“Clean” is the new buzzword in beauty, having been slathered all over products, magazines and events around food, it’s now moved on and is being touted by health and beauty brands left, right and centre. Whilst some of those brands are creating “clean” products, many are not and as a consumer it can be hard to decipher what’s legit.
The beauty industry is fairly unregulated, there are no laws that ban many harmful substances from being used it is true; but one of the main issues is that there is a significant lack of definitions that brands and manufacturers can adhere to. “Eco” and “green” don’t have a specific meaning and thus can be used to describe a variety of products that may not be as eco and green as their branding suggests.
So, what exactly is it?
“Clean” to us means products that don’t contain lots of the common harmful substances that are used in health and beauty products. These ingredients can be harmful not only to you, but also the environment and it’s likely that you’ll recognise a few:
Parabens; phthalates; BHT; BHA; ethanolamines; propylene glycol; paraffin.
Products without these ingredients are toxin-free and much better for you and the environment. Parabens, for example, are used in thousands of products to prolong the shelf-life and prevent bacterial growth, but research has shown that there is a strong link between parabens and cancer risk, plus some reproductive issues (Berkeley ,2015). It’s unlikely that products will be labelled with the “contains parabens” warning so ingredients to look out for are all the methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, isopropyl-, butyl-, and isobutylparabens.
Products that don’t include toxins are termed as "clean", and often they will include a long list of natural ingredients, including essential oils. The phrase “clean beauty” essentially takes the same meaning as anything labelled as “natural” although the two are very different when you break it down…
Busting a few myths
It is a common misconception that just because something is natural, it means that it’s clean. Many natural ingredients are toxic – eating raw potatoes, deadly nightshade flowers, poison ivy and lead and in fact, many of the European Commission cosmetic listed cosmetic allergens are natural. Using ingredients such as lavender essential oil in too high a concentration will of course cause irritation.
However, you are right in thinking that using these kinds of products are much better for the environment as well as your skin. In very basic terms, if an ingredient comes from nature, and experiences little processing, it is safe to return to nature.
Using natural ingredients over synthetic on your skin, for washing, moisturising and beauty has several key benefits:
You understand more about what you’re putting on your skin. To use lavender as an example again, you can picture the lavender flower in your mind when you read the ingredient. Simply reading “Parfum” or something like sodium lauryl sulphate it’s hard to picture exactly what it is.
Natural ingredients have been used for centuries in fighting infections, oils like tea tree and lemon are particularly good for keeping bacteria at bay.
Natural ingredients have little or no effect on your hormones. The skin is super absorbent so anything you apply will end up in your bloodstream – some chemicals have been shown to change hormone balance so going natural is a good way to avoid this (and a key reason that some products advise against use if pregnant).
Artificial ingredients can cause irritation and break outs that you’re trying to prevent or cure by using beauty products. Natural ingredients are less likely to cause this as only a low concentration is used in most natural beauty formulations.