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Label Decoder: What to Look for in Natural Beauty Products

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Want to green your beauty regimen? We break down the labels on common beauty products and offer natural alternatives to all those iffy ingredients.

Eager to green your look-good routine? Start by perusing boxes and labels for a certification seal from the Natural Products Association or USDA Organic. Either indicates that an independent organization has vetted the company's claims, says Ann Francke, founder of, an online natural-product shop. Next, give the ingredients list a once-over. These commonly used synthetics have healthful, straight-from-the-earth alternatives.

Iffy Ingredient: Paraben

A chemical preservative that may be linked to endocrine disruption (when your hormone levels go haywire).

Purer pick: Sugar or milk enzymes (aka glucose oxidase or lactoperoxidase); both absorb bacteria-causing oxygen.

Iffy Ingredient: Sulfates

The sudsy component in cleansers and shampoos that can lead to skin and scalp irritation.

Purer pick: Coconut or sunflower extracts (scan labels for decyl or lauryl glucosides), which gently froth.

Iffy Ingredient: Mineral Oil

A heavy moisturizer that can plug up your pores and cause a breakout.

Purer pick: Beeswax has the same hydrating properties as mineral oil sans potential buildup.

Originally published in FITNESS magazine, April 2009.


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