Label Decoder: What to Look for in Natural Beauty Products
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Label Decoder: What to Look for in Natural Beauty Products

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.