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Best Clean Beauty Swaps for Gorgeous Skin and Hair Without Harsh Chemicals

Sometimes the very products we use to battle fine lines and wrinkles, discoloration, thinning hair and more not only exacerbate these beauty bothers but also create new ones! That’s because harsh chemicals commonly used in many skin and hair products cause skin on the face, body and scalp to become irritated, red and inflamed, or worse, lead to allergic reactions. Sidestep these issues by opting for “clean beauty” — shampoos, lotions, scrubs and more that are infused with natural ingredients but do the job just as well without chemicals. Here, our picks for the top clean beauty swaps.

Top picks for clean beauty swaps

Thin hair? Shampoo with rice protein

rice water bowl with rice
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It seems like a no-brainer to use a volumizing shampoo when you want to give your thin hair some oomph. However, many are formulated with sulfates, a cleansing agent that “contributes to dryness or scalp irritation and can impact the health of the hair and potentially contribute to increased shedding,” says Trichologist Isfahan Chambers-Harris, Ph.D. Instead, use a sulfate-free shampoo made with rice proteins. Dr. Chambers-Harris says these proteins contain amino acids that strengthen and hydrate hair so it appears thick, shiny and healthy after just one wash. Try: Monday Moisture Shampoo.

Dull skin? Scrub with fruit seeds

Once a trendy addition to skin scrubs, the buzz on microbeads now is that the tiny plastic spheres can get trapped in pores, leading to breakouts and irritation. Plus, they can strip away protective oils, leaving skin dry and more susceptible to environmental damage. Even worse: “Microbeads found in physical exfoliation products can cause microtears in the skin,” says Kiran Mian, D.O., FAAD, dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology & Laser Surgery in New York City. A better option: “Exfoliants made from ground-up fruit seeds.” They can help gently lift off dead skin cells, dirt and debris to smooth out the skin and won’t get stuck in pores. Dr. Mian still advises using gentle pressure when scrubbing to ensure you don’t over-exfoliate. Try: good.clean.goop The Fruit Facial Exfoliating Scrub.

Dry skin? Hydrate with squalane

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A downside of aging is that our bodies produce less skin-hydrating­ sebum (the oil skin naturally produces), which means we’re continuously slathering on moisturizer. A common ingredient in many moisturizers? Humectant polyethylene glycol­ (PEG). Says Connie Yang, MD, derma­tologist at PFRANKMD by Dr. Paul Jarrod Frank, “Since PEGs help other active ingredients penetrate the skin more effectively, it means they can also help harmful or irritating substances be absorbed more deeply into the skin, leading to irritation or other adverse reactions.” A clean beauty swap? Moisturizers containing squalane (derived from olives). “It shares many of the beneficial hydrating properties of PEGs but with lower risk of irritation.” Try: The Outset Nourishing Squalane Daily Moisturizer.

Age spots? Treat with tranexamic acid

To diminish discoloration, plenty of us reach for skin lightening creams formulated with hydroquinone since it inhibits melanin production to help fade dark spots. Unfortunately, this ingredient can also lead to a condition called Ochronosis. “This is a condition in which a grayish brown hue develops on the skin due to pigment deposition in the deeper layers of the dermis where hydroquinone is applied over a period of time,” says Dr. Mian. What works better: tranexamic acid. “This ingredient is very effective at lightening dark spots,” says Dr. Mian.It blocks the production and transfer of melanin, plus, its anti-inflammatory properties help heal the skin barrier from sun damage.” And it does all of this without altering skin’s natural tone. Tip: When using the acid during daytime, Dr. Mian says it’s imperative to protect skin from the sun with sunscreen or a hat. Try: Good Molecules Discoloration Correcting Serum.

Sensitive skin? Suds up with coconut oil

When it comes to body wash, the more suds, the better, right? Not quite! While a bubbly formula may make you feel more “clean,” foaming agents like cocamidopropyl betaine, commonly found in body washes, can be harsh on skin. “Cocamidopropyl betaineis are used in cleansers to emulsify, lather and cleanse the skin,” says Dr. Yang. But, she adds that “in higher concentrations, it can strip the skin of its natural oils.” And this can cause skin to be plagued with dryness, breakouts, irritation and itchiness. Enter: coconut­ oil–­based body washes. These natural alternatives get their cleansing abilities from coconut oil and do more than just wash away dirt and impurities. Thanks to the oil’s natural fats and lauric acid, these body washes also help restore moisture to skin.

Even better? Coconut-based cleansers provide anti-inflammatory and nourishing properties due to their fatty acid content, which strengthens skin’s barrier to cut down on future irritation from itchiness to rashes and even eczema flare-ups. Try: Puracy Natural Body Wash.

Crow’s feet? Tap on granactive retinoids

There are so many retinol-infused eye creams that tout being able to smooth skin, but they can actually be harsh on mature or sensitive skin around the eyes. “Retinol makes your skin cells less sticky, so peeling is common,” says Dr. Mian. “This can lead to irritation and redness.” The better alternative? Granactive retinoids, which release more slowly and are a less irritating form of retinol. “Granactive retinoids have the same benefits as retinol,” adds Dr. Mian. “But [they] are gentler and help increase skin cell turnover and improve skin’s elasticity without harsh side effects.” What’s more, this form of retinoid can also help fend off milia — those tiny, flesh-colored bumps that commonly appear around the eyes as we age — by increasing collagen production and skin cell turnover. Try: VERSED Advanced Retinoid Eye Balm

Bonus: Fragrance finds that won’t irritate

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Artificial fragrances can irritate skin, exacerbate asthma and cause headaches. Here, three natural scents and clean beauty brands that will leave you smelling and feeling great!

Citrus: Increases energy

The invigorating scents of orange and lemon have been shown to boost levels of norepinephrine, a brain chemical that keeps you alert. To get the benefits, spritz on Dossier Citrus Ginger, which is made of orange, lemon and ginger essential oils for added zing.

Rose: Boosts joy

Studies report smelling rose aromas releases the output of feel-good endorphins. And spraying on rose oil–infused Pacifica Dream Moon Spray Perfume makes it easy to get the instantly happy result.

Vanilla: Brings on calm

Breathing in vanilla has been shown to lower levels of stress-causing cortisol by bringing on feelings of relaxation. Simply mist on LaVanila The Healthy Fragrance Vanilla Coconut, which contains Madagascar vanilla bean extract and coconut oil to help worries fade fast.


For more beauty advice, check out the stories below:

Manuka Honey Is the Natural Cure for Inflamed, Dull and Wrinkly Skin — Here’s How to Use It

Shampoo or Conditioner First? Pros Settle the Hair Washing Debate Once And For All

Can a $3 Beauty Hack Going Viral on TikTok Stop Watery Eyes? MDs Say Yes!

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