What is Clean Beauty?
First of all, let’s make something clear form the start: if you are not a fan of natural beauty, then clean beauty is not for you. Clean beauty only works for a natural look focusing on long-term performance over short-term appearance.
We want to discuss what it actually means to have a clean beauty routine. It is been a very popular idea in recent years to use natural, organic, clean, non-toxic beauty products, to avoid parabens, phthalates, sulphates, artificial fragrances and tricosan. But do you really know why you need to avoid them?
According to Bazaar‘s recent poll, nearly 50% of women are already choosing clean beauty products or are willing to splurge on them. Unfortunately, a lot of brands take advantage of this market shift to greenwash consumers with ‘clean beauty’ claims without substantial evidence. Go to your local market and see how many labels claim ‘At least 50% organic’ , “20% real essential oils’ , ‘Nontoxic ingredients”. The industry is largely self-regulated and does not have a consistent definition of ‘clean beauty’ or natural.
So, you are starting your journey to a cleaner beauty routine, so let’s examine what it really means to use natural and clean skin, body and hair care products, why we should avoid some toxins, and why we should understand the need for certain ingredients in our beauty bottle.
Clean Beauty journey – what ingredients to avoid
There are some ingredients you should avoid altogether if you are making a switch to natural beauty. There has been extensive research into the harmful effects of these ingredients. Of course, you should look at all of your beauty products and make a decision on what aspects of those products are important to you. For instance, you might need an all-day lipstick or strong-hold hair gel for a certain occasion, therefore natural ingredients for those beauties are less important than in night facial cream or body lotion.
Synthetic Fragrances and Phthalates
Personally, for us, it is ‘Public Enemy No. 1’ in the beauty industry. Not only artificial scents that bring no benefits to your beauty routine, the synthetic aromas can cause long term problems. First of all, most synthetic fragrances are made from crude oil, more important, beauty products with those fragrances often contain phthalates to prolong the scent after using the product. Studies showed that phthalates are linked to reproductive and hormonal harm in children and men, as well as a probable link to obesity, treat cancer and infertility. Synthetic fragrances can also trigger allergies and asthma attacks.
The best decision is to avoid them and switch to natural essential oils or unscented products.
These are widely-used ingredients, mainly in shampoo and other cleansers to create bubbles and a foamy texture. PEGs, Sulfates, Oleth and Ceteareths can be either synthetic or natural, derived from variety of sources such as sulfur petroleum, coconut or palm oils. This ingredient is not inherently toxic, however it is a very harsh cleaner, which strips your hair of its natural oils.
Parabens are widely used in products for a good reason, it prevents the growth of bacteria, mould and fungus in your beauty products. They are chemical preservatives found to have harmful effects to your body. Various studies linked the presence of parabens to hormone-related cancers, obesity and premature puberty in girls. It is becoming easier to find paraben-free products, so we would recommend you to switch to cleaner, natural alternatives.
Who does not love straight, shiny hair? Unfortunately, most keratin treatments to smoothen your hair contain formaldehyde to lock your hair into straighter position. This ingredient is globally recognised as a human carcinogen and is linked to sore throats, nosebleeds and itchy eyes. Even a hair salon’s keratin treatment most likely will contain formaldehyde, so it is best to avoid the treatment all together and ensure you read your product labels carefully.
The ingredient is used for face powers and eye shadows, and is mostly made from oxygen, magnesium, silicon and hydrogen. Talc is not an issue itself, however if it has not been purified, it can be contaminated with asbestos. Most famously, there were cases of baby powder products which contain talc that were linked to ovarian cancer and mesothelioma. Best to avoid the ingredients or to ensure the company you are purchasing talc products from have strict regulations around purifying talc formations.
Clean Beauty Journey – what it all means
The terminology into clean beauty is so confusing and unregulated that it is hard to understand what benefits Green, Clean or Organic beauty actually brings to you or to the environment. Moreover, the definition of natural is unclear. What percentage of natural ingredients should the product have to be deemed natural? Crude oil is natural, but is it actually good for you? Will the quality of a certain product be undermined if it would be 100% natural? Generally speaking, clean beauty industry is:
Clean means creating a product with minimal processing, similar to food, natural, unprocessed raw ingredients would be a keystone of clean beauty products, eg, DIY sugar scrub. Clean means it is safe for people and environment, clean process of creating beauty products would use plant-based ingredients for active results and nontoxic elements. Clean beauty focuses on the health aspects of your hair and skin, not appearance.
