We'd all like to be a bit more conscious when it comes to our beauty consumption, wouldn't we? The problem is that the complicated lexicon around natural ingredients and the vast number of new "natural" skincare, makeup and hair brands popping up on beauty shelves don't exactly make it easy. Then there's also the big issue of greenwashing to contend with—with sneaky brands leading you down paths that aren't perhaps as organic or natural as they might seem.
To navigate this tricky world of nontoxic, natural beauty, we're going to need trustworthy guides, and that's exactly where Delphine and Ariane Chui come in. You've probably already figured this out, but they are sisters, and they've joined forces to launch Ftoxins, an organic beauty blog offering the best advice on how to switch your favourite beauty products for more natural alternatives that are just as hardworking.
The more you hear from the pair, the more you realise that going fully or partially natural with your beauty routine perhaps isn't half as difficult as you might have first thought. Ariane and Delphine fill us in on their organic journey below, along with plenty of helpful guidance to see you on your way.
What made you decide to "clean up" your beauty regimen?
DC: Growing up, our mum was a homeopath, so we were always into a more holistic way of living than some of our peers. We grew up on avocado toast and chia seed breakfast bowls back when our friends thought we were odd and those foods definitely weren't trendy. But as a teenager, I wanted to be like everybody else, so I was heavily influenced by what was in style (think pink hair mascara, blue eyeliner and Croydon face-lift ponytails). Personally, it wasn't until my mid-20s that I started to really embrace my roots and start questioning everything, including cryptic ingredients, supply chains, animal testing and the environmental impact of products I was buying and using.
AC: We were definitely the weirdos as kids, but now we joke that our mum is just always 15 years ahead of everyone else. Neither of us has ever had any skin problems, and I really credit that to being brought up in such a healthy household—although we did have McD's every Thursday after swim class, so I don't want anyone thinking we were deprived of fun and treats as kids. There are so many environmental toxins out there that there is little to nothing we can do about, so it made sense to me to take control over what I could. Anything that goes on or in my body is in my total control.
And how did you start—what was the first thing you decided to cut? Did you decide to throw everything out and start again?
AC: We definitely didn't throw everything out and start from scratch—it was a gradual process. My first organic beauty buys were an Ilia Multi-Stick (£32) and Illuminator (£32), which gave me the bug for makeup that doubles up as skincare, thanks to all their nourishing ingredients.
DC: I started out with one of my core products: lip balms. It was the first thing that made sense to change for me since you quite literally consume it, and now I swear by Hurraw Lipbalms and Antipodes's bold and brightly coloured lipsticks.
Nowadays, what are your criteria for any product you're going to put on your body?
DC: We have a strict list of ingredients we don't go near on our "F*ck that sh*t" section of our site that we put up as a skeleton guide. Excuse our language, but we wanted to hone in on that point because there are too many chemical ingredients out there that simply preserve shelf-life and are cheap to produce. The more I learn, the longer that list gets, but I do trust organic products because they're usually in line with all my values in terms of animal welfare, the environment and toxin-free ingredients.
AC: It's definitely a journey. There are some ingredients (like phenoxyethanol and dimethicone) that I used to let slide as recently as a few months ago, but now they're no-gos for me. As the selection and quality of natural and organic products grow, there are fewer and fewer reasons (read: no reasons at all) to put anything on your body that even hints at being bad for you. As a rule, I like to be able to read an ingredient list without feeling like I need a science degree to understand it. Bonus points if I recognise every ingredient. This is why I love oils and balms so much—they don't contain water, so they don't need any preservatives or emulsifiers to turn them into a cream.
How do you feel about the term "clean beauty"?
DC: I actually don't use it as a term and instead prefer to say "organic" or "nontoxic," but that's just a personal preference. If I were to use the term "clean beauty," I would want it to mean no GM ingredients, no toxic chemicals, no parabens, no synthetic fragrances, no nanoparticles and no animal testing.
AC: I use all the terms interchangeably, although when talking to my nearest and dearest, I can drop the adjectives because they know everything I talk about will be natural and organic. For me, I have a "better safe than sorry" attitude. If there's even a sneaking suspicion that an ingredient or product may cause a side effect (either now or down the line) and I have access to a completely safe and effective alternative, why would I not go for that option?
