By Alex Orfila
Perhaps one of the most positive trends of our times is that all things natural and healthy are in. By now we are all familiar with the concept of clean eating; a diet with a focus on eating foods in their most natural state and avoiding processed foods altogether.
Clean Beauty is a somewhat lesser-known movement and one which is much harder to define. Some describe it by using words such as ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ implying that these products will only contain ingredients which are sourced from nature.
Others will use words such as ‘non-toxic’, ‘hypoallergenic’ or ‘non-chemical’. However, some skincare experts believe the term non-chemical is misleading, given that all ingredients whether natural or not are, in fact, chemical.
Others have built an entire brand around this very concept.
There are two schools of thoughts on the Clean Beauty movement. Some believe that this is just another beauty fad which will whittle away like so many others before it, whilst others have built an entire brand around this very concept.
Drunk Elephant is a clean beauty brand which has quite literally taken the beauty world by storm with its founder Tiffany Masterson going from stay at home mum to beauty industry mogul. Earlier this year it was reported by Forbes that there are plans for the brand to be acquired by Japanese powerhouse Shiseido for a cool $845 Million, which would make it the fastest-growing skincare brand in history. Their philosophy is to create skincare which is free from what they have dubbed the ‘suspicious six’ ingredients which are commonly used in cosmetic products. These being essential oils, alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances, dyes and SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate – the ingredient which is used to create foaminess in shampoos and cleaning products). They claim that these ‘suspicious six’ tend to be the culprits linked to most skincare concerns.
Silicone, however, is an ingredient which has particularly divided the beauty community. It is often described as suffocating and pore-clogging, but silicones have actually been scientifically classed as comedogenic, which means that its molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin and it instead acts as a barrier. It is very common in products, mainly because of its silky texture and smooth finish, thus making it particularly effective in primers and makeup. Many top skincare brands such as The Ordinary use silicones in their moisturisers because it improves the application of products containing active ingredients such as Vitamin C which can often have a gritty consistency. It may sound like an icky artificial ingredient but if you start to inspect the ingredients list on some of your favourite beauty products it won’t be long until you come across it.
Paraben is another word which has acquired notoriety in recent years. We seem to prefer paraben-free and sulfate-free shampoos. It’s something I instinctively look out for now when undertaking any haircare purchase. A product may promise, shiny, hydrated, voluminous hair, but despite these tempting promises I still find myself asking: Is it paraben free though? But how many of us have actually taken the time to research what that means? I must confess I only did so when I began writing this article. Let’s just say I’m glad I’ve chosen to avoid this ingredient which is claimed to disrupt hormone functions. It can apparently mimic the activity of oestrogen and is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
In reality most of us usually don’t have the time to dissect the very long ingredients list on the boxes of products we purchase, which – let’s face it – often read like a periodic table of elements and can seem quite daunting to the untrained eye. Fret not, there’s a variety of apps to assist us in checking the chemical content of a product – enter Think Dirty. Scan a bar code on any product and the app will review this against their ‘Dirty Meter’; a rating system with a numbering scale ranging from Dirty to Clean.
Products with a red 8-10 rating are classified as containing ingredients with potential negative health implications, those with an amber 4-7 rating contain moderately negative ingredients and anything in the green 0-3 zone are considered to be clean, i.e. not containing any ingredients which have a documented negative impact on health.
It is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Unfortunately, not even these apps can be one hundred percent accurate because further regulation in the beauty industry is still needed. In the US it is surprisingly not a requirement to publically disclose what ingredients attribute to a products scent, and the word ‘fragrance’ alone can be used on the product’s ingredients list.
The moral of the story is that just because something is perfectly packaged, looks pretty and has a gorgeous scent it does not necessarily mean that is passes the smell test, so to speak.
It seems that the argument for and against Clean Beauty will continue to rage on, but for now it is a movement which is here to stay. After all, it is not unlike all the other lifestyle choices which are synonymous with this decade which focuses on health, self-care, and sustainability.
If Clean Beauty is something which you would like to explore as part of a new year, new you voyage of discovery then take the plunge. Research products before you buy, try out minis to test if certain products work for you before you commit to purchasing full sized items, or perhaps check out these clean beauty brands which are currently making waves in the industry:
For a full skincare regime: Drunk Elephant
A heavyweight, not only in the clean beauty world but in the cosmetics industry as a whole. Meet the brand which has revolutionised skincare. Is the hype justified or is it all a lot of hot air? Their starter pack of minis will reveal all.
For skincare on a budget: Weleda
This brand was founded in 1921 and was therefore way ahead in the clean beauty game. It is still thought of as one of the leaders in this space with its focus on gentle formulas which are free from synthetic preservatives, fragrances and mineral oils. With sustainability, organic ingredients and reasonable prices at its core it’s no surprise that this brand has been established for almost a century!
For a mask: Farmacy
This brand pride themselves in being farmer cultivated and scientist activated. Their ingredients are sourced from nature and science makes the magic happen! The company also only partners with organic farms which have implemented sustainable methods. All of their products are free from parabens, mineral oils and synthetic fragrances, so it’s no surprise their masks have acquired cult status in the clean beauty world.
For sunscreen: Coola
Clinically tested organic sunscreens which will protect you from more than just harmful UV rays. Coola is formulated with plant based ingredients and their aim is to optimise protection whilst also deeply nourishing skin. They even have a makeup setting spray which promises to keep you protected and smudge free.
Make up: Kosas
Founded by LA artist Sheena Yaitanes, Kosas prides itself in being a modern, non-toxic, clean beauty brand. Their products are formulated with botanicals and they believe that when it comes to makeup you shouldn’t have to compromise on colour, safety or performance. It sounds like Kosas was formulated in makeup heaven and I must admit my online shopping basket is constantly brimming with their products.