Is Clean Beauty Worth It?

Is clean beauty worth it?
It is a question that more and more people are seriously asking while the clean beauty market is growing exponentially.

When we look at the bigger retailers like Credo, Follain and for example Detox Market, it doesn’t take long to find out what it is all about. The two words that pop up in every serious conversation about clean beauty are Health and Safety.

The Clean Beauty movement is on a mission to eliminate toxic chemicals from personal care products. When we talk about toxic chemicals, there is a lot to say, but for starters you can think of chemicals such as cancer-causing agents (formaldehyde, parabens), and phthalates and pesticides, which are ingredients known as hormone disruptors.

Generally, many of us do agree on one thing: it is important to be mindful of what we are putting on our skin, in particular because products do penetrate our skin and get into our bloodstream. The time where no one really cares what their personal care products are made of, and that brands are blindly trusted, is clearly over.

The Challenge of Clean Beauty

The big challenge, however, is that although a lot of beautiful terms are being used such as ‘clean’, ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘green’ or ‘non-toxic’, those terms are not officially regulated by the USFDA (the American Food & Drug Administration. Europe is generally much stricter in the use of those terms, yet there too, there is no regulated terminology for ‘clean’ beauty.
Generally, many of us do agree on one thing: it is important to be mindful of what we are putting on our skin, in particular because products do penetrate our skin and get into our bloodstream. The time where no one really cares what their personal care products are made of, and that brands are blindly trusted, is clearly over.

Concerns about ‘regular’ beauty products

Maybe you have heard about the documentary Toxic Beauty, by director Phyllis Ellis. It looks at the unregulated (non-clean) beauty industry and the dangers behind it, including the alleged exposure to dangerous substances from commonly trusted beauty products such as baby powder. The film zooms in on the use of talc, a mineral found in baby powder that may cause cancer, as reported by The Hollywood Reporter. In 2018, according to USA Today, about $4.7 billion in total damages was awarded “to 22 women and their families after they claimed asbestos in Johnson & Johnson talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer…” A representative for Johnson & Johnson told The Hollywood Reporter its products are “safe.”

This in itself already shows us what limbo the consumer can be left in, with the little knowledge we generally have about what is really going on inside the workings and production of personal care products.
“[It’s] something that you don’t believe,” filmmaker Ellis told The Hollywood Reporter about the beauty industry in general. “When I first started pitching the film to get money, people were like, ‘You know, it can’t be that bad.’ Actually it is that bad… We have no idea what’s in the products we’re using. That was really alarming.” (The List, 2020)

Clean Beauty Awareness is Power

Decades of studies have pointed out that many serious health problems like cancer, infertility and asthma are on the rise.

One of the reasons is our ongoing exposure to toxic ingredients on a daily basis. The cosmetics industry in the U.S. is, for the most part, a fairly unregulated industry. ‘Only 30 chemicals are banned compared to 1400 that are banned in Europe. There hasn’t been a major federal law passed to govern the cosmetics industry since 1938. There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today, many of which don’t have any safety data. This is particularly true of those in the cosmetic industry.

Transparency Between Brand and Consumer

What makes it even more frustrating, is that beauty brands are generally not required to print all the ingredients on their packaging. So even if you know what to watch out for, you probably have to go on a Google search to find out what is really inside of your product. This also means that you cannot just blindly trust claims of brands saying their products are “all natural” and “free and clear”, since the use of those terms is not (fully) regulated. To give you an example: a product might say on their packaging that their product is ‘organic’, but this might only mean that there is one organic ingredient in their product. For that reason it is important that you always look beyond what it really says what is on the front side of the packaging and that you instead bring your awareness to actual ingredients (more about that later).

All this doesn’t necessarily imply that companies are out to hurt human life. Like with many things, it is the awareness of the consumer that brings increasing attention to the conscious decision making about what is put into our products. And with that awareness the industry is forced to respond to what the consumer is looking for. This is how shifts take place.
According to a survey done by Harris Poll, 6 in 10 women spend time studying product labels to identify organic and healthy ingredients. Seventy-three percent of respondents who were from the Western U.S. also reported that they place importance on natural products, with the Midwest region of the country showing the least interest at 56 percent.

