What is clean beauty?

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The UK wellbeing and organic beauty market is riding high. Meanwhile European beauty products certified with Soil Association COSMOS in 2018 doubled to stretch to over 10,000 products from among 794 brands. The clean beauty trend is now becoming mainstream.

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Defining clean beauty

A focus on detoxification and wellness is fuelling a demand for ‘clean’ ingredients in beauty and diet products, with consumers reading labels more carefully. Mintel suggests that 21 per cent of US customers seek skincare products with the lowest possible number of ingredients.

To say that something is ‘chemical-free’, ‘green’ or ‘natural’ is no longer useful – there is no set definition for clean beauty, and such terms can be open to misuse. Victoria Buchanan at The Future Laboratory remarks that ‘zero-irritants’ are going to set a new beauty standard.

Among firms getting on board, Clarins cosmetics now boasts a vegan skincare line (with recycled packaging), while Wella Professionals has introduced plant-based hair colour.

Toxic ingredients to avoid

Steer clear of synthetic chemicals and aggressive ingredients. Mineral oils (petrolatum, petroleum, paraffinum liquidum) and artificial colours, silicones (like dimethicone), sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), phthalates (DEHP, DBP, DEP, BPA) and parabens (ethyl-, methyl-, butyl-, propyl-) can all cause skin problems.

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Some skincare ranges omit the ‘suspicious six’: alcohols, essential oils, chemical screens, silicones, SLS and fragrance/dyes and a rise in sensitive skin caused by exposure to pollution and stress is driving a shift towards honest, natural ingredients.

Natural versus organic products

‘Natural’ products contain plant and natural ingredients and are minimally processed. ‘Organic’ products go further: they use non-GMO ingredients that have been produced without herbicides, pesticides, antibiotics or fungicides.

Vegan products

A properly vegan product has no ingredients derived from animals – including collagen, honey, albumen, carmine, cholesterol and gelatin. In hair care, the use of vegetable ingredients – including algaes, wheat protein, shea butter and argan oil – has replaced keratin, beeswax and lanolin.

Clarins cosmetics is among brands going vegan.

The Guardian explores the clean beauty trend here: https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2019/feb/04/is-clean-beauty-a-skincare-revolution-or-a-pointless-indulgence.

The environmental impact

In 2018, Zero Waste Week reported that 120 billion packaging units are produced each year by the worldwide cosmetics industry, much of which can’t be recycled.

Promoting sustainability, glass can be reused many times. Plastic resin derived from corn is a renewable resource instead of petroleum, while soy-based ink can be used for printing.


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