How to Buy Better Beauty and Personal Care Products

How to Identify Better Beauty Products

In my panel at the ShiftCon social media conference, called Beauty and the Beast: Navigating the World of Green Beauty, I talked about how to identify beauty and personal care products that are better for people and the planet. Since so many of you were not at that conference, I’m sharing some of that information with you now!

These days there are plenty of safer products available – but identifying them can be confusing. I think you’ll agree that once armed with the right resources and information, it’s a lot easier to find products with the attributes that matter most to you – whether it’s product safety, natural ingredients, certified organic, cruelty free or something else.

Why it matters

Did you know that the average woman uses about 12 personal care products on her body every day?  Due to a lack of testing and regulation, we’ve got hormone disrupting ingredients in skin care, cosmetics containing lead and other heavy metals, carcinogens in shampoos and many more harmful chemicals in products we use on our skin every day.

How products are made is also important. Some brands do a better job than others at sustainability and social measures like paying fair wages or animal protection.

Don’t be greenwashed 

As a general rule, it’s smart to read product labels to help you decide which personal care products to buy. Sadly, labels can be deceiving. Many brands that are jumping on the better, safer, greener bandwagon are not really all that better, safer or greener. They can slap a few appealing claims on their label and no one is regulating what that means. Here are some terms you may find on personal care and cosmetic products that do not have any legal definition – in other words – buyer beware!

  • Natural
  • Organic (unless accompanied by a certification)
  • Non-toxic
  • Hypoallergenic or physician approved
  • Simple
  • Safe

Use the Skin Deep database

skin deep hazard ratingsOne of the most popular tools for identifying safer products is the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database from the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Skin Deep provides safety ratings on personal care products and ingredients with a hazard score of 1-10 based on the known and suspected hazards of ingredients. Search by specific product, product type, brand or ingredient. Use online for comprehensive safety information or download the mobile app to scan products in-store.

Look for certifications

Certain certifications and seals of approval can be very helpful in identifying the types of personal care products you are looking for. When you see one of these seals on a product package, you know it has met a stringent set of requirements. Keep in mind that not all safer, better products use these certifications due to the expense and time it takes to earn them.

usda organicUSDA Organic

  • Products must contain at least 95% organic ingredients
  • Standard created for food products (USDA has no authority over the production and labeling of cosmetics and personal care products)
  • Certifying agent’s name and address must appear on the label
  • Example: Coco Kind
  • Learn more

NSF sealNSF/ANSI 305

  • Standard developed for personal care and cosmetics using organic ingredients
  • Formula must contain at least 70% organic content by weight
  • Example: Aubrey Organics*
  • Learn more

npa sealNatural Products Association

  • Standard created specifically for personal care products
  • Minimum 95% ingredients of natural origin
  • No ingredients with any suspected human health risks
  • No processes that significantly or adversely alter the natural ingredients
  • Example: Badger
  • Learn more

WF premium_body_care_sealWhole Foods Market Premium Body Care

  • Stringent guidelines for ingredient safety, environmental impact, source and efficacy
  • Over 400 unacceptable ingredients including parabens, polypropylene glycol, sulfates, artificial fragrances and many more
  • Used for both private label and independent brands sold at Whole Foods Market
  • Example: Earth Mama Angel Baby
  • Learn more

leaping bunnyLeaping Bunny

  • Company audit required to ensure no animal testing
  • Ingredient suppliers included
  • Example: Juice Beauty
  • Learn more

Peta Cruelty FreePETA Cruelty Free 

  • Company pledge required but no audit
  • Bunny Free App available
  • Example: Acure
  • Learn more

certified-veganCertified Vegan

Fair trade certified ingredientsFair Trade Certified

  • Ingredients sourced in a way that benefits workers, farmers, consumers and the earth
  • Example: EcoLips
  • Learn more

Sick and tired of having to be a detective in the cosmetics aisle? Find out more dirty secrets of the beauty industry from fellow panelist and Lori’s post about advocating for better beauty products over on Groovy Green Livin! 

How do you make decisions about personal care and cosmetics? 

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(*Note: Mindful Momma occasionally uses affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, I may receive a small commission. Thank you for supporting Mindful Momma!)

About Micaela

Micaela Preston is a marketing and communications consultant specializing in natural, organic and eco-friendly products and the health and wellness space. Micaela is available as a social media manager, green lifestyle writer, public speaker, brand ambassador and marketing manager.


  1. Wish I could have attended that discussion! I mostly use SkinDeep database. With “green” products entering the mainstream and “natural” products on the stores of many regular stores, this information is more important than ever!

  2. Such awesome information. I would love to republish on my site as a guest blog from you. Let me know what you think about that! I loved being on the panel with you at ShiftCon, deciphering these certifications is hard. Even for those of us who are in the industry!

    • So glad we were on the panel together Lindsay! Loved that we all talked about a different piece of the puzzle. Sure – shoot me an email about doing a guest post on your blog – it sounds like a great idea!

  3. I absolutely loved our ShiftCon panel. It’s so important to share information and make sense out of such a confusing topic that impacts almost everyone in some way. Thank you for helping us identify safer products and understand beauty product labeling. Now we need more regulations in place so products are tested and proven safe before they end up on our shelves! We have some work to do.

  4. Lisa Sharp says:

    Great information! I love finding new natural personal care and beauty items. Once you know what to look for it can be fun. I love makeup but I feel I can get just as good, if not better, natural products.

  5. I wish I could have gone to this panel! I think this is very important. The skincare brand I use does not have those certifications, but I spoke with the owner and have researched the ingredient and feel confident they are nontoxic. Furthermore, I like what they are doing for my skin, and on my tight budget, this option works for me. I’ve tried affordable organics that do not do anything for my skin and wonderful organic products that are outside my price range. I think we need to make the choices that work for us, while doing the research too! Thanks for sharing this.

    • Absolutely Gina! Luckily there is something for everyone out there! A lot of smaller producers won’t ever be able to afford certifications even though they are making very clean, safe products.

  6. I haven’t seen the National Products Association label before so I will have to keep my eye out for that one.


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