Clean Beauty 101 – Good and Bad Ingredients & Helpful Shopping Tips

Last Fall, I had the opportunity to do some freelance work for a few natural and clean beauty companies. I was very excited to work with them because I would be able to put my knowledge of beauty to good use. What I didn’t know was how much more I would learn in the process!

The work I did exposed me to the harsh (and dirty) realities of the beauty industry. I learned all about the nasty ingredients my favorite brands used, their tactics for selling more products and making them last longer on store shelves. And ultimately, I learned about the negative long-term effects all of this has on the body.

I realized how important this was for me to know more about, especially being the beauty lover that I am. But more importantly, I had to know more about it for the sake of my own well-being!

Clean Beauty 101 - Good and Bad Ingredients & Helpful Shopping Tips

Since then, I have made quite a transition into the use of clean beauty products. It hasn’t been a 100% transition, and I don’t think it ever will be, but my collection of skin care and hair care definitely looks different than it did 6 months ago. I have learned a lot in that time and I want to share some of what I know with you about clean beauty products and the transition you can make for yourself!

In this article, you’ll get the lowdown on ingredients and smart shopping tips but if you want even more, you can download the *free* Know Your Beauty e-book where I dive deeper into the topics I talk about here! Just scroll to the bottom of this post to download. 


Ingredients To Avoid

The only way you’ll transition to clean beauty is if you are totally grossed out first! Learning about these ingredients will definitely make you take a second look at the products you use. And yes, all of these facts are true and yes, beauty companies are currently putting these ingredients in their products knowingly. Sad, but true.


These are preservatives beauty companies use so they can keep items on shelves longer and prevent gross things, like mold growth. Don’t get too convinced; their known to be “estrogenic”, which means they can disrupt reproductive hormones. Ew.


This is an anti-bacterial agent used in soaps, shampoos, toothpaste, and many other products that cause a higher sensitivity to allergens, along with hormonal, reproductive, and endocrine issues.


The smell of that strawberry mango lotion you love probably wasn’t made with real strawberries and mangoes – sorry. The scent was fabricated in a lab somewhere and then added into your lotion. The chemicals used to create it? Trade secret laws prevent us from knowing. Yikes.


These “plasticizers” were banned in children’s toys but are still appearing in our beauty products. They make nail polish more chip-resistant and help our creams and moisturizers better penetrate the skin. Pthalates can disrupt the endocrine system, cause reproductive issues, low sperm count, and have been connected to asthma and allergies.


Ever wonder how dead bodies don’t look so dead at a wake? You can thank formaldehyde for that. You can also thank it for keeping beauty products from going bad. Formaldehyde itself is prohibited from being used, but companies get around this by using chemicals that release formaldehyde over time. Those darn companies!

Mineral oil

This is a cheap, popular ingredient you can find in everything from lotions, baby oil, and cosmetics. Mineral oil does not metabolize in the body, which means once it’s there, it doesn’t leave! On top of that, it is occlusive, which means when you apply it on the skin, it seals it off. Therefore, you are blocking your skin from breathing, which can lead to trapped dirt and oils and acne.

Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA)

Not to be confused with beta-hydroxy acids, this BHA is yet another chemical preservative. Studies have shown this chemical to be a carcinogen and to cause gastrointestinal problems. In low doses, this isn’t as bad but since it’s found in lipsticks, which is often accidentally ingested when worn, it becomes more of an issue.


Ingredients To Love

Now that I’ve scared you a bit, I’ll let you in on some of the good stuff! There are plenty of beneficial ingredients out there but these are some of the popular ones. It’s good to know what they are, how they work, and what other names they may go by. When you know better, you do better!


  • a.k.a. vitamin b7
  • Good for hair and nail growth and strength

Hyaluronic acid

  • a.k.a. hyaluronan
  • Good for anti-aging, skin brightness and hydration


  • a.k.a. glycerol, glycerine, glycyl alcohol
  • Good for skin moisturization


  • a.k.a. ceramide 1, ceramide 3, ceramide 6-II, phytosphingosine, sphingosine
  • Good for skin moisturization

Amino acids

  • a.k.a. asparagine, aspartic acid, glutamine, glycine, lysine, proline
  • Good for anti-aging, skin elasticity, and collagen creation

Salicylic acid

  • a.k.a. 2-Hydroxybenzoic Acid
  • Good for acne, psoriasis, and corn/callus/wart removal

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

  • a.k.a. glycolic acid, lactic acid, citric acid
  • Good for exfoliation, reducing skin damage, and brightening skin


Clean Beauty Shopping Tips

Unless it’s something you really want to do, making a complete transition to clean beauty isn’t totally necessary. What is more important is being an informed consumer, able to make educated decisions on what you want to spend your money on and expose your body to.

