The Lowdown On Clean Beauty

No longer for just the niche market, Clean Beauty has gone mainstream but what is it and why should we be on board with it?

In a nutshell clean beauty brands promise products that are free from toxins and harmful chemicals, in particular parabens and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). Parabens are preservatives that help products last longer, while SLS is a surfactant that helps to remove oils and allows foams to form. Both are renowned for causing skin irritation while parabens are suspected hormone disruptors.

Gwynnie’s Goop website has been championing clean beauty from the get go. On the website it states: “The personal care industry is effectively unregulated—the last piece of regulation (a single page at that), was passed in 1938—which means that companies are essentially free to do whatever they want, with no government oversight, packing products that we use every day (mascara, face wash, shampoo, et al.) with toxic ingredients, including known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Because it’s a free-for-all, companies can use whatever adjectives they’d like when it comes to marketing and “greenwashing” their products—natural, green, eco literally have no enforceable definition. In other words, what is touted on the front in no way needs to match what lives on the ingredient label on the back.”

At present the beauty industry in the United States is largely unregulated meaning there is no legal definition of clean, non toxic, natural products. While brands are required to list their ingredients on the packaging a loophole means a number of ingredients can currently be attributed to the label ‘fragrance’. Stricter regulations in the UK and Europe mean cosmetics can only contain ingredients and concentrations that are believed to be safe, with some 1,300 ingredients banned for use in beauty products. 

Clean beauty is an issue that divides opinion with some dermatologists arguing that even the cleanest of products have the ability to cause sensitivity and reaction and that in the wrong dosage most ingredients can be deemed toxic.

With no definitive answer and a lack of transparency from some brands making the correct choice isn’t always easy but thankfully a number of websites and apps are committed to giving the consumer clear information. 

The Think Dirty app gives information on more than 1million beauty, personal care and household products at the scan of a barcode. Products are then given a score between 0-10, with 0 being the ‘cleanest’ and 10 being the ‘dirtiest’.

Think Dirty founder Lily Tse explained: “Think Dirty® is a project born out of a personal journey to understand the truths in the beauty industry. Due to family history of cancer, I decided to research into the many causes behind breast cancer, including ‘toxic’ ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products.

“I never realised the environmental impact cosmetics had on our health, until I watched Annie Leonard’s Story of Cosmetics, which examined the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in our everyday personal care products.

“There are hormone disruptor chemicals in many products that have been possibly linked to breast cancer. I was shocked the cosmetics industry was not regulated like the food and drug sectors. And like most women, my lipgloss and shampoo are products I would never think to describe as “toxic” or could contain cancer-causing chemicals.

“Finding safer alternatives for myself was a huge challenge. Although many products are labeled “all-natural” or “organic”, there is little transparency in labelling cosmetics. There was also no real tool out there for consumers to find information easily. With my background in design and marketing, I wanted to develop and create something not only for myself but for others as well, and that’s how Think Dirty® was founded.”

She continued: “Think Dirty® is more than just a mobile app – it’s a consumer revolution for safer cosmetics by learning one ingredient at a time, changing to cleaner options, one product at a time.”

Manufacturers are responding to consumers’ concerns with more and more brands pledging a clean approach to their beauty products. Vita Liberata, Paradoxx, Tropic, Weleda and Burt Bee’s all promise no hidden nasties in their formulations and are free from ingredients with any associated health risks. 

In addition to protecting our health many Clean Beauty brands are committed to helping protect the environment also with sustainable, eco-friendly packaging – making it seem like a no brainer really.

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