'Clean', 'natural', 'organic', 'plant-based', 'cruelty-free', 'vegan', 'eco-friendly'––let’s be honest, these buzzwords are tossed around so often these days in the beauty industry that it’s hard to keep up. It’s easy to associate this jargon with being good for your skin or the environment, but the truth is, not all products with these claims actually are.
To make matters worse, many brands are taking advantage of this green trend to boost their marketing strategies; this means they’re often spinning a story to sell less-than-safe products to an increasingly eco-conscious consumer. This is called greenwashing––the unethical practice of making misleading claims about a product being environmentally friendly.
So we’re here to clear the air once and for all. No more buying skincare on the basis that you think it’s safe for you and the environment. Let’s break down the difference between ‘clean beauty’ and ‘natural beauty’ and what they actually mean for you and the Earth
What is Clean Beauty?
You’ve probably heard of all the other buzzwords time and time again, but what exactly is clean beauty? If a product is ‘clean’ it means it has been formulated without toxic ingredients, and it has been tested and regulated so it’s proven to be safe for use. Clean products can either be made from natural ingredients or synthetic ones (produced in a lab). You’ll be surprised by how many mainstream beauty products actually contain toxic and carcinogenic ingredients still today!
What Are The Benefits of Clean Beauty?
Toxic ingredients can lead to skin irritation, redness, breakouts, and more serious health problems like cancer if used for prolonged periods of time. Always remember that anything you apply to your skin will absorb into your bloodstream, so using products that follow clean beauty practices ensures that you’re only ingredients into your body that have been rigorously tested for their safety and efficacy.
How to Pick Clean Products
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut guide to identifying clean beauty products, even if brands claim they are clean (see greenwashing above). We suggest staying educated on the most common harmful skincare ingredients – like parabens, mineral oil, sodium, triclosan, petrolatum, and SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate) – and avoiding them when you shop for your skincare. Note that clean beauty products can be natural, vegan (not using any animal-derived ingredients), cruelty-free (never tested on animals) and eco-friendly (safe for the Earth), but there are also clean beauty products out there that don’t feature any of these.
What is Natural Skincare?
Natural products mean they are formulated with ingredients that are sourced predominantly from nature, be it from plants or animals – think natural salts and extracts, aloe vera and essentials oils. Note that just because a product features one or a few natural ingredients doesn’t make the brand or product all-natural.
Why Natural Isn’t Always Safer
Just because something is natural doesn't always mean it’s safe to use on your skin. Some natural ingredients can be too potent, abrasive or can actually be toxic. Natural clays, for example, are often used in skincare but may contain toxic heavy metals; essential oils, like tea tree and lemon oil, can cause skin irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin, and mineral oils can clog your pores and suffocate your skin. Physical scrubs packed with natural ingredients, like fruit pits and nutshells, are too rough, with a tendency to cause damage and micro-tearing on the surface of your skin. Note that not all natural products are vegan or cruelty-free or eco-friendly.
The Environmental Implications of Natural Products
The term ‘natural’ doesn’t go hand-in-hand with being environmentally-friendly. For starters, natural ingredients usually have to be flown into production factories from across the globe. This likely generates a larger carbon footprint than using locally produced synthetic ingredients (that work just as well, if we may add). 100% natural ingredients also have a shorter lifespan, and if they’re not utilised before their expiration date, it can result in a big waste of resources.
To keep up with the rising demand for natural beauty products, natural ingredients are being over-farmed, which disrupts ecosystems and depletes non-renewable natural resources. Take palm oil as an example: it’s a highly versatile vegetable oil that’s used in around half of the consumer products worldwide, but it’s contributing to mass-deforestation, habitat loss and climate change.
So, before you start siding for natural or clean products, it’s best to consider all the possible ways in which it can impact you or the environment. Natural products are only a better if they are both safe for you and for the environment, and clean synthetic ingredients can often be a much safer alternative.
Don't know where to start when it comes to clean beauty? We are strong proponents of clean beauty practices at Yours, and we only use ingredients that are tested safe and are fully vegan, cruelty-free, toxin-free and eco-friendly. Take a quick skin assessment below to find out which ingredients are right for your skin, lifestyle and environment!