  • If you’re not sure what dirty products to swap out first, start with your body lotions and body washes. These are the products you use the most of, all over your body, and every day. If any products are going to affect you long-term, it’s going to be those.
  • When reading an ingredient label, if you can’t pronounce most of the ingredients, chances are high it’s a dirty product.
  • Don’t pay attention to the big bold lettering on the front of a product. Companies are allowed to state their products contains fancy ingredients (“roses!”, “24K gold!”, “exotic clay from some foreign land!”, etc.) even though it may only make up less than 1% of the product.
  • There is also little regulation on the ability for a company to state that a product is “clinically tested” or “dermatologist approved”. Don’t let that fool you either.
  • Retailers are definitely cracking down on the brands they sell. You can find some great natural and clean beauty products in Target and CVS. I personally love going to TJ Maxx or Marshalls because they carry lesser known brands at great prices.

To learn more about clean beauty, download the *free* Know Your Beauty e-book! It includes:

  • A guide to understanding beauty packaging symbols
  • Known aliases of dirty ingredients
  • Extended lists of ingredients to avoid and ingredients to love
  • More smart shopping tips!

Clean Beauty 101 - Good and Bad Ingredients & Helpful Shopping Tips

Pin this post!

Clean Beauty 101 - Good and Bad Ingredients & Helpful Shopping Tips

Are you a clean beauty lover? What prompted you to make the transition? Let me know in the comments!

Join the Glamorously You Community!
Receive the bi-weekly newsletter filled with beauty picks, pinnable content, and loads of inspiration & get exclusive access to the GY Freebie Library!
Previous Post Next Post

You may also like...


  • Reply Jeanne

    I know we put too many bad chemicals in and on our bodies. I definitely check out ingredients on everything these days. Great article!

    April 18, 2018 at 10:35 am
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      Thank you so much! It’s very important to be aware 🙂

      April 18, 2018 at 11:35 am
  • Reply Rebecca Strength and Sunshine

    Great things to keep in mind!

    April 18, 2018 at 10:43 am
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      Absolutely! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      April 18, 2018 at 11:36 am
  • Reply Mimi

    These are great things to know, didn’t realised how dangerous some ingredients are

    April 18, 2018 at 11:55 am
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      Crazy, right?!

      April 19, 2018 at 9:33 am
  • Reply Paula

    These are super helpful infos, definitely keeping them in mind next time I shop

    April 18, 2018 at 11:56 am
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      Sounds great! I’m glad I was able to help 🙂

      April 19, 2018 at 9:34 am
  • Reply Hillary

    Great article! It’s so sad all of the crap they expose us too 🙁

    April 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      I know right? We just have to be smarter about our purchases.

      April 19, 2018 at 9:34 am
  • Reply Sara

    Thank you for listing the ingredients to avoid! I’ll be saving this post to reference later. Thank you!!

    April 18, 2018 at 7:03 pm
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      And there’s more listed in the e-book! 🙂

      April 19, 2018 at 9:35 am
  • Reply ShootingStarsMag

    It’s crazy what is in some of these products! Thanks so much for sharing. I need to get more natural products. 🙂


    April 18, 2018 at 8:52 pm
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      As depressing as it is to find all this stuff out, it is a fun transition to make 🙂

      April 19, 2018 at 9:35 am
  • Reply Emily

    Thanks for the ingredients breakdown, it is super helpful!

    April 19, 2018 at 12:04 pm
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      My pleasure! I’m glad to help 🙂

      April 19, 2018 at 4:33 pm
  • Reply Zahra Biabani

    Really good stuff! Would love if you shared your favorite natural products!

    April 19, 2018 at 3:07 pm
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      There will have to be a part 2! lol

      April 19, 2018 at 4:34 pm
  • Reply Heather Gilbert

    Great tips, I need to remember them when shopping for new products.

    April 19, 2018 at 11:54 pm
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      So glad they’re helpful to you!

      April 20, 2018 at 10:08 am
  • Reply Robbi

    Thanks for the information! I am very picky about personal care products because there is such junk in them. I have found the app Ingredio very helpful in keeping toxic chemicals out of our lives 🙂

    April 20, 2018 at 8:08 am
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      Oooh I have to check that out!

      April 20, 2018 at 10:09 am
  • Reply Brandi Michel

    Hey Nicole!
    Thanks a bunch for this post. I really needed this information. I’ve been trying to transition to clean products but it seems like just when I learn all the bad ingredients, they come up with new ones!

    April 20, 2018 at 11:24 am
  • Reply Annabelle

    I love this post! I’m becoming more aware of what goes into my makeup and skincare, but definitely still have a lot to learn, so this was super useful for me. Thank you!!


    May 6, 2018 at 11:22 am
    • Reply Nicole DaRosa

      My pleasure! I’m so happy to be able to share new information 🙂

      May 7, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Leave a Reply