Two Daily Beauty Routines

Above are two images that illustrate the ingredient exposure resulting from two different approaches to shopping for personal care products. Both images are based on sixteen products that are pretty standard in a woman’s daily beauty routine. The top image reflects the frequency of ingredients in products bought by the average shopper who doesn’t pay much attention to the health, environmental or social impact of their purchases (read: most people). The bottom image reflects frequency of ingredients in alternative products selected based on a GoodGuide rating comparison. Note that the larger the ingredient name, the more often it shows up in the product set.

Before any erroneous conclusions are drawn here, I’d like to point out that the bigger ingredients aren’t necessarily the ones that should be avoided. They are simply the most common ingredients among the sixteen products evaluated. Additionally, the size of each ingredient has nothing to do with its concentration in the product. Finally, this visual comparison doesn’t address efficacy questions like whether that alternative mascara is a little too gloppy.

What happens to the most common ingredients as you go from the average shopper to the GoodGuide-informed shopper? The colors (red 6, yellow 5 lake) disappear. Petrochemical ingredients disappear. Parabens and DMDM hydantoin disappear. Mica and titanium dioxide virtually disappear. Fragrance occurs less frequently. What replaces these ingredients? Lots and lots of plant extracts and infusions.

Does switching products result in exposure to fewer ingredients? Only slightly. The total number of ingredients in the top image is 217; the bottom image has 197. The ultimate point here is that using any personal care products will mean you’re putting chemicals on your body. By switching brands based on GoodGuide ratings, you’re more likely to be exposed to chemicals derived from plants instead of oil.

I’ll leave you with one last question: what would happen if you completely eliminated certain types of products? For example, what do you think your ingredient burden look like if you decided to do away with that daily makeup routine? Share your thoughts and opinions below!

For those interested in drilling down deeper, here are the products used for the comparison (average product vs. alternative):
Daily Moisturizer: Olay Complete All Day vs. Body Shop Intensive Night Treatment
Astringent: Clean & Clear vs. Aubrey Organics Amino Derm Gel
Hairspray: Garnier Fructis Anti-Humidity vs. Kiehls Climate Proof
Daily Cleanser: Cetaphil Daily Cleanser vs. Miessence Rejuvenating Cleanser
Scrub: St. Ives Apricot Scrub vs. Nurture My Body Exfoliating Cleanser
Body Lotion: St. Ives Peach Sorbet Renewing Lotion vs. Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Lotion
Shampoo: Pantene Pro V Always Smooth Shampoo vs. Dr. Hauschka Shampoo
Conditioner: Pantene Pro V Smooth Conditioner vs. Dr. Hauschka Conditioner
Body Wash: Dove All Day Moisturizing Body Wash vs. Terressentials Cool Mint Body Wash
Concealer: Lorac vs. Laura Mercier
Powder: Estee Lauder Double Wear vs. Miessence Translucent Powder
Liquid Eye Liner: Loreal Telescopic Precision vs. Gourmet Body Treats
Blush: Estee Lauder Silky Powder Blush vs. Tarte Natural Cheek Stain
Pencil Eye Liner: Urban Decay Smoke Out Eye Pencil vs. Loreal Infallible Eyeliner
Mascara: Maybelline Ultra Lash Waterproof Mascara (no switch made)
Lip Gloss: Clinique Long Last Glosswear vs. Yes to Carrots C Me Shine

Ingredient map made using Wordle.

About Sheila Viswanathan

Sheila Viswanathan focuses on educating individuals on how to make healthier dietary choices. She received her doctoral degree in Nutrition and Public Health from Teachers College, Columbia University and is certified as a registered dietitian.
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3 Responses to Two Daily Beauty Routines

  1. Mindy says:

    Very interesting post. It made me re-evaluate in my daily use of beauty products. It also has generated a few more questions in my mind. If the efficacy of the product is affected, does this lead to use of a larger volume of product. For instance if a natural shampoo does not clean the hair as well, will this lead to have to having to wash your hair more frequently and therefore use of more product (as well as natural resources)? Also, while we are exchanging more laboratory generated chemicals to more natural products, we don’t necessarily know the effect on the body. Does 1 microgram of a synthetic ingredient have more of a deleterious effect on the body than 1 milligram of a natural ingredient?

  2. Carole says:

    Mindy raises some very valid points and interesting questions. I realize that the graph is trying to make a point but I have to wonder how each product was selected. At the very top of the list, I can’t help but notice that an all day moisturizer is pitted against an intensive night treatment. For those of us who don’t have a Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods near us, natural products that fill a need are sometimes difficult to find. I know, I know; you can order anything over the internet, but then you need to add in the environmental impact of transporting the product, sometimes over long distances. There is also the bottom line cost for some of these products. Sometimes the natural products that I CAN find are just way too expensive for someone with my income.
    All in all, it is a knotty issue and a lot of questions such as these and the ones raised by Mindy.

  3. Really a good article, I don’t know which category I’m on but now I should notice it by anytime soon
    Thanks for sharing it !!

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