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Switching to Safer Skincare: 3 Steps to Follow

Switching to safer skincare can seem like a daunting task. And, there are so many options that it’s easy to get overwhelmed. In addition, you may think you have to change everything at once. Yikes!

In this post, I’m sharing my three-step system for switching to safer skincare. And I’ll let you in on some of my favorites. Let’s make it simpler, shall we?

various jars and containers of safer skincare products

Why Safer Skincare?

In 1938, Congress passed the United States Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA). Since then, consumer health protective laws for cosmetics and personal care products have never seen a major update. That’s 81 years.

If that wasn’t enough, some 80,000+ chemicals are in use today, many in cosmetics, skincare, and personal care products. Many of these chemicals lack safety data.

And concerningly, the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) authority over cosmetics is limited. In plain language, the FDA cannot force a recall on harmful cosmetics and skincare products. Currently, the EU bans or restricts about 1400 ingredients from cosmetics, Canada around 600. By comparison, the US only restricts a paltry 30.

Something has to change.

In March 2019, the bipartisan Personal Care Products Safety Act was introduced with the goal of updating the FFDCA. In the meantime, some companies such as Beautycounter, take proactive steps. They limit problematic ingredients in their high-performing products. (See The Never List.)

Other companies are reformulating their ingredients to be more in line with consumer safety. A recent example? The introduction of Herbal Essences Bio line of hair products.

various brands to consider when switching to safer skincare

3-Step System for Switching to Safer Skincare

Therefore, switching to safer skincare is a responsibility that falls heavily on consumers. Many people get overwhelmed with the prospect of changing all the cosmetics and skincare products they use. And switching everything at once isn’t financially possible for most.

When I thought about my own experience in switching to safer skincare over the last six years, I realized I was following a system the whole time. Further, this system is a realistic, approachable way to make swaps in your routine.

So, I decided to share it with my community and first talked about it on a podcast.

The 3-step system is:

  • Survey
  • Search
  • Swap

Let’s go into more detail.

Step 1: Survey

Firstly, you need an idea of what you’re using daily. You can go about this in two ways: mentally run through your routine or physically gather everything in one place like your bathroom countertop.

Consider your whole routine for skincare and personal care products. On average, women use 12 personal care products a day. It’s important to note that women of color are disproportionately affected by more problematic ingredients and fewer options. Men use six personal care products daily. And, teen girls use 17.

Products to include in your survey:

  • Skincare (facial cleansers, serums, masks, moisturizers, toners, lighteners, etc)
  • Cosmetics (all makeup, perfume / cologne, nail polish, lash adhesive, etc)
  • Deodorant and anti-perspirant
  • Soap (body washes, shower gel, hand soap, etc)
  • Hair care (shampoo, conditioner, styling products, dyes, etc)
  • Tooth care (toothpaste, floss, etc)
  • Shaving needs (shaving cream, disposable razors with moisture strips, etc)
  • Feminine hygiene products (tampons, pads, cleansers, etc)
  • Sun protection (sunscreen, after-sun lotions, etc)
  • Kids-specific products

What do you use daily or multiple times a day? On the other hand, what do you use less often, seasonally, etc?

Then, conduct a search to see how your current products rate.

flat lay image of safer skincare containers

Step 2: Search

Next, conduct a search. Resist the urge to give your products a health halo and be aware of green-washing. Remember that not everything “natural” is harmless and not everything synthetic is toxic.

To search, I recommend two resources.

The first is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. It’s available as an app (iOS or Android) or you can use the site through your internet browser. Type in the product and see how it rates on a scale of 1 to 9. Or, you can enter individual ingredients into the search bar and see how they rate.

Another option is the Think Dirty app (iOS or Android). Currently, it features over a million products.

Step 3: Swap

Lastly, prioritize the products you use most frequently, especially the ones that rate lowest. It’s unlikely you’ll switch everything all at once.

When your current products run out, look for similar alternatives from companies who don’t use synthetic fragrance, parabens and other endocrine disruptors, formaldehyde, and other problematic ingredients.

Seek out companies who disclose all their ingredients and make it their mission to be transparent.

Take it at your own pace. Remember that many more affordable brands available in mainstream stores rate favorably, too.

And here’s the thing: if you don’t switch everything, that’s okay. Try not to stress about it. Do the best you can with what you have. Be open to learning more and gradually making swaps as your bandwith and budget allow.

closeup of safer skincare and cleaner cosmetics containers

My Safer Skincare Recommendations

Finally, I’m sharing my high performing safer skincare favorites and recommendations by skin type or concern. These are products I personally use and love.

Normal Skin

Combination Skin (Oily in T-Zone, Drier on Cheeks)

Acne-Prone Skin (Oily)

Acne-Prone Skin (Normal/Combo)

Dry Skin

safer skincare and cleaner cosmetics containers

Mature Skin

Melasma/Hyperpigmentation

Large Pores/Blackheads

Eczema

Rosacea

Deodorant

If you’re looking for targeted skincare recommendation, take the skincare quiz. Find out what’s right for you in less than a minute.

Or, send me an email to skincare [at] stephgaudreau [dot] com. I’d love to help you out.

Pin this Switching to Safer Skincare post for later!

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What’s holding you back from switching to safer skincare? Let me know in the comments below.

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Hi, I'm Steph!

Nutrition and fitness coach for women, Lord of the Rings nerd, and depending on who you ask, crazy cat lady. My mission is to help you fuel for more, not less: bigger muscles, strength, energy, and possibilities. We’ll do it with my signature blend of science, strategy…and a little bit of sass.

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