Clean beauty is one of the most significant beauty movements of the last several years. We want to know what we’re applying to our skin more so than ever. From preservatives like parabens to drying foaming agents like sulphates, more and more people are starting to question the purpose and potential side effects of certain ingredients in our skincare and beauty products.

One of the biggest issues with products labelled ‘clean’ is the lack of standard definition of what this actually means. Rather than defining what a ‘clean’ product contains, many brands usually play on what their product is ‘free from’. This means that they are widely open to interpretation and are often exploited by brands, retailers and marketing teams.

The word ‘clean’ implies that all other skincare is ‘dirty’, which I would highly disagree with. Many ingredients excluded from ‘clean’ beauty products, such as parabens, mineral oil, and chemical sunscreen filters, are safe in the concentrations used in our skincare, and they pose none of the health risks that supporters of the movement frequently express.

Safety and sustainability are essential, but be aware that at this time, ‘clean beauty’ may not be everything that you think it is. The movement is highly driven by fear-mongering and greenwashing, so if you are thinking about buying into it, approach brands with an open mind.

Is clean beauty safer?

There are many different elements within clean beauty – sustainability, vegan-friendly, hypoallergenic, conscious-living and ‘free-from’ – so it can be quite confusing for the consumer. A lot of the ingredients that people refer to in clean beauty come from nature, but many of these are based on essential oils and plant-based ingredients, which have their own irritant properties and are common sources of irritant or allergic eczema as well as causing sensitivity to sunlight.

There is no official legislation that a product must comply with to claim that it’s ‘clean’ or organic, which means that standards vary hugely in the ‘clean beauty’ world. Being more environmentally friendly is absolutely essential now and in the future, but the clean beauty movement needs to be careful because we cannot advocate that ahead of safety.

Evidence-based, safe skincare is key

We must make decisions about beauty products based on knowledge, not fear. I am hugely passionate about safe skincare that has been rigorously tested. I choose brands for myself and to retail in my clinics based on research and evidence – I want to see safe, evidence-based ingredients that are research-backed and supplied at sufficient concentration levels to give a result. Clean beauty heavily focuses on the ingredients in a product, but ingredients only tell one part of the story. Just because they work well doesn’t necessarily mean that the formulation will. So, it’s equally as crucial that the product formula gets those high-quality, safe, research-backed ingredients exactly where they need to go within the skin.

The future of clean beauty

I don’t think the clean beauty movement is going anywhere anytime soon, but the products need to be safe and effective for consumers. We need tighter definitions of what makes a product ‘clean’ so that consumers are not being misled. Brands need to be held accountable and show us more evidence and less marketing and false claims. And lastly, more people need to be aware of the current industry pitfalls with clean beauty so that they can make informed decisions about what is right for them.

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