This is a loose term that can be interpreted to mean anything from biodegradable packaging and carbon-neutral delivery to product that comes from natural sources. (Remember, petroleum comes from natural sources as well, but it is not ‘green’ for marketing purposes). Generally speaking it refers to products that claim to protect the environment, however it is so broad that any marketing company can spin a product as green in some form or other, known as greenwashing.
Organic means ingredients that were produced without the use of pesticides and herbicides. Many brands claim organic origin, however there is little evidence that organic ingredients are superior in beauty products. Some beauty producers also believe that certain products cannot be effective if they were completely organic.
In Australia, you must apply for expensive certification to deem your product organic, which means that if you grow your own basil in your backyard without use of pesticides, your basil is NOT organic unless you apply for certification. Even if the producer of the ingredients do not use pesticides to grow a certain plant for essential oil, unless they have a certificate to prove it, they cannot print the word organic on the bottle. In addition, the cost of certification is always passed-on to consumers.
Everything, even the best vitamins, water or oxide is only good for you and nontoxic in moderation. Sun can be toxic for your skin and causes melanoma, but without sun, you will lack Vitamin D and have other health issues. For some beauty products nontoxic means ingredients that are used in the right doses that do not cause harm to you at the level they are found in the products, however in other instances, nontoxic would mean product does not contain ingredients deemed toxic at any dose. Generally, avoiding the ingredients listed at the beginning of this article would make products nontoxic.
Very similar to Green, sustainable can mean many things to many people. Truly sustainable products should tick many boxes: be local (to minimise CO2), ethically sourced without testing on animals and proven safe for the environment, have no-waste packaging, such as glass, biodegradable, post-consumer recycled or recyclable. Unfortunately, even with all of this, one can make an argument the product is not sustainable because of other reasons, therefore the only form of sustainable product is one which has not been produced.
A beauty product is vegan if it doesn’t contain any animal by-products or ingredients sourced from animals. It is a mistake to believe that vegan products are clean, many beauty products can be vegan and contain synthetic chemicals. Plenty of products are clean and natural, but not vegan (eg, contain honey pr lanolin). People leading a vegan lifestyle find it as a key selling point, but for the purpose of clean beauty it is irrelevant.
This means the product has not been tested on animals alongside the manufacturing process. Similar to vegan, cruelty-free products can contain toxic ingredients you should avoid, however for the product to be categorised as ‘clean beauty’, cruelty-free is important feature.
Going clean or natural does not mean it is better.
As discussed in the beginning of the article, you need to think what features and benefits are important to you in your beauty products. We of course promote natural, clean beauty ingredients, however it is not for everyone.
In addition, be aware that natural ingredients can be harmful. For example, essential oils in the wrong quantities can be harmful or even toxic as they are extremely potent plant compounds. Using essential oils in a beauty routine in the wrong quantities (or the wrong essential oils) can cause skin irritation and allergic reaction. Also, essential oils might contain synthetic ingredients if they come from disreputable sources. All of Luxury Bath Co. products are produced in an Australian factory with ethically-sourced, high-quality ingredients, the formulations are also carefully crafted. Ensure to use essential oil products only from companies you trust.
Some synthetic ingredients are necessary for in an effective and safe product.
First of all, we are talking about commercial production of beauty products, therefore shelf life is an important factor in the process. Use of ingredients such as phenoxyethanol or ethyhexylgrycerin is be necessary to prevent bacterial growth and stabilise the products against temperature variation. While these are preservatives, omitting them might cause your product to separate or breed bacteria.
There are obviously ingredients you should avoid, however it is more important to look at the whole brand to ensure that formulations were created by knowledgeable people with quality control. Choose the product based on specific features important to you: it can be vegan, locally made, not containing certain ingredients, containing essential oils or other active ingredient, cruelty free or in reusable packaging; do not settle for a vague description of Clean or Green, dive into the brand philosophy and really investigate how the product has been made.