The Dirty Truth About:
(How to Make an Informed Decision)
Is clean beauty a skincare revolution – or a pointless indulgence. More and more companies are offering skincare products free from ‘toxic’, ‘nasty’ and ‘suspicious’ chemicals. But are these ingredients really dangerous?
So, what does “clean” beauty really mean?
To us when we look for Clean Beauty, is defined by products that are mindfully created and produced without any proven or suspected harmful ingredients. Clean Beauty products include ingredients ethically sourced and are made with the health of our bodies and the environment in mind, without seeing an animal go anywhere near it.
That is something I am totally behind with our 100% natural skincare range and why wouldn’t I be? The passion behind the skincare range started from my own harrowing experiences of what poor quality skincare can do to a person.
Where the problem starts though, like so many other trendy buzzwords, “clean” in the context of beauty can mean a lot of things — it means pretty much whatever the brand wants it to mean. In many ways, they are no different from the beauty products that have come before them, except that they all claim to be somehow morally better, or “cleaner”.
How do you define clean beauty?
Beauty brands use the term “clean” to signal that products don’t contain certain ingredients (natural or synthetic) that they consider controversial or unsafe, like parabens and talc. The problem is, without regulation, anything can be called “clean”— whether proven unsafe or not.
As for other “clean beauty” terms, there’s an overload of related claims and buzzwords on product packaging and in marketing — and misinformation about what they mean (or don’t). So let’s break down the most common lingo found in clean beauty and speak about the dirty truths of these claims:
What it implies: The ingredients used in this product are from a natural source, such as plant, mineral or animal.
Dirty Truth: Many companies include a few token natural ingredients to jump onto the natural bandwagon. Not to mention “Natural” doesn’t always mean better; Some natural substances can even be harmful. This is called greenwashing, which you can read more about here.
What it implies: This product contains no chemicals.
Dirty Truth: Everything is chemicals. A chemical is simply matter with a consistent composition. Yes, your face wash is made of chemicals. So are apples and oranges and the phone you are probably reading this on. Can you really trust a company who does not have a basic understanding of chemistry?
What it implies: There are no small bits of plastic in here that can cause damage to marine ecosystems.
Dirty Truth: While we are proud to carry the “Zero Plastic Inside” from the Plastic Soup Foundation, sadly not all brands have taken that initiative. While there may be no microbeads present, there can often be millions of tiny microplastics inside the products on your shelf as we exposed, which have the same problem and issue as microbeads, which you can read more about here.
“Free from SLS”
What it implies: Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, a common surfactant found in facial cleansers, body washes and even toothpastes, usually along with its counterpart, Sodium Laureth Sulfate are excluded.
Dirty Truth: SLS and SLES are just two members of an extended family of Sulfates. Just like Parabens, some manufacturers are rushing to remove these but replace with another member of the Sulfate family, usually Sodium Coco Sulfate, which you can read more about here.
What it implies: The class of endocrine disrupting preservatives, parabens, are not present in this product.
Dirty Truth: With the current consumer backlash against parabens, manufacturers have been scrambling to remove it. But the replacements like Formaldehyde & Phenoxyethanol are far more irritating and allergenic. You can read more about this here.
What it implies: The packaging that is used to contain the product is either recyclable, made from biopolymers, biodegradable or is non-plastic.
Dirty Truth: Living sustainably is the only way to ensure there is a future for the next generation so it is incredibly important we do all we can to preserve the resources we have and the environment we live in. Just because the packaging might have the recycling logo, it does not automatically mean it can be recycled. Or just because it is biodegradable, doesn’t mean it will. And when it’s made from a biopolymer, it could have a greater environmental impact than making it from crude oil anyway. You can read more here.
What it implies: SLS is one member of an extensive group of surfactants in the Sulfate Family. If SLS is so irritating, it’s Sulfate cousins will be as well, so let’s remove all sulfates, right?
Dirty Truth: The issue with sulfates, is not the “sulfate” part, it is the inherent ion charge on ionic surfactants. All sulfates are ionic but not all ionic surfactants are sulfates. Ionic surfactants have the same protein denaturing issues and hence irritation as sulfates which you can read about here.
How can you tell if a product is “clean”?
When we set out to create a 100% natural origin skincare range, “clean beauty” wasn’t around. We didn’t make our skincare to jump onto the Clean Beauty bandwagon, nor did we start the trend. It is only through our ethics and morals that our skincare range slots perfectly into Clean Beauty.
There’s a lot of companies that don’t share the same morals and ethics as us (and some which do thankfully!) making it difficult to truly trust the “clean beauty” moniker. There is an easy way to truly find out if the claims are true and that is by reading the ingredients list.
What makes the actual difference to your skin is not the pseudoscientific claims, the multi-million-pound ad campaigns, the fancy packaging, the arty design on the label or the latest buzzwords…. It’s the ingredients inside.
The science in skincare is our ongoing series helping consumers better understand the science in skincare. We translate the science into a format that is much easier to read, bust the myths and give you a clear, transparent and honest assessment so you can make an informed choice of what goes onto your skin.
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