New year, new you. January often begins with a resolution regarding self-improvement of mind and body. For many, that means embracing clean beauty in myriad forms.
Swiss glacier water to remove makeup? You can get one at La Prairie for $120. Curious about the regenerative power of microbes in Finnish mulch? Get Luonkos cleansing cake for €33 (about $35). Interested in algae and sea kale sunscreens, vegan lipsticks, and gritty exfoliating soaps made from used coffee grounds? It looks like you’re on the promised beauty bandwagon.
Research consultancy Brandessence estimates that nearly a third of the U.S. market is now considered clean, and is expected to grow by 12% from 2020 to 2027.
And many brands are vying for market position. Among them are independent start-ups such as Merit and Saye His Beauty, as well as major luxury brands such as Dior, which launched the first alcohol-free, water-based perfume, and Stella McCartney, the fashion world’s eco-conscious. It is included. The Queen launches a natural skincare line.
But what does clean beauty really mean?
Caroline Hillons, a prominent UK skincare influencer, said, “If you ask 10 different people what clean beauty is, you’ll get 10 different answers. When she dropped it, she said it “really means nothing.”
As with the vague term ‘sustainability’ in fashion, there is no clear definition of clean beauty, and no consensus on what specific substances or chemicals to avoid or embrace. Skepticism about the “clean” movement has also grown in recent years, as awareness of the lack of regulation in the beauty industry has grown.
But the global popularity of clean consumerism is growing even more rapidly, with shoppers choosing to be “natural,” “cruelty-free,” and “cruelty-free” when it comes to what they put and wear on their bodies. , “Non-Toxic” and other marketing terms. , interestingly, injectables like Botox are an exception).
Where did the term “clean beauty” come from?
Skincare brands such as Origins and Aveda were early adopters of the “natural” vocabulary, emerging in the late 1980s, but the consensus grew in the 1990s, along with the “clean eating” trend, to clean beauty. emerged from Southern California.
As more consumers become obsessed with the concept of wellness, some beauty companies have started touting products that are non-toxic, safe and natural. No guidelines.
Currently, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 ingredients in cosmetics (many of which are rarely found in personal care products). In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration has banned 11 cosmetic ingredients. Last fall, Congress introduced a safer beauty bill package. If passed, it would codify legal definitions of terms like “natural” and “naturally derived” and ban ingredients like parabens and formaldehyde. There are different regulatory standards.
This means that “many brands have tasked themselves with defining clean beauty according to their ideals and goals.”
Again, there are brands that don’t want to be tainted with “clean” associations.
“I think all ‘clean’ skincare is a waste,” McCartney told Elle UK magazine last year when introducing her skincare line, Stella. She said she understands why people use the word.
So how is it defined?
Tata Harper, the cult brand of the same name, is widely regarded as the godmother of the clean beauty movement. She grew up in Colombia and watched her grandmother make body scrubs and hair masks from materials sourced at local markets, and she later trained as an industrial technician.
Harper launched the brand in 2007. Her products use ingredients such as antioxidant-rich witch hazel, moisturizing jasmine, and plumping alfalfa her extract. Her 30ml bottle of her Elixir Bite Serum with barley juice, borage leaves and sea buckthorn costs about $490.
“At the time, natural skincare wasn’t made for serious skincare clients like me,” says Harper. “That’s when I realized I had to create my own line because I had no choice.”
Goop, a lifestyle empire founded by Gwyneth Paltrow, is one of the movement’s most vocal supporters. Clean Beauty is defined as “products made without ingredients known or suspected to be harmful to human or planetary health.” On its website, Goop sells its own and others’ products that have been tested by its own scientists, toxicologists, and regulatory experts for ingredients that are carcinogenic, irritating, or hormone disrupting. I’m here.
“Goop prioritizes ethically sourced, non-animal, cruelty-free ingredients and uses sustainable or renewable bio-based ingredients whenever possible,” said Talati.
McCartney said in an email that her new skincare line has been developed over three years under the guidance of environmental sustainability specialist Quantis and has eliminated more than 2,000 ingredients. rice field.
These products are made from at least 99% natural ingredients, including bilberry extract (to support elasticity and firmness) and wild-harvested fluus algae (to reduce the appearance of dark circles). – or potentially controversial – ingredients.
what’s so complicated?
Many consumers and brands believe that natural ingredients are always better than lab-grown, but lab-grown ingredients may not be as water or labor intensive. , given the number of chemicals proven to be safe for use on the skin, “natural” is not necessarily safer.
Some popular ingredients in “clean” products, such as argan, juniper and shea, are being overfished, according to a report released last year by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Ingredients like sandalwood, for example, can be sourced naturally or synthetically. Companies that do so say that protecting the environment is their primary motivation.
Also, many naturally derived ingredients have not undergone the same safety testing as synthetic or man-made ingredients and may cause irritation or allergies.For example, some studies have shown increased skin reactions to essential oils. is shown.
For those looking to better understand the ingredients listed in beauty and skin care products, Goop’s Talati pointed out databases like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep. There, consumers find hazard rankings for controversial substances like Lirial (recently banned by the EU) and parabens (often used as preservatives in cosmetics), as well as commonplace substances like beeswax. can do. It comes from insects.
So, is clean beauty still here to stay, or is it just another beauty trend?
Marcia Kilgore, founder of skincare and beauty subscription service Beauty Pie, addressed the challenges beauty businesses of all sizes face in navigating the clean beauty era.
“If you don’t put ‘clean’ on the product label, people assume there’s something wrong, but then people say it’s a scam,” she said. We don’t believe in needing clean credentials, but we do want products that are safe and give good results, whether they are of natural or laboratory origin.
“Clean is now just a table stake,” said industry veteran Kilgore. “The only way to attract attention with beauty is to claim something new. Soon it will be overshadowed by the next big thing.”
Still, many indie brands center ‘clean’ values alongside technological innovation. Based in the English seaside town of Margate, Heckles has garnered a loyal following from innovations such as bio-enhancing mycelium packages, prebiotic face masks and odor-eating mushroom and kelp deodorants. At a time when the environmental value of refillable bottles in beauty is being questioned, Haeckels’ new Vivomer his packaging is compostable and made from microorganisms that are abundant in soil and marine environments.
Finnish startup Luonkos offers products containing forest microbial extracts, nettle, pine bark and birch bark powder.
Harper, who sold Tata Harper to South Korean beauty giant Amorepacific Group in September, said most consumers were skeptical about the fact that wellness regimens and clean products were just as effective as previous formulations. , I believe to be much more educated and interested.
“This is no longer a trend, but rather the direction the industry as a whole is heading,” she said. “This is a necessary step to reduce the negative impact the beauty industry has on the environment.”