No. 1: Paraben-Free
Sure, you've seen a few products claiming that they're paraben-free. In the simplest terms, parabens are preservatives that go by a variety of names—including polyethylene, polyethylene glycol, polyoxyethylene, and oxynol. One especially nasty chemical in parabens is 1,4-dioxane, boasting long-term effects that include kidney and liver failure. The exact level of 1,4-dioxane you would need to come in contact with to trigger a bad reaction isn't set yet, but it's definitely a safe move that companies have begun to leave these preservatives out of shampoos, face washes, and more.
No. 2: Sulfate-Free
Sulfates are types of salt that contain that fragrant element, sulfur. Magnesium sulfate is the stuff that causes your shampoo to foam and acts as a detergent. Although there isn't a lot of scientific backing for sulfates' dangers to humans, the FDA reports that sulfates have a cancerous effect on animals. People often do avoid sulfates, however, as the harsh cleansing agent strips hair of natural oils.
No. 3: Phthalate-Free
You wouldn't want to use your multipurpose bathroom cleaner on your face, right? Well, then, steer clear of products that contain phthalates, which are used to create plastics and are also found in cleaning products, paint, and glue. In cosmetics, they have historically been used as stiffening agents for nail polish and hairspray.
No. 4: The Leaping Bunny
In the past, animal testing was rampant, and the data gathered from those tests is often still used to manufacture products today. Leaping Bunny is an organization that helps businesses become cruelty-free through a series of tests and audits. Other organizations that work with Leaping Bunny include Beauty Without Cruelty, Humane Society of the United States, and the European Coalition to End Animal Experiments. However, while PETA has a similar bunny symbol that it puts on products, the organization doesn't require such thorough tests, relying more on an honor system between them and beauty brands.
No. 5: Natural
Sorry, "natural" isn't a real thing in cosmetics. Similarly, food companies use "natural" to distract from the fact that their products aren't quite organic. Since the FDA doesn't have a standardized definition about what's considered natural, the term doesn't add any value to the beauty aisle.
No. 6: "Not Tested on Animals"
Even if a product's packaging says this, it still might have been. According to the FDA, there are no legal ramifications for beauty companies using this phrase, even if their products were tested on animals. It could also mean that only the final product wasn't tested on animals, but that earlier prototypes were.
No. 7: Organic
In the cosmetics industry, if a product is labeled organic it means it's met the requirements for both the FDA and United States Department of Agriculture regulations on how ingredients should be sourced. However, there's one caveat: the idea that organic means "better for you" isn't true and it's best to double check the ingredients to make sure a product won't irritate your skin or cause health issues.
No. 8: B Corporation
Recently, more brands are investing in a B Corporation certification that shows their companies meet comprehensive and transparent business and environmental standards. This is a great way for customers to know about the ethical practices their favorite beauty brands use.