The green beauty industry has exploded in the past few years. More and more companies are offering products that aren’t only good for your face, but that positively impact the planet as well.
Skincare is something that’s so important to all of us, and creating a sustainable skincare routine is at the top of most of our wishlists. Well, you’re in luck: In the latest episode of Good Together, Brightly co-founder Liza Moiseeva is joined by Lorraine Dallmeier, a biologist, chartered environmentalist, and the CEO of Formula Botanica—the leading online teaching institution for organic formulation. And, she knows a thing or two about this topic.
Read on to get the scoop on what different terminology in the space really means, learn how to develop your own green skincare routine, and more.
Organic vs Natural
Take a look at the ingredient list on the back of a bottle of moisturizer, and you’re probably left deciphering what organic, natural, clean, and eco-friendly even mean. Are they different? Dallmeier has the answer.
“Organic is something that can be certified. There’s no ambiguity about what an organic ingredient is,” she says. “You’ve got certification bodies around the world that all seem to agree pretty much on organic standards.”
Dallmeier has a really interesting breakdown for the term “natural.” She says there are actually three different shades of natural, “because as with everything, it isn’t black and white.” That’s purely natural, naturally derived, and nature identical.
1. Purely Natural
Purely natural refers to products that haven’t undergone any chemical processing—only physical processing.
“Think of a plant that you can effectively pluck from a tree,” she says. “A good example is cold-pressed oils. You might be expressing an oil directly from a fruit or a nut, and that hasn’t undergone any chemical processing—just physical processing.”
2. Naturally Derived
When something is naturally derived, it has undergone a minimal amount of chemical processing, but it was originally derived from a plant.
“You see this a lot with functional ingredients. So when you’re making a lotion, that’s what we call an emotion. That’s where you blend oil and water together and you use an ingredient called an emulsifier to do that,” Dallmeier says. “A lot of those emulsifiers have to be derived from nature if you want them to be natural, but then they have to undergo an element of chemical processing. We call that naturally derived.”
3. Nature Identical
Nature identical is when the ingredient is chemically identical to one that’s found in nature, but it has to be synthesized in a lab.
“A really good example is citric acid, which is used in cosmetics. But it’s also used in foods and drinks; it’s very well-known ingredient. That can be derived from lemons, derived through bacterial fermentation, and synthetically made in a lab,” she says. “Given the hundreds of millions of tons we use of citric acid around the world each year, perhaps it’s more sustainable that it’s actually derived in a lab than that it comes from a lemon.”
Understanding Green Beauty
So what exactly does green beauty mean to Dallmeier? “It’s more about bringing the sustainability and the environmental aspects into it,” she says. “Being a chartered environmentalist, that’s incredibly important to me. That’s where I think we take natural one step further and we determine what is actually the right thing for the planet and for society.”
With all the terminology and different types of chemicals floating around in the beauty universe, it can be incredibly intimidating to know where to start. But don’t worry—
How to Build a Green Beauty Routine
1. Take Inventory of What You Already Have
Take a look at your bathroom and assess how many products you have. “The average woman apparently has 16 beauty products on her bathroom shelf, which is obviously why we now have the phenomenon of the shelfie,” says Dallmeier.
Ask yourself what you really want for your skin. “Make a short list for yourself about what you really want,” she adds. “Then start to look at what you could buy in terms of multi-functional products—especially if you want to go green and be more sustainable.”
2. Figure Out What Your Skin Likes… and Doesn’t Like
We’ve all used a skincare product (or a few!) that wound up giving us a giant zit or made our skin really irritated. Dallmeier encourages people to take the less-is-more approach, starting small and testing your limits.
“You have to know the dermal limits of your essential oils,” she says. “I see some absolutely shocking advice on the internet—particularly on social media platforms and in groups, where people are going ‘Oh yeah, just put this on your skin,’ and you can’t do that.”
She also warns that not every natural ingredient is always going to work for everyone. “Everyone’s skin type is different, and every ingredient is different,” she says. “I know people who can’t handle rose on their skin. I know people who can’t handle aloe vera on their skin. And that’s totally fine, because they can then avoid that.”
3. Find Brands That Speak to You
Finding green beauty brands you love to shop with is another critical part of developing your own skincare routine.
“There are so many fantastic brands—founder-led brands started by women, just like everyone listening—who have a mission,” Dallmeier says. “I would encourage you to try and find a brand that really speaks to you. If sustainability is the big thing for you, go and find one that’s all about sustainability that wants to go carbon neutral.”
Start with what’s important to you, then go from there. You’ll eventually have a handful of great products you love from brands that have the same values you do.
4. Embrace Skinimalism
Good news: You don’t need a ton of products in your routine to have healthy, happy skin. For instance, Dallmeier shared the most essential products from her own community of skincare enthusiasts, and there were clear winners: cleanser, moisture, serum, and sunscreen.
As you’re nailing down your top green beauty products, take some suggestions from Dallmeier: “I’d say I’m a big big fan of oils, carrier botanical oils, or plant-based oils,” she says. “I think those are ones people should have in their skincare routine somewhere.”
All in all, just remember that our skin is constantly changing. What might work today may not tomorrow. And what we put on our skin—and how that affects our planet—will leave a lasting impression.
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