There's a lot of ambiguity around terms like "clean", "organic" and "natural" in the beauty sphere—do you think there's too much greenwashing going on? How can you know who to trust?
DC: I worry about this a lot. All these terms have been diluted and greenwashed by brands that want to jump on the trend—and there's a lot of greenwashing going on. "Natural" is a completely unregulated term in the market, and although it should technically mean something not made of synthetic ingredients, it sadly doesn't. And it's the same with "organic"—the lack of legislation in the cosmetics industry (aside from the Soil Association) means that some products only need to have a small percentage of organic ingredients to legally call themselves so. I always look for the Soil Association logo so that I know it'll be toxin-free and made with sustainably sourced (and biodegradable) ingredients within a transparent manufacturing chain.
AC: Greenwashing is everywhere because the big beauty companies (of which there are only seven that own 182 brands) have seen that consumers are starting to wake up to the ingredients in their products. The two ways to avoid falling into the greenwashing trap is to read the ingredient label or to look out for the Soil Association logo, as Delphine mentioned, or any of the other organic certifications such as COSMOS and EcoCert. You'll soon realise which brands you can trust and which you can't.
Where can we find out information about organic beauty?
AC: There's a fantastic organic beauty community on Instagram, and that's probably where I get most of my inspiration from. Someone will flag an ingredient to avoid that I hadn't considered before or an amazing product to try. The Environmental Working Group has a great database where you can search for literally any ingredient, and it'll tell you how hazardous it is on a scale of one to 10. I still use it on the daily because it seems that the list of ingredients in cosmetics is never-ending.
If somebody wanted to embark on a similar journey, how should they start?
DC: Start somewhere—anywhere. And whether it's the environment, your health, fair trade or animal welfare that really matters to you, don't ever feel like your opinion isn't loud enough because every single pound we spend is a vote. Be wary of greenwashing, and be ready and open to research and understand what you're using, and soon you'll realise there really are people- and planet-friendly substitutes for the stuff you already love. For example, I plan on covering myself in biodegradable glitter (stuck on with Bybi's Babe Balm, £18) this summer because why the hell not?
AC: You should be aware of the fact that the condition of your skin, your overall health and your environmental footprint will all massively improve. Knowing this will help to push through the initial effort that making the switch over to organic requires. I always say, don't worry about changing everything in one go, unless you want to. Just buy a good organic alternative as and when what you're currently using runs out. We get loads of people DM'ing us on Instagram asking for natural and organic alternatives to their favourite products, so feel free to do the same and we'll do our best to help.
What are you favourite toxin-free beauty brands for skincare, makeup and hair?
DC: My favourite makeup brands are Lavera, Benecos and Green People. The first two have less chic branding than I'd like to display in my bathroom cabinet, but they make up for it with wholesome ingredients and products that genuinely work. I live by Lavera's Intense Mascara (£11), Benecos's nude lipsticks, lipliner and blusher and Green People's Pressed Powder (£21) keeps me looking matte all day. While for skincare, I love Odylique's Avocado 24 Hour Replenishing Cream (£22) and Creamy Coconut Cleanser (£18), and my hair thanks me for Faith in Nature's shampoos and conditioners.
AC: Obviously, being sisters and BFFs, Delphine and I love and use all the same things. We're also both super frugal, which is why Lavera and Benecos suit us so well—they're crazy affordable. I did recently splash out on Plume Nourish and Define Eyebrow Pomade (£40), but it was totally worth it. For skincare, I really like Whamisa Hydrogel Masks (£7), everything by BYBI and this new London-based brand Wild Beauty Apothecary. My haircare routine is pretty simple: I'll apply an oil like Forest & Shore's Hallelujah Hair Oil (£14) on clean, damp hair and then spritz it with an organic lavender hydrosol when it's dry or needs a refresh. Also, Acure Dry Shampoo for Dark Hair (£5) is a lifesaver.
Anyone else in the mood to try some natural beauty products now?