The way we shop for beauty products is constantly changing. Whether we shop in store or online, one trend that’s here to stay, less is more.
The clean beauty movement that was once a niche trend dominated by the likes of British brand Ren – the Swedish word for clean, is now more widespread than ever.
A report released by the British Soil Association Certification revealed how conscious consumerism has pushed the UK organic beauty market to an all-time high, with millennials and Gen Zs leading the way.
It also reported that the number of beauty products in Europe certified with Soil Association COSMOS doubled last year to reach more than 10,000 products across 794 brands, pushing the sector into its eighth consecutive year of growth.
With trusted retailers and big-name brands now opting for a more natural approach to keep up with the consumer demand for a focus on clean beauty and ingredients over fancy packaging and unnecessary fragrance.
Alongside a number of lesser known brands and boutique retailers championing the clean beauty movement, it has never been easier to overhaul your beauty cabinet and get clean!
Many brands and products claim to be ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ but how can you really tell exactly what you’re getting?
Nearly 50 percent of women are already using clean beauty products, according to a Harper’s BAZAAR poll of more than 1,000 women across all ages, races, and ethnicities, and more than 60 percent of women would be willing to splurge on one.
The term first appeared in the 1970’s with CoverGirl’s ‘Clean Make-up’ campaign in reference to a fresh-faced look. Since then, it has taken on a whole new meaning coined by the likes of Goop and the previously mentioned Ren, featuring products designed to be free of harmful ingredients but a welcomed substitute to the natural options on the market due to their lackluster performance.
Although there is no certain definition of clean beauty, the general consensus within the industry is that clean beauty refers to products that contain a majority of natural ingredients yet may still incorporate synthetic ingredients that have been deemed safe for both people and the planet. This means that clean beauty doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is entirely chemical free and one hundred percent natural, but it does mean that some consideration has been taken when selecting the ingredients that go into the product.
Despite this, the Food and Drug Administration does not have a definition for “clean beauty” or other cosmetics terms, it is also not required to test or approve cosmetics and their ingredients, with the exception of color additives.
What does this mean for the consumer?
As the jury remains out on what clean and natural beauty really means and what defines them, it has become more important than ever to understand the ingredients listed in the fine print to make the most informed decision.
Parabens, sulphates, phthalates, the list goes on. Ingredients we are told to avoid and hence why so many of us spend hours squinting at product labels to point out these no-go ingredients.
However, how toxic an ingredient is depends on where in the world you are. In the EU more than 1,300 ingredients are banned from cosmetics, yet in the US beauty is one of the least regulated industries, only 30 ingredients are banned.
The clean beauty industry is instead making its own rules and advocates for clean beauty have an eagle eye when it comes to pointing out the more problematic ingredients out there.
The biggest concerns are aggressive ingredients and synthetic chemicals. A survey carried out in 2016 by US beauty brand Kari Gran, found that 55 percent of women and 62 percent of millennials read beauty product ingredient labels in order to avoid specific ingredients.
Artificial colours are said to make the skin more sensitive, while mineral oils such as petroleum, petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum can clog pores, and are a by-product of the crude oil industry therefore are all avoided. Sodium lauryl sulphate strips moisture; while phthalates, emulsifiers found in synthetic fragrances, hairsprays and nail polish – can be absorbed through the skin. Parabens or anything beginning with methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, propyl- are a controversial preservative as they’ve been linked to breast cancer and reproductive problems.
A number of brands have chosen to avoid the use of these ingredients due to such a large number of consumers with direct knowledge about the consequences of them. Cult US skincare brand Drunk Elephant cut out the “suspicious six”: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical screens, fragrance/dyes and SLS and many others have followed.
We are becoming experts when it comes to the products we use and no longer trust what we are told, instead many choose to have their own knowledge on the matter and therefore apply pressure to big brands to adjust their approach.
The demand for clean beauty has risen alongside the rise in the general wellness movement. As consumers became more conscious of the things they put into their body and clean-eating became a popular term, they also became increasingly aware of what they put onto their skin too.
As information surrounding harmful chemicals used in cosmetics continues to become common knowledge for the vast majority, the demand for clean beauty products keeps mounting. Although many of these no-no ingredients pose little risk on their own, repeated exposure to a number of harmful chemicals has been linked to some serious health conditions.
Within the $19 billion “prestige beauty” market, skin-care labels that positioned themselves as natural grew 14 percent year-on-year in 2019, while clean brands jumped 39 percent, said Larissa Jensen, beauty analyst at the NPD Group. Today, the clean skin-care category makes up 13 percent of high-end skin-care sales, which is more than double the size from four years earlier.
Another key to the movement’s success is its undeniable staying power. Many trends within the beauty industry come and go, yet this is far less of a trend than a lifestyle choice and a habit set to stay. Making a commitment to understanding the power of what we put into and onto our bodies is vital knowledge and something many are choosing to make a priority when making their next beauty purchase.
A market once dominated by indie retailers and organic pharmacies, today you don’t need to look far to find a line of clean beauty products and some of the biggest names in the industry are cleaning up their act.
As high-end beauty favourite Clarins debuts a vegan skincare line which is also paraben-free, sulphate-free and phthalate-free, with packaging made from recycled material sourced from sustainably-managed forests, and e-commerce giant Amazon debuts their clean beauty line, it is clear everyone wants in on this lucrative section of the beauty market.
However, if you are on the lookout for lesser known retailers who are not only ingredient conscious but also consider ethical production and minimise waste, there are a number of great retailers who stock such products. The Detox Market stocks pioneers in the green beauty movement. This