What is it?
Clean beauty is about products you can use without risking your own health. Clean beauty isn’t about being 100% perfect. Man-made ingredients are clean as long as they’re safe and non-toxic. But, you also have to consider that every ingredient in the world can be toxic in the wrong dose. Even water and oxygen.
This also means that clean beauty doesn’t have to be all-natural, preservative-free, etc. Clean beauty is non-toxic beauty. Often, beauty products categorize themselves as “clean” based on what’s not in the formula. You'll see lists of "free from..." associated with the product(s). Keep in mind, none of these ingredients are super-full of toxins and they won't kill you. Demonizing certain ingredients is marketing. The point of clean beauty is to be mindful and selective about what we use.
Many of these ingredients are hotly debated in the health and science community. You could read contradictory studies all day long. So it ends up as personal preference. Generally clean beauty will reject using potentially dangerous ingredients such as:
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
What Clean Beauty is not
For a long time, products containing only natural ingredients were considered the all-stars of clean beauty. “Preservative-free” is another buzz word surrounding natural beauty. But, clean beauty doesn’t have to be all-natural. The science of beauty has evolved to include a plethora of safe synthetics, safe man-made ingredients, and even safe preservatives. In fact, ALL cosmetics should contain some form of safe preservation to maintain the stability of the formulation. As long as certain synthetic ingredients are non-toxic and proven to have no harmful effects, they can be incorporated into clean beauty products.
Similar to natural beauty, organic beauty is often confused with clean beauty. Like organic food, there are many benefits of organic ingredients in cosmetics, but non-organic ingredients can be just as safe.
Clean beauty doesn’t HAVE to be organic. Yes, clean beauty CAN be organic, but it’s not a requirement. What is a requirement, however, is that those ingredients are SAFE, regardless of whether or not they’re organic.
If you thought “clean beauty” had a murky definition, enter “green beauty.”
Green beauty has several associations:
While these criteria all sound great, a beauty product can exhibit all of these characteristics and not be clean if it contains toxic ingredients. Similarly, a beauty product can have purely safe ingredients, but they may be conventionally sourced or contain animal products (i.e. honey, beeswax, silk, etc.). In this case, the product is still clean since it’s non-toxic, but it’s not considered green.
So, as you can see, terms associated with marketing beauty products leave the idea of "clean beauty" about as clear and clean as mud!