Menstrual Pads


There is a lot of research out there on toxic ingredients and the standards of clean beauty that can all be very confusing and overwhelming so  we've selected a few studies and articles that were pivotal in our research for you to check out! 

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