• Kate

How to Read Food vs Beauty Labels


It feels like an eternity ago, but it was the year I really dug into "whole food" or "real food" nutrition lifestyle and safer, low-tox, "holistic" living.

I started with food and nutrition.

First, I learned all about reading ingredients labels, terms to avoid, tricks of the trade, and more. I listened to podcasts, read articles, bought books. Eventually, I enrolled in the NTC program at the beginning of 2015.

Then, I started to teach others what I learned (because at the end of the day, I believe I am here to teach and inspire others).

Here's the thing, though. I overgeneralized and assumed the food rules transferred over to the beauty industry. I started trying to follow the "rules" for this industry, and found it to be much more difficult.

So I ended up using coconut oil for... uh, everything! Toothpaste, conditioner, makeup remover, moisturizer, body lotion. It was cheap, however, I can't say it was super effective. (Thank goodness we were living in FL away from everyone we knew at the time! My poor husband.)

Luckily, I've found that a ton of ladies in my situation have done the same.

I stumbled upon Beautycounter thanks to my mentors, Diane Sanfilippo and Liz Wolfe (The Balanced Bites Podcast). I was on Diane's team then and she raved about the charcoal bar. I consider Liz the safer skincare expert and I believed in her knowledge and research...

But I will admit... I WAS CONFUSED.

Food vs Beauty Labels | Holistic Kate

I looked at Beautycounter's ingredient labels... knowing they had The Never List(tm) - aka 1,500+ ingredients they vow to never use in their products because of safety concerns - and strict standards, and I didn't understand why the labels were so long or why ingredients I would avoid in my food were listed in the beauty product.

I should be able to eat my beauty and skincare products, right? Errrr, maybe not? Doesn't everything get absorbed... in like 26 seconds?!?

If I felt confused... I'm sure there are several of you that ALSO feel confused... so let's break it down!

I've learned majority of this information from Lindsay Dahl, Beautycounter's VP of Social & Environmental Responsibility. She is an amazing, super knowledgable resource I cannot recommend enough if you are interested in this information. (Click here for her blog. Follow her @beautycounter.hill.nerd on IG)

Food Industry Facts

While we are a bit "safer" in the Food Industry regarding regulation, the Food and Beauty/Skincare/Personal Care Products parallel one another. This gives me hope that as one industry changes, the other will follow.

Through the years, we have been dumping chemicals into our food products at a rapid rate:

Processed Food Snacks | Holistic Kate
  • 1950s = 800 chemicals

  • 1960s = 3,000 chemicals

  • 2014 = 10,000 chemicals

What's more alarming? The FDA has never reviewed over 3,000 of these ingredients and 5,000 chemical food additives are NOT required to be on food packaging!!

How is this even possible? It's a loophole called GRAS, which stands for Generally Recognized as Safe.

Of course, this started innocently so companies could use common ingredients like "vinegar" or "sea salt," but if you give a mouse a cookie...

It has turned into companies taking advantage of the system...

"Critics of the system say the biggest concern, however, is that companies regularly introduce new additives without ever informing the FDA. That means people are consuming foods with added flavors, preservatives and other ingredients that are not reviewed at all by regulators for immediate dangers or long-term health effects.


Scientists and advocates worry about the growing number of ingredients that the FDA doesn't know about and is not tracking.

Rather than going through the painstaking FDA-led review process to ensure that their new ingredients are safe, food companies can determine on their own that substances are "generally recognized as safe." They can then ask the FDA to review their evaluation — if they wish. Or they can take their ingredients straight to market, without ever informing the agency." (Click here for more).

Food Rules vs Beauty Rules

Let's compare some of the common "food rules" and how they apply to the personal care industry... but before we dive in, I have to bust a myth that I used to believe about these industries because it governed a lot of my thought process about beauty products... I mentioned it above.

Not all topical products are absorbed into your body, especially not in 26 seconds. This is a classic internet meme... you know what they (now) say, you can't believe everything you read on the Internet.

In fact, some products are designed NOT to be absorbed by the body at all and rather sit on top of the skin.

(Thanks to Beautycounter for debunking these myths for their consultants! Direct quote from our newsletter: "We encourage all of our Beautycounter Consultants to share our graphics (vetted by our science and legal teams) and the approved facts and stats documents posted on Behind the Counter. Thank you for helping us maintain our credibility as the clean beauty leader by sharing the most accurate information possible.")

Rule #1 - The less ingredients, the better.