How to green your beauty regime face oils on cavalo nero leaves


I could wax lyrical for hours about how to green your beauty regime, it’s a huge and multifaceted subject, but as a freelance beauty editor, ironically it’s not something I’m paid to write about very often. That’s because it gives the advertising departments of big magazines a massive dose of the heebie jeebies.

In the course of one day we come into contact with around 200 different chemical substances via the products we slather onto ourselves, often without a second thought. It’s claimed that up to 60% of those will be absorbed directly into the bloodstream, via our skin, which I personally think is pretty bloody terrifying.

But this claim remains unsubstantiated, and the topic as a whole is riddled with myths and conspiracy theories. For a start, not all chemicals are bad. Everything that exists in nature is made up of chemical compounds, so the term chemical-free really means nothing (as for the word ‘natural’ on your label, well that’s the biggest marketing spin going…).

What is undeniable though, is that as we are ever more exposed to these vast amounts of chemicals, more women in their 20s, 30s and 40s than ever before are being diagnosed with types of cancer, skin disorders and illnesses that would have been rare, or even unheard, for our grandmothers’ generation. For me, this is a massive wake up call.

“Ever since I was a teenager I’d been using a complete skin routine with a lot of products I believed were great for my skin”, says Valérie Grandury, founder of clean skincare brand Odacite who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, “But once I started reading the ingredients I discovered the expensive crèmes I’d been using for decades were full of a cocktail of preservatives called parabens that have now been directly linked to hormonal imbalance, one the main triggers of female cancer.”

In September last year the EU tightened up their regulation on preservatives like Propylparaben and Butylparaben, yet they maintain that “preservatives are important in cosmetics as they protect consumers from harmful pathogens that would otherwise invade the creams and products people use on a daily basis. Without preservatives all cosmetics would have a very short shelf life and would, in the most part, have to be stored in a fridge.” And to a certain extent they’re right. Who wants to open their moisturiser to discover a writhing pot of mould spores? But then, not all preservatives are created equal.

So, what to do if you are genuinely concerned about potentially harmful chemicals in your beauty products but you’re having trouble navigating the chatter? Here’s a handy checklist to help you green your beauty regime in a sensible and sustainable fashion.


Tempting though it may be to approach your bathroom cabinet with a big black sack, you’ll overwhelm your skin, and your wallet, with this kind of approach. Instead, start replacing products with green alternatives slowly, as you naturally run out of things. Start with a cleanser or moisturiser and then think about body products, shampoo and make up. That way you’re far more likely to make considered choices and the change will be a sustainable one.


Most natural ingredients are called by their latin names on labels, but even these are just about pronouncable. It’s when you start to get into those 5 syllable mouthfuls (the Paraphenylenediamines of this world ) that things start to get suspicious. As a rule of thumb, if you can’t pronounce it, you don’t want it in your bathroom.


Because of their molecule size, plant oils are readily absorbed into the skin so they give really fast, visible results, the kind that will encourage you to keep up the good work. They’re suitable for all skin types, even oily and combination (like attracts like) and typically contain little or no preservatives. Current favourites I’d recommend for starters include Odacite’s Black Cumin + Cajeput Serum Concentrate for blemish-prone skin and SkinOwl’s Lavender Beauty Drops (pictured) for inflammed or acne-prone skin. I also love new British brand Skin & Tonic − their Naked Beauty Oil is fragrance-free, so perfect for sensitive skin. I also rate Dr Jackson’s Face Oil and Bamford’s new Restore Elixir (both pictured) as more luxey options.


There are some things you will struggle to find green alternatives for, or maybe you just won’t want to (the search for a green deoderant may very well break you). Like food, I think it’s sensible to operate an 80/20 split in your beauty regime too.


If you’re serious about detoxing your beauty cabinet there are loads of brilliant websites out there, the Skin Deep website has a helpful glossary of toxic ingredients for starters.


Photography and styling: Bella Binns