Starting a Clean Beauty Routine: a Beginner's Guide

I've been on a "clean" journey for the past six months - in both my home (see my eco-friendly and all-natural home cleaning products post) and beauty routines. While one of these decisions was pretty easy to make (is it REALLY that hard to imagine cleaning products being BAD for you?!) the other was, and is, much harder.

First, what is Clean Beauty? When I say that term, I mean the ingredients used to make the products are all-natural (or very close with transparent labeling) and, even better organic. However, one thing stuck with me in PR school in college - the term "organic" isn't regulated by the FDA and because of that many, many companies say they are organic or all natural, but they really aren't. This is called "greenwashing."

Even after doing your research and ensuring that the brand you're buying from is actually made from clean ingredients, not all clean products are the same quality. Its hard to replicate some of our favorite brands that have long lasting power - but I got you covered with a few of my favorite brands I've recently tried (below) so you don't have to waste your money.

To cut some of your research and give you more of an educational prep on starting your journey, I've put together this comprehensive guide to starting your clean beauty journey. Have a tip or brand I need to try out? Send me a DM at @theExtraBlog (on Instagram) or leave a comment below!

How to Start a Clean Beauty Routine:

In 5 Easy Steps

1. Start Small.

The easiest, and hardest, thing to do is to just start. So start small and pick one product to exchange with a cleaner, more all-natural alternative. The best thing to do is to start with something that covers a lot of surface area (since your skin IS your biggest organ) and get the most bang for your buck: body wash, lotions, foundation, or tinted moisturizers are great places to start.

2. Ask for Samples.

Sephora and Ulta are both open to providing samples of their brands and you can receive samples both in store and online. The best part? Both brands also allow you to search “Clean Beauty” on their websites and all of their clean beauty brands pop up – giving you access to dozens of brands to choose from. Choose a few and give them a try!

I have heard numerous times that Sephora out-gives in samples over Ulta, and when it comes to online samples – they out do Ulta every time: you’re allotted two free samples per order at Sephora whereas you have to search for products that have samples available on the Ulta site.

3. Do your research.

This is THE biggest thing you have to do and I learned this all the way back in college as a PR major: there is NO regulation on the words “organic” or “clean beauty” and companies have free reign to use them as they please. As clean beauty and sustainability become more mainstream and popular the more and more companies are slapping these labels on products that aren’t really allllll that green – that’s called greenwashing.

4. Use the 80/20 Rule.

Aim to replace 80% of your beauty routine with cleaner alternatives and keep 20% of your beauty products that you just swear by and can’t live without.

5. Go with Natural and Organic Ingredients.

Here’s a startling fact: the EU bans over 1,300 chemicals from being sold on its country’s shelves, Canada bans over 600, and the US? Only 11. Some of the worst offending chemicals are (1) fragrances; (2) parabens; (3) phthalates; and (4) Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate. If you see any of these 4 ingredients --- stay away!!

5 Big Offenders to Stay AWAY From:

  • Fragrances

  • Parabens

  • Phthalates

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate +

  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate


Clean Beauty Brands + Product Finds:

Want to go further and have not only a clean routine, but a more sustainable, eco-friendly + conscious routine as well?

"Conscious Beauty" is essentially doing more than just being clean, but it doesn't automatically mean that all of the ingredients used are all-natural. It could mean that they company is sustainable or eco-friendly in some other capacity, like those listed below.

Use products with eco-friendly packaging.

One way to have a sustainable beauty routine is to use brands that package their products in recyclable materials, plastic-free materials, and come with refillable containers.

1. Refillable:

A few brands have started to market and package their products in refillable components: spending more on giving the consumer refillable containers as an initial cost and having smaller refillable costs steadily come in later.

Anastasia of Beverly Hills has this compact that I refill when I run out – the best part? You don’t have to choose from a chosen color palette – you create your own!

2. Recyclable:

Aluminum is the most recyclable material on earth. Also 91% of plastic isn’t recycled and can take up to 500 years to decompose.

Eva NYC is 100% recyclable company that just introduced 100% recyclable aluminum packaging, that can be recycled forever! They’ve also partnered with TerraCycle® to ensure 100% recyclability of all Eva NYC hair care bottle empties. I LOVE their Therapy Session Hairy Mask and use it twice a month, at least.

3. Plastic-free:

Did you know that plastic packaging leaches, ever so slightly, into your beauty products?

Kitsch is a hair product company that I love (I have their cheetah print silk pillowcase that I sleep with every night) and they also do plastic-free packaging on their products, such as their shampoo and conditioner bars!

Support products derived from ethically-sourced ingredients.

Where the ingredients come from and how they got to you is also equally as important as what you put on your body. Long-term investment allows the local community to plan for the future and provides stability for families in the region to further long-term infrastructure like education, insurance and housing. Here’s a simple rule to follow: be sure that the company you are buying from, isn’t doing anything YOU wouldn’t do to yourself.

Ellis Brooklyn is one of those companies that is “committed to sustainability, clean formulations and continued innovation in responsible fragrance sourcing and composition.” Ellis Brooklyn, a PETA-certified cruelty-free and vegan fragrance company -- whose scent ‘Salt’ I talked about above as being one of my favorites this summer!

This post contains affiliate links and I will be compensated if you make a purchase after clicking on my links, but - don't worry! All opinions are my own. :)

If you have any questions feel free to shoot me an email at or drop a comment below!