5 Things You're Probably Getting Wrong About Green and Cruelty-Free Beauty

Updated 10/12/19
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Dacy Knight.

Ranavat Botanics

It's Green Week at Byrdie HQ, which means we'll be highlighting stories about natural beauty, sustainability, and all things eco. Sometimes, even seemingly small (and easy!) decisions can add up to a huge impact on our environment.

The world of clean and cruelty-free beauty can be tricky to navigate, especially since so many labels like "green," "natural" and "eco-friendly" seem to be tossed around freely. Even the most informed beauty aficionados can have a difficult time deciding what's what. When sifting through it all to curate a beauty product lineup that aligns with your values, there's a lot to peel back and consider. Adopting a clean and cruelty-free approach to beauty takes more than reading labels and scanning ingredient lists. To help steer us in the right direction, we called upon three clean and cruelty-free beauty experts to cut through the noise. We had them identify and weigh in on the common misconceptions about green and cruelty-free beauty and set the record straight. Below are five "facts" everyone gets wrong.

It's All or Nothing 

"There's a misconception that if you want to use green beauty then you need to switch everything in your life over to natural basically overnight and be completely perfect," observes Romain Gaillard, founder of The Detox Market. "You don't have to be a yoga teacher or a wellness expert or any kind of fanatic to start being aware of what you put on your body." He compares going green to determining the diet that works best for you. "Some people are raw, gluten-free vegans—and that's wonderful for those people, but some people may have some birthday cake or a glass of wine one day, and some fresh organic veggies the next," he describes. "Green beauty is like that. You can go all in or find a balance. The small, healthy choices you make add up."

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Cruelty-Free Brands Are Expensive and Hard to Find

We typically have the idea that cruelty-free products are exclusive and come at a premium. Tashina Combes of Logical Harmony corrects that notion, noting that a lot of cruelty-free beauty is actually very accessible. "Sephora, Ulta, Nordstrom, Beauty Bay, and Cult Beauty carry a lot of cruelty-free brands," she says. "So many of the big brands sold at these stores also happen to be cruelty-free. While there are some high-end cruelty-free brands, there are also a lot of great drugstore options. E.l.f., Wet n Wild, Milani, and Pacifica are examples of how cruelty-free brands are affordable and easily accessible."

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Cruelty-Free Means It's Natural

"People sometimes use the terms 'cruelty-free' and 'natural' interchangeably or in the same breath, but they're actually completely different," warns Gaillard. "Cruelty-free means a brand does not test on animals. At The Detox Market, we're committed to carrying 100% cruelty-free brands—no animal testing allowed. The flip side of that is there are plenty of conventional brands that are cruelty-free or even vegan, but contain many ingredients on our banned list for being potentially harmful or irritating. It's important to know your priorities and values when shopping. That's basically why we exist—to take the guesswork out of shopping for clients looking for safe, effective beauty products."

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"Natural" Is The Whole Story

"Many of us are trained to be 'ingredient detectives,' but the reality is that ingredients are only part of the story," underscores Michelle Ranavat, founder of Ranavat Botanics. "How these ingredients are processed plays a key role in the actual amount of retained nutrients in the skincare product." Ranavat uses the example of how the method of cold pressing to extract oils (versus common refined oils where intense heat or chemicals are used) yields low quantities of oil but the quality is high and the nutritional value is retained. "Cold-pressed oils do not contain harmful solvent residues, as compared to refined oils treated with chemical substances," explains Ranavat. "Instead, they possess high quantities of natural antioxidants that are beneficial for us. The antioxidants present in the oils help in boosting the immune system." She says that the important thing to note here is that you can still have an organic oil that is not cold pressed. "With Mighty Majesty and Radiant Rani, all the oils are cold-pressed. Specifically, in Mighty Majesty, the amla oil is extracted through CO2 extraction, which is especially great because it uses pressure from carbon dioxide and not heat or solvents to extract the amla oil."

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If a Brand Is Vegan, It Can't Be Natural

Lastly, there's a misconception that if a brand is vegan, it has unnatural ingredients to compensate. "There are a lot of natural brands making amazing vegan products," notes Combs. "100% Pure is almost entirely vegan and uses fruit pigments for their products. Au Naturale is completely vegan and makes products that perform just as well as high-end brands that aren't natural."

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Going green and cruelty-free aren't the only ways to clean up your beauty habits. Here are seven simple ways to make your beauty routine more sustainable.

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