 

Getting Started

Although it might sound all a bit daunting at the beginning, the simplest and most helpful way to start looking at clean beauty, is how you look at your diet. Over the years we have become hyper aware of what we eat, where it comes from, how it is produced, whether it is processed or not, etc. When you bring that same awareness, and the same questions to your personal care products, it might not be so daunting after all.
First, there is a great book out there called Skin Cleanse, by Adina Grigore. The first part of the book focuses on food and can be summed up as drinking more water and eating less sugar and you will have better skin. Yeah, we know, Bummer. But it does empower us to be more at choice when, why and how we consume what we do. The second part of the book discusses what you don’t need in your skin care, and all the information you need to get started to move towards clean beauty.
The second thing you can start doing, is looking out for the core ingredients to avoid in your products. We wrote more about that in detail in our article What is Clean Beauty but, in a nutshell, these are the ingredients to start avoiding today:

  • Paraben like Propylparaben and Iosbutylparaben
  • Sulfates
  • Propylene glycol
  • Sodium laureth sulfate (SLS)
  • Chemical sunscreens/UV filters like
  • Octinoxate and Oxybenzone (choose mineral sunscreens instead!)
  • Chemical fragrances and perfumes (‘fragrance’ is usually just a term used to hide other chemicals).
  • Triclosan
  • Polyethylene (PEGs) like PEG-10 laurate
  • Phthalates like Dibutyl phthalate
  • Diethanolamine (DEA)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

A great place to start is scanning your products with the Think Dirty app; which provides you with an overview of the toxicity of the ingredients in your product.

Price Tag

The last thing we would like to address when talking about “if clean beauty is worth it’, is the price tag. Seeing the fact that the rise in popularity and demands would bring down prices on the market, we can all agree that most eco-friendly and plant based products still come with a higher price tag. So how do we decide if that extra investment is worth it? Let’s look at a few things to consider.

Consciously chosen ingredients & useless fillers

In order to maintain inexpensive prices, non-organic cosmetic and beauty brands mass-produce their products and use ingredients that are cheaply manufactured overseas. When it comes to plant-derived ingredients, quality increases with less processing of the product. Shortcut techniques however, like machine harvesting, rid ingredients of their initial benefits. Obscure regulations also result in environmental and social consequences in the supply chain. And while a long shelf life might seem like a good thing.

Clean beauty products are often carefully crafted from the early stages of conceptualizing the product, to its actual production. This means that clean beauty products contain high concentrations of superior quality ingredients that are consciously chosen and preserved. The brands that create these products make a deliberate effort to exclude harmful chemicals and avoid using cheap fillers. This means that normal fillers that have no benefit but are just meant to fill up the product, are now replaced with ingredients that actually matter to your skin.

Higher concentration is less product needed

Due to that higher concentration of ingredients as we explained above, we often need less product at a time. This, for example, leads to lesser applications per week/day of a product. This means that the same amount of product will last longer because you’re using less than you would with a product that contains useless fillers. You might be spending a bit more on the actual product, but on the long run this indicates it is financially beneficial for you.

Environmental benefits

We all know that the beauty industry is not known for its environmental approach. In 2021 however, being mindful of our planet and the environment we live in, is a no-brainer for anyone living a conscious life. The clean beauty industry is massively influencing this development towards eco-friendly living, including our daily and weekly personal care products; generally one of the main polluters in this world (think for example of the massive amount of microbeads on riverbeds and in nature). Clean beauty products aim to shift the entire industry towards clean and sustainable living. From growing raw materials, to cruelty-free, to the kind of packaging used (or no packaging at all).

 

“I want to use luxurious products that don’t compromise my health and wellbeing, or that of others in the process. I want to know that whatever it is I am ingesting and absorbing through my skin is made of quality ingredients. I truly believe that Clean Beauty impacts our health, environment and lifestyle on the short and long term.”

Fatma Haddad

Co-Founder, YIVINA

“Finding skin products that work for me has been a challenge my entire life. Oftentimes I ended up with severe skin reactions to a multitude of products (due to hypersensitive skin) that then had to be treated with medications including hormones or antibiotics. Using products that have natural ingredients such as calendula, and that are carefully crafted into skin nurturing products, have long been my go to solutions when anything else failed.

Minou Hexspoor

Co-Founder, YIVINA

 

The Future of Clean Beauty

A 2019 report from Grand View Research, Inc. predicted that the global organic personal care industry will reach nearly $25 billion by 2025. And as the industry and the clean beauty movement continue to grow, so will the demand for ingredient transparency, according to CB Insights. A report stated, “Ingredient transparency has become a top priority not only for beauty and personal care brands, but also for CPG [Consumer Packaged Goods] and retail companies more broadly.”

Clean Beauty is not just a trend that will fade like another hype. Clean Beauty is a movement that is here to stay and that is growing at a fast rate as more and more people focus their attention and awareness on what is inside their products. Brands are forced to be more transparent on their labels and manufacturers are forced to think more consciously about what they put inside their products, how these products are sourced, and what packaging there are put in.

Your Source for Clean Beauty

Minou Hexspoor
Minou Hexspoor

Minou is originally from the Netherlands and lives in Beirut, Lebanon. She is a Co-Founder and Strategic Director of YIVINA, and founder of Minou Hexspoor Coaching and Consulting, partnering with ambitious women across the globe to create work life congruence, well-being and self-care.

She is the proud mom of a 22-year-old son, and is a real world traveler.