The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty Products - NVBL

The Ultimate Guide to Natural Beauty Products

When we first opened New Vintage Beauty Lounge, a clean-air apothecary and salon, we knew we wanted to use only cruelty-free, sustainable products. But just as importantly, we wanted to use products that actually work! Over the past 10 years, we’ve tried just about every non-toxic hair and skincare product on the market. It’s a privilege to share everything we’ve learned with you. 


Why you should be concerned

We’re all becoming more thoughtful about the food we consume, so shouldn’t we be just as concerned about the products we apply to our skin and hair? After all, the skin is the body’s largest organ.

When we started our journey, we knew to avoid products with parabens, phthalates, and sulfates. These were commonly understood among industry professionals and consumers alike to be unhealthy and unnecessary additives. We were starting to see more natural hair products being made without these ingredients. However, we soon discovered that these particular chemicals were just the tip of the iceberg. Among the countless mysterious ingredients in beauty products, hundreds are toxic. 

What we uncovered

The more we dug, the more concerned we became. The cosmetic industry is shockingly unregulated, especially in the US. The Environmental Working Group* (EWG) reports the European Union has banned more than 1,300 chemicals from ending up in cosmetic and personal care products, while the US has restricted just 11. In fact, corporations often make a different formula of the same product to be sold in the US, because they perform well and are extremely cheap to mass produce. 

Scary facts about everyday products

Many of the hair and skincare products commonly found in American households contain preservatives, fragrances, and surfactants that are known skin irritants, carcinogens, and endocrine disruptors. The latter interfere with our hormones and reproductive system, which is particularly concerning for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and young children and adolescents.

We were infuriated to learn that we had unknowingly exposed ourselves and our family to toxic ingredients. The truth is, there is no reason for toxic ingredients to be in our products. Corporate greed and lax government regulations have put consumer health at risk for decades. There are actually thousands of safe ingredients for manufacturers to use. It’s up to consumers and businesses to shift their buying habits and persuade these companies to look to better alternatives. 

What to avoid

When it comes to shopping for safer personal care products, it’s important to take a good look at the label. We know hair and skincare ingredient lists are overwhelming. It can feel like you’re reading a foreign language. As a starting place, we recommend becoming familiar with the following harmful ingredients:

  • 1,4-Dioxane
  • Aluminum Compounds
  • Aminomethyl Propanol
  • Animal Fat and Musk
  • Benzalkonium Chloride
  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole)
  • Butoxyethanol
  • Chemical Sunscreens
  • Coal Tar
  • Ethanolamines
  • Ethylenediaminetetraacetic Acid (EDTA)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Hydroquinone
  • Mercury & Mercury Compounds
  • Methyl Cellosolve
  • Methylisothiazolinone & Methylchloroisothiazolinone
  • Mineral Oil
  • Nanoparticles
  • Parabens
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP, • DMP, and Others)
  • Placenta Extract
  • Polyethylene Glycol (PEG Compounds)
  • Polysorbates
  • Resorcinol
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) &
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES)
  • Synthetic Flavor or Fragrance
  • Toluene
  • Triclosan & Triclocarban

    Harsh chemicals such as these can be found in everything from shampoos and hairspray to eyelash adhesives, nail polish, and makeup. Take some time to inventory your personal care products and toss items that contain any of these ingredients immediately. 


    Go green

    The good news is that many retailers, even large national companies, are taking it upon themselves to no longer purchase products with these harmful chemicals. Even better, there are many more companies creating really amazing products free of all toxic substances. 

    Understanding labels

    From the front label to the ingredients list, it can be hard to know what to look for. While, unfortunately, very few cosmetic and personal care product labelling claims are actually regulated by the FDA, you can use this glossary of terms to better navigate the many options out there. 

    Cruelty-free: Cruelty-free means the manufacturer doesn’t test their products on animals. Note: Cruelty-free and vegan don’t always go hand-in-hand. Just because a company claims their products don't contain any animal products, doesn’t mean they don’t test on animals, and vice versa.
    Fair Trade: When a product bears the Fair Trade Certified seal, it signifies rigorous standards have been met and ensures the people involved in making the goods work in safe conditions, protect the environment, build sustainable livelihoods, and earn additional money to empower and uplift their communities.
    Gluten-free: Typically associated with food products, you might now see gluten-free shampoo and the like in the beauty aisle. But does it matter if you're only putting something on your hair and skin? Experts say that while gluten isn’t a common ingredient in personal care products, there’s no reason to avoid it, even if you have a gluten allergy or intolerance. Unless you have a legion or condition like eczema that compromises the integrity of your skin barrier, gluten can’t penetrate your skin. If you do have a gluten sensitivity, however, you might want to look for gluten-free lip products as these can accidentally be ingested.
    Organic: Organic claims may appear on labels as “organic” or even “made with organic ingredients.” To be certified “organic” by the USDA, at least 95% of the ingredients must be organic. These products will display the USDA Organic Seal. To use “made with organic ingredients,” the product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients and may display a seal from a non-USDA certifying agency. Other products may simply note specific ingredients that are organic in the ingredients statement. If you’re looking for organic products, look for those that display “100% organic” or “organic” and have the USDA Organic Seal. 
    Parabens: Parabens are preservatives. They may appear on labels as isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben, or propylparaben. While they increase a product’s shelf life, they do so at a great risk to our health. Look for products that note “No Parabens” on the label or check the ingredients statement for the 4 aforementioned preservatives you should definitely avoid. 
    Phthalates are plasticizers that are used in beauty products to make them more pliable and reduce cracking. Phthalates have been linked to adversely affecting the reproductive system.
    Sulfates: Often found on labels as sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) and sodium laureth sulfate (SLES), these ingredients create lather or foam and can be derived from either petroleum or plant-based oils such as coconut or palm. The primary concern over sulfates is that they are known to cause skin irritation. Additionally, sulfates derived from petroleum have a significant impact on the environment, as well as those derived from palm oil, which is the primary contributor to deforestation in Indonesia. 
    Vegan: Another term typically associated with food, vegan beauty products follow the same line of thought. 100% vegan products are free of animal and animal-derived ingredients like beeswax, lanolin, collagen, and elastin to name a few. 
    Sustainable/Eco-friendly: These are really broad terms that have a range of meanings, though typically they refer to a company’s efforts to reduce their impact on the environment. This may be in the form of recyclable packaging and other recycling or waste reduction efforts, more sustainable production methods, sustainable sourcing of ingredients, or a combination of these efforts and others.

    What to look for: 

    Bottom line, look for sustainably-minded companies that are committed to cruelty-free practices and use non-toxic ingredients in all of their products. Brands that are transparent about their ingredient sourcing and production methods are likely to be more committed to making products that are safer for you and our planet. 


    A new wave of effective natural beauty products

    Through the years, our stylists have put nearly every non-toxic cleansing, styling, and coloring product to the test. In the past, natural hair products, in particular, have drastically underperformed, especially when it comes to meeting the demands of a bustling urban salon. Thankfully, we’ve discovered a handful of brands that are committed to delivering results-oriented products made with only non-toxic ingredients. Additionally, we select lines that are committed to sustainable and cruelty-free practices.  

    Our commitment to you

    We created NVBL, to make it easier for you to shop conscientiously and trust the products you and your family use. We are pleased to share our selection of tried and true favorites for you to easily browse. It is our promise to our customers and clients to continue monitoring EWG reports and recommendations and always source the best products that meet our high standards. Wherever you’re shopping, we encourage you to take a closer look at labels and ask more of the brands you purchase, because your health and well-being are worth it. 

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    *The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that brings research and education to the consumer, in order to empower us all to make healthier choices for ourselves and our planet. Learn more at