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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Scales

When Less Is More

Fewer Ingredients in Personal Skin Care

While vetting sustainable companies, there's always an opportunity to encounter something new about sustainability. Since working with askBelynda, I have had the pleasure of deep-diving into the stories of many amazing businesses and founders. Unfortunately however, I also keep discovering the sad reality that precisely these companies are working to change.


Sustainable Shopping Made Simple


The mind-blowing fact that led to my rabbit hole of the week was this: The average American woman puts 515 synthetic chemicals on her skin every day!


I came across this shocking number when researching a company that does a great job at changing this. S.W. Basics makes natural skin care products with 5 ingredients or less. And the best thing about their ingredients? They are all-natural, you can understand (and pronounce) them and might even find some of them in your kitchen cabinet.

A brand born from DIY cosmetics; S. W. Basics doesn’t pretend that making skincare is rocket science. They even show you DIY recipes in their blog posts. But if you don’t feel like hunting for that organic jojoba oil, rose water, or plant glycerin yourself - you can buy their products. Natural, effective, and simple.

If you want to discover great brands like S.W. Basics, you can download the free askBelynda plugin for your Chrome browser. The next time you search for skin care on Amazon, it will pop up and give you a curated selection of sustainable products


It’s really refreshing to see those short lists of familiar substances on personal care items. Especially compared to the long lists you usually find and which add up to an average of 515 different chemicals in all the products used in a day. So, what are these “conventional” ingredients, and how do we know they are safe? Well, the producers say they are…

"Although U.S. regulations do not specify any particular testing regimens for cosmetic products or ingredients, it is the cosmetic company's responsibility to substantiate product and ingredient safety prior to marketing.“

(From the FDA Website)

Since I am very interested in nutritional science and get a lot of my information from U.S. sources, I probably know more about the FDA than the average European. But I was still amazed to find out that if the FDA wants to pull cosmetics with potentially harmful ingredients from the market, they must prove that the products are unsafe.

The European Union added 23 new chemicals to its 1300-item list of prohibited cosmetic ingredients this year alone, due to evidence they could be harmful. In the U.S., only 11 ingredients are prohibited or restricted.

Fortunately, there are labels and certifications that make it easier to shop for safer alternatives. The MADE SAFE certification is just one of the many criteria we look for when vetting companies for inclusion in the askBelynda Chrome extension. When an S.W. Basics product suggestion pops up, you can click on the “Reasons Why” and see that it is “made safe”.


A few of S.W. Basics products - Toner, Exfoliant, Cleanser, Cream

Given that there is very little transparency about the safety of ingredients in conventional cosmetics, it’s not surprising that there is a growing trend of making your own personal care products.

A quick google search for “homemade skin care” gives you 250 million (!) results.

From coconut oil makeup remover to avocado face masks to baking soda deodorant and apple vinegar hair rinse, a lot of the ingredients come from our kitchens. If you are looking for a fun DIY beauty project for the holidays, check out the DIY Seaweed, Cucumber, and Coffee Hydrating "Sheet Mask" that S.W. Basics founder Adina shares on the company's blog.

However, if you prefer to reserve your kitchen for making cookies and Christmas pudding, it’s great to know that you can always buy the simple, natural, and safe skin care products you want.


Jennifer Scales is a photo artist and train travel enthusiast. When she is not vetting companies for askBelynda, she spreads her love for sustainable travel by capturing the beauty of nature seen through the train window.

Check out her website Landscape in Motion and follow Jennifer Scales | Fine Art on Instagram to see her artwork.

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