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What does “Clean Beauty” mean?

Clean beauty has become trendier each year, with simple ingredients, minimal makeup looks, and fresh-faced icons becoming all the rage. Brands have shifted to highlighting their formulas’ simplicity and prioritizing natural origins. While it all sounds promising, what does clean beauty actually entail, and are there any benefits to opting for clean formulas?

Clean Beauty Ingredients

The actual definition of Clean Beauty has yet to be clinically nailed down, but the general consensus is that the formulas prioritize containing as few ingredients as possible. This includes avoiding excess colorants, fragrances, or preservatives wherever possible.

Further, clean beauty products aim to avoid irritating or comedogenic ingredients, including any that have been cited as causing short or long-term harm to your body. These can be synthetic materials and chemicals such as sulfates, parabens, phthalates, and artificial fragrances or colorings.

The ingredient lists on clean beauty products tend to veer more towards botanically derived components, though they may not be 100% free of synthetic alternatives.

Clean Beauty is not Organic Beauty

Clean beauty does tend to favor natural ingredients and botanical origins -- but it is held to a much less rigorous standard than organic products. For a formula to be denoted organic, it must contain a minimum of 95% organic material and be completely free of GMOs. Organic products must also follow strict handling and manufacturing guidelines, which do not apply to the catch-all trend of clean beauty.

Nor is it necessarily Sustainable

While a broad focus on more natural ingredients tends to encourage sustainable production methods and tout a lower carbon footprint -- these products are not always a greener option.

Some clean beauty companies engage in “greenwashing” practices, meaning they market themselves to appear eco-friendly while still engaging in harmful mass production practices that include high waste, unsustainable packaging materials, and destructive shipping. Always do your research on a brand’s behind-the-scenes sustainability practices before taking their environmental claims at face value.

Clean Beauty FAQ:

Is clean beauty safer for your skin?

Clean beauty is not inherently safer for your skin, however, these formulas do tend to contain fewer potential irritants and may be suitable for anyone with specific allergies or very sensitive skin. There is a growing body of research into the possible adverse long-term health effects of using certain pigments, fragrances, and preservatives in makeup which may be relevant to those considering switching to clean beauty.

Does clean beauty mean a product contains vegan ingredients?

Clean beauty is more of a broad trend in cosmetics and skincare which denotes minimal ingredients and fewer possible irritants, but the phrase does not indicate a brand uses vegan formulas.

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