How much do you really know about your cosmetics? Chances are that you need to take a way closer look at the labels on your beauty products. We’re new to the concept of “clean beauty,” so we caught up with Nichole Ciotti of Vanilla Extract a few weeks ago and picked her brain! It turns out that there are some iffy ingredients in a lot of our favorites. Nichole has opted for cleaner options when buying cosmetics and skincare — find out what made her switch to nontoxic products and which ones she’s loving right now!

What inspired you to take a closer look at your skincare/beauty products?

When I moved from Tampa to San Francisco, I developed really dry skin and had a hard time finding a remedy. I started getting breakouts (high school style), and just wasn’t happy with the quality of my skin. One day, I looked at the ingredients list for one of my products and realized I didn’t know what the heck anything meant! It was then that I decided to take a closer look at what I was putting on my skin. I started reading No More Dirty Looks and was blown away. The book talks about all the things the cosmetics industry doesn’t want you to know. By chapter 3, I had already bought a few copies to give to my girlfriends. It’s my beauty handbook.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve learned on this journey to clean beauty?

I found out that there’s not much regulation when it comes to beauty products. Beauty companies can use almost any ingredient they want without any oversight. What’s scary is that our skin absorbs everything we put on it. If our products are loaded with harmful chemicals, our organs and tissues are too. It’s not pretty!


Our interest is piqued. If we wanted to make the switch to clean beauty, what should we replace first?

Starting with body lotion is going to be your best bet because it covers the most amount of surface area. When you read No More Dirty Looks, you may or may not have the instant urge to throw out every product you own. Don’t do it! Beauty products are so expensive. When you run out of something, replace it with a cleaner version. It’s a bit of a gradual process. Whole Foods has a ton of nontoxic options. Just remember that the proof is always in the fine print. Once you learn how to read beauty labels (the book will teach you how), it’s easier to make a cleaner decision.

Okay, be honest. Is every single product you use a “clean” product? What dirty stuff won’t you give up, if any?

Ahh! I think the key to life is moderation. There may be a dirty product or two in my beauty bag, but I use them sparingly—for photo shoots or events when I know there will be lots of photographers. Dior Airflash is a dirty favorite. It gives you an airbrushed look, which is hard to give up when you need to look flawless. I figure that if I’m using clean products the majority of the time, I’m in the clear. It’s a lot like eating chocolate. It tastes SO good and you want to eat it, but there are consequences if you eat too much. It’s the same with beauty products.


What’s your skincare routine like now? What can you recommend to some of us clean beauty virgins?

My routine is super simple! First, I wash my face with Montclair handcrafted soap in Anjou Pears. It’s made from organic, essential oils, so it’s gentle enough for my face. It doesn’t dry me out and the $6 price tag is hard to beat. After that, I apply three drops of ACURE 100% certified organic argan oil to the palms of my hands and smooth it on my face and neck. If I have any left over, I’ll put it on the ends of my hair or on my cuticles. Argan oil is a serious multi-tasker! It does everything. For sun protection, I like Vive Sana’s Solar to Polar Ultra.

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