If you’re like me, you may care deeply about what goes into and onto your body – especially if you think sustainability is important and want to improve your carbon footprint. If so, the idea of switching to clean beauty might seem like a no-brainer. However, it pays to do a little research before parting with your hard-earned cash.
The clean beauty movement has been gathering momentum for a while now, but there has been a lot of controversy regarding whether or not these beauty products are safe. Brands are switching from ‘toxic’ ingredients to more eco- and health-friendly options, and many of us have already begun the process of finding ‘cleaner’ products for our bodies and homes. But with its ever-growing popularity comes ever-growing criticism, so here, I’m going to delve into all things clean beauty. Read on and be more confident in your choices, make smarter purchases, and ultimately live a healthier lifestyle – with or without clean beauty.
So, What Is Clean Beauty?
Each brand has its own definition of what clean beauty means for them as there is no one agreed-upon definition. For example, here are two brands’ visions of what clean beauty is.
Clean Beauty Box says: “Clean Beauty is defined by products that are mindfully created and produced without any proven or suspected toxic ingredients. Clean Beauty products include ingredients ethically sourced and are made with the health of our bodies and the environment in mind.”
Goop claims: “Clean, for us, means that a product that is made without a long (and ever-evolving) list of ingredients linked to harmful health effects, which can range from hormone disruption and cancer to plain old skin irritation. To name a few of the offenders we avoid: parabens, phthalates, PEGs, ethanolamines, chemical sunscreens, synthetic fragrance, BHT, and BHA.”
The consensus is that clean beauty refers to products that are non-toxic, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. Contrary to what you might think, it does not necessarily mean the product has to be natural, organic, or green. The idea is that your product is rid of ingredients that are allegedly harmful to your health.
Clean and Dirty ingredients
If a product contains what clean beauty brands consider to be ‘toxic’ or harmful to human health, it’s classed as dirty, and each brand has a different dirty list. One example of a ‘dirty list’ includes:
- SLES, SLS, ALS
- Synthetic Fragrance
According to Michelle Wong (a cosmetic chemist, beauty scientist, and ingredient myth debunker), there is no such thing as a clean or dirty ingredient – what truly matters is exposure. Exposure depends on how much of an ingredient you have in the product, how much you use, and how you use the product. She explains quite simply that “clean beauty is basically telling you to never drink water in case you drown”.
A lot of clean beauty brands may disagree with Michelle Wong. Brands like Goop or Clean Beauty Box have a great concept, much like other clean beauty brands. However, their marketing could scaremonger consumers and leave many of them worried about whether a product is ‘clean’ or not. A silver lining of this, though, is that consumers are now looking at ingredients and understanding how to be more eco-friendly.
My Take on Clean Beauty
Overall, clean beauty has a great concept and is paving the way for a more eco-friendly future for beauty. At the same time, there is little scientific evidence to support their ‘non-toxic’ claims, and thus I can’t say that I am truly on board with the movement.
My question to the clean beauty industry is, if such ingredients are considered ‘toxic’, then how are they legal? It’s not new for companies to start looking at what they are putting into their products, so why would such reputable companies – some with 30+ years of research and thousands of clinical trials – not consider the risk of the ingredients they use? Other things to keep in mind include that no toxicology reports have been done to support the evidence that clean beauty brands claim. Additionally, ‘clean beauty’ is not a regulated term and, as explained before, it has inconsistencies in its meaning.
It’s true that people want cleaner formulas and that there is a huge demand for them. So, if that is what you want from your product or if you already use clean beauty brands that you love, then continue to use what works for you! Just remember that nothing is guaranteed to be risk-free, so don’t be fearful of using your favourite products because they aren’t considered ‘clean’. The entire product doesn’t need to be labelled clean or dirty.
I do champion brands that help to fight climate change and, if clean beauty brands can commit, that’s great! However, beauty may not necessarily be the path you need to take to be greener. You can always go back to the basics and consume less, use refillable products, and buy brands that create change to contribute to a sustainable future.
What should you know before searching for the right product?
1. Educate yourself
Research product ingredients and consider science-backed evidence on whether that ingredient is good or not. If like me, you’re an ingredient buff, this website is your best friend! You can research any ingredient and it gives you an easy-to-read explanation. You can even type in your product and an ingredient, and it will tell you if your product contains ingredients you don’t want in there.
2. Everything is a chemical
All matter is chemical, so don’t fear the word!
3. Don’t be guilt-tripped
Don’t buy into clean beauty purely out of guilt as it is eco-friendly. Instead, look at what steps you can take to be more sustainable and choose products based on your needs – whether it’s a clean beauty brand or not.
My Beauty Brand Recommendation:
I use products that work for me and I don’t fear that my products aren’t ‘clean’ as I have done my research and trust the brands I use. However, if I had to choose a clean beauty brand, I would choose Versed.
Some of its pros include:
- Simple packaging
- Refill pouches
- Biodegradable formulas
Plus, I love how its website offers a skincare quiz where, instead of searching blindly, you can be guided to the right products for you. Below, I recommend two other brands if you want to make a change and become more eco-friendly. And if you want even more suggestions, visit earth.org, which has published a list of the best sustainable beauty brands in the industry.
What I love about Lush is its fun, quirky packaging and vision to leave the world a lusher place. Some of the other pros include:
- Fighting animal testing
- Charitable donations and encouraging customers to support donations through sales of certain products
- 50% of products have zero packaging, this is what Lush considers to be ‘naked’
I like that BYBI is very similar to Lush, is pro-planet, and wants to make a change as its ingredients don’t come at a cost to our planet. Other pros:
- It considers the harvesting process, source location, transport, and packaging
- It uses upcycled ingredients in over 50% of the products
- The packaging comes with a free returns labels so you can return it to be sterilised and reused
- It transports everything using electric vehicles