June 17, 2024

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The Rise of Clean Beauty – Navigating the World of Non-Toxic Skincare Products

4 min read

As consumers focusing on health and sustainability grow up, the explosion of clean-beauty products on store shelves at retailers such as Sephora and Ulta is only beginning. Though separation between clean and non-clean beauty is supposed to be one of the advantages of the clean movement, considering how opaque clean beauty’s label is, it can be nearly impossible for consumers to determine which products are clean. Retailers like Sephora and Ulta seem to be responding with various consumer education programmes on clean beauty.

So the Clean Beauty Movement, adhering to its concern for transparency and ethical sourcing, eschews potentially dangerous ingredients like parabens, phthalates and sulphates, go. And promotes transparency, of course.

Read the Label

And so, as the clean beauty movement grows, we’re asking more from our skincare products – and more of them, too. How far should we go to rid our lives of toxicants? However, thanks to FDA inaction (there’s no legal definition of clean beauty) and marketing loopholes, brands might call a product ‘ clean’ – but what does that even mean, and what does it contain?

Since there isn’t a definitive definition of what constitutes clean beauty products, it’s mostly left up to the founder of a brand to determine how they want to interpret the meaning of ‘clean’. Some brands maintain lists of ingredients they will or won’t use or exclude, while others define clean beauty based on whether or not it’s an irritant to the skin, contains a potential endocrine disruptor or harmful chemical carcinogen.

While it’s heartening to see people pay more attention to the ingredients in their skincare regimens, some clean terminology equates ‘clean’ with exclusivity – leaving consumers with the sense that they feel guilty, ashamed or worried they are making the wrong decision when it comes to health and beauty.

Check the Ingredients

Product performances must be sustainable; clean beauty movements need to depend on products remaining precisely that, ie non-toxic. This requires ingredients-checking as a practice: it’s easy with the apps and websites out there.

After all, while consumers may not have examined ingredient lists when shopping for lotion or shampoo decades ago, after the rise of clean beauty, many shoppers did begin paying attention to what those products contained.

As a result, I’ve noticed more and more skincare brands incorporating natural ingredients and eco-friendly packaging (even Sephora’s Clean at Sephora curation program and Credo’s Clean + Planet Positive program offer greater rewards to products that are considered ‘clean’ and include special attributes, such as cruelty-free animal sourcing or commitments to environmentally friendly operations).

Even with all the sentiment towards clean beauty products, remember that not all are created equal. Some ‘clean’ products on the shelf are actually full of ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS, an ingredient that acts as surfactant to create lather while also helping to cleanse skin and hair), parabens (a family of synthetic preservatives), oxybenzone (found in sunscreen and is a culprit in coral bleaching), and other chemicals that are not only bad for your health, but also bad for the planet as a whole.

Ask Questions

In the meantime, it is worth knowing that when it comes to skincare products – whatever they might cost – marketing can make very bad choices look good. The more you know, the surer you can be that the steps you are taking for skin’s sake will support skin’s own goals – not just Instagram likes.

There isn’t (and never will be) a legally enforceable definition or standard for ‘clean’ products, whether it is skincare or any other good that allegedly spares the earth. The clarity we’re talking about has to do not only with what goes into a product but with what goes into making those ingredients, right up to the finished good.

And environmental concerns are something to consider when you are buying cosmetics – opt for refillable products or try to use multipurpose products that can be used on the face and the body. Finally, when researching any new ingredients, try to stick to trusted sources that track the most recent studies on the ongoing safety of cosmetic ingredients.

Research

In the same way that consumers of the past bought stuff just because a particular brand had a catchy name or was packaged in bright colours, today’s consumers want to buy ethical products; products that painlessly make the world a better place by caring about our health and, most recently, the environment as well.

There are numerous chemicals in regular cosmetics that are toxic for humans and the environment. Skin absorption contributes to long-term health issues with cosmetic products, and can create issues in the environment through eutrophication (dead zones), fertiliser pollution and microplastic pollution in the oceans.

Clean beauty is not just about ingredients and how they are produced. Eco-conscious buyers want to do business with companies that are transparent about where and how the ingredients are sourced and made. Sustainable product offerings delight them – think bamboo containers or refillable jars used to reduce plastic material. Ideally, companies might offer a take-back program for their packaging, creating a circular economy within the beauty industry.

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