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Mindful Beauty - I tried to make my skincare routine as eco-friendly and non-toxic as possible


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Introducing The National Student’s very own Mindful Beauty series: each month we’ll be focusing on tackling a different issue in the beauty industry with a series of weekly posts. From sustainability to inclusivity and body image, we’ll be analysing the good, the bad and downright ugly of our beauty faves.


Image Credit: Moose Photos on Pexels

This month we’re all about detoxifying the products in our daily routines, so be prepared to get ingredient-savvy and say goodbye to those hazardous holy grails.

I’d like to start off by admitting that this was far more difficult than I imagined. My initial plan was to research every single ingredient listed amongst my skincare faves and ditch any that could be potentially harmful to the environment. However, it’s not actually as simple as that. Despite endless trawling through databases and articles, not every ingredient had clear outlined effects and let’s face it, I’m no scientist; I have no idea what Disodium Cocoamphodiacetate is.

I decided the next best option was to compile a list of the most commonly found toxic ingredients in products, work my way through my typical daily skincare routine and cut out any offending potions. I figured that being aware of the most common harmful chemicals and cutting those out is at least a step in the right direction for a fully eco-friendly collection.

Before we begin, here’s the list of commonly found toxic ingredients I was on the lookout for:



Polyethylene Glycol






Dibutyl Phthalate



Face Wash

My usual go-to: Simple Daily Detox Purifying Face Wash

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Initially, I was expecting to have to ditch this one. One of the ingredients I had come across in my search for potentially harmful ingredients was ‘Sodium Lauryl Sulfate’, something that unfortunately popped up in quite a few of my go-to products. However, after some pretty extensive research (if only I’d researched this thoroughly for my dissertation), it appears the risks of SLS are actually minimal. According to the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, although the raw ingredient itself could appear harmful to aquatic life, the small amount used in an entire bottle of face wash, combined with the water that washes it down the sink, means it’s broken down enough to be non-toxic. The chemical is also fully biodegradable, so will have decomposed by the time it hits the seas. The report also advises that any claims the chemical is harmful to our health are ‘false and misleading’, as long as its inclusion is properly formulated.

Conclusion: The face wash stays.


Micellar Water

My usual go-to: It varies, but I’m currently using Garnier

This one might be a glaring error to some of you - I slipped up by assuming Garnier was a cruelty-free brand. Although I’ve been careful in the past to avoid those who are well-known for animal testing, I have to admit I haven’t always been thorough in checking every single brand. This exercise has taught me that, whilst a lot of make-up brands out there are making the effort to stay cruelty-free, the same can’t be said for skincare. Garnier, Olay and Nivea are all tested on animals, yet they’re probably three of the most easily accessible ranges on the high street. Luckily, I now know better than to throw them in my basket on my next trip Superdrug. Thank u, next.


Of the Micellar waters I’ve opted for in the past, Simple is the only brand that is cruelty-free, so in future I will definitely be sticking with these, rather than opting for whatever is on sale at the time.

Conclusion: Didn’t even get to the ingredients - Garnier out, Simple in.



My usual go-to: Liz Earle Instant Boost Skin Tonic

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Although I’ve always used toners, I was never really sure of any major difference it was making to my skin. However, I received this one as a gift and it was a real game changer. The thought of losing my new-found inner glow was heart-breaking, so of all my products, I was really praying for this one to be safe. All was going well, until I came across ‘parfum’. The main risk of fragrances in products is that it allows brands to disguise unspecified ingredients under the ‘parfum’ umbrella, so you’re never 100% certain of what is included. That being said, although this is a loophole used by many brands to sneak in anything they don't want to disclose, Liz Earle’s brand values seem very geared towards naturally based, environmentally friendly products so it would seem unlikely for them to add any toxic chemicals into the mix. 

Conclusion: The tonic stays - Liz, I’m trusting you girl.



My usual go-to: Simple Hydrating Light Moisturiser

Ah Simple, you’ve had my back so far so this will be fine, right? Wrong. It turns out this little drug-store fav includes parabens, the preservatives that have recently been suspected of potentially causing breast cancer. Our new-found friends over at NCBI confirmed that studies have found levels of parabens in rivers, soil, house dust and even bodily fluids, however the consequences of this have yet to be confirmed due to insufficient data. I think it’s best to take a ‘better safe than sorry’ approach with this one.


So where do we go now that trusty ol’ Simple has let us down? Skincare isn’t something I like to skip even one day on, so I like to stick to the high-street for basics so that I can stock up as soon as I run low. An easily accessible, paraben-free moisturiser was surprisingly hard to track down, until I came across vegan brand Sukin. Sukin’s products all claim to be free from Sulphates, Parabens, Synthetic Fragrances, Animal Derivatives, Harsh Detergents, Propylene Glycol, Artificial Colours, Triethanolamine & Mineral Oils. Exactly what I was looking for - a range of non-toxic, natural skincare products that I can grab from Boots. Their products are slightly pricier than Simple, but they don’t completely break the bank, so they’re worth keeping in mind if you’re really stuck for an alternative.

Conclusion: Sorry Simple, Sukin has beat you to the post this time.



My usual go-to: The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

I’m still waiting for the catch on The Ordinary’s products. Effective, cheap, vegan and apparently, also non-toxic. I usually apply this under my moisturiser just before my make-up and I love the glow it gives my skin, so I’m glad this one can stay.

Conclusion: Renewed for another season.



Glycolic Acid

My usual go-to: Alpha H Liquid Gold


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As much as I was praying for this one to be safe, I had a feeling I might struggle. However, it actually had the least extensive ingredients summary of all, with absolutely none of them appearing on my list of risky chemicals.

Conclusion: Good to go.


Sheet Mask

My usual go-to: Garnier Moisture Bomb

My initial shock of discovering Garnier’s animal testing ways quickly turned to sadness when I realised this would mean kissing goodbye to their Moisture Bomb sheet masks. They’re the ultimate saviour on bad skin day and I’m yet to find another high-street offering that can compare. Alas, it is time to begin the search for a new de-stressing fav - after all, the bunnies come first.


I’m picky when it comes to sheet masks so, as for a long-term replacement, I’ll have to keep you posted. I will, however, start with Sanctuary’s selection. I’ve used their peel-off masks in the past and been impressed, so it’s a good place to start. As a brand they’re eager to push themselves to be more sustainable, claiming to be one of the first to ban microbeads, the tiny problematic balls of plastic that are washing their way into our oceans.

Conclusion: Another one bites the dust. Sanctuary - show us how it’s done.


A final note...

Before anyone goes discarding of all their potentially harmful products, it is worth noting that I haven’t thrown any of mine away, as this would only encourage waste. Pouring bottles of toxic potions down our drains is 100% not the solution here, but educating ourselves is the next step to making more conscious choices next time around! But now I’ve analysed my collection, I definitely encourage you to take a closer look at yours, for the sake of your own health and the world we live in.


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