The term “clean” is everywhere in the beauty industry, but what does “clean skincare” really mean? Is it actually better for you? In this weeks blog, we debunk everything.
The Clean Beauty industry has been booming since 2017 and it doesn’t seem to be slowing down. However, what’s unclear to most people is what that actually means. The idea behind clean beauty is about being transparent and only using safe ingredients. They typically skip products sulfates, parabens, and preservatives. Some clean beauty companies such as BeautyCounter have even gone the extra step by making a whole 1,500 ingredient list that has been deemed as “nevers” (as in never put on your face).
But behind all the “apparent” clarity, things get pretty messy. First off, there is no regulation about what “clean” is and who/when you can slap it on a label. According to the FDA, there is no specific definition of ‘clean’ or ‘natural’. Some companies argue that if an ingredient comes from a natural source, then it’s natural. Meanwhile, they conveniently overlook the fact that the products are being chemically modified to make it work the way they want it. While some clean beauty companies can be legit, overall, it’s all just a marketing ploy.
Further making this topic confusing, is the fact that there’s no scientific evidence on how the “unclean” ingredients are supposedly harmful. Many clean beauty brands omit ingredients that can be irritating or cause allergic reactions, but only in some people. The problem is, the ingredients that belong on the “bad” list are different from brand to brand, so there is inconsistency there. Some swear by essential oils, and others say it’s irritating. Others say Retinal is horrible, and some say it’s perfectly fine. They base their biased opinion on scientific research; however, the findings are often taken out of context. For example, many of the experiments are not tested on humans, or the subjects are given megadoses that would never occur in ordinary skincare products. A whole brand is being based on preliminary research!
With that all being said, just because we can’t prove “unclean” products to be harmful – doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be aware of them. Formaldehyde and parabens have been linked to cancers, and parabens have also been associated with fertility problems. Keep in mind, both can come from sources other than cosmetics. In addition, artificial fragrance is usually a no-no in all skincare because it can be so irritating, but it’s not the same for everyone. As stated, the long-term effects of certain ingredients have not been abundant enough for concrete evidence.
It’s believed that a huge reason for the clean beauty boom is the fact that we don’t have to choose anymore. Best said by Arnaud Meysselle, CEO of REN Clean Skincare, “Twenty years ago, you had two choices: completely natural/organic (not pleasurable or results-driven) or chemical/synthetic (results-driven, pleasurable, but harsh)”. But through scientific advancements, consumers can (for the most part) enjoy both. We recommend taking the clean beauty movement with a grain of salt. If you don’t want sulfates, parabens, or preservatives in your skincare so be it! But make sure those ‘clean’ products are giving you the ingredients you need at high concentrations so you get the results you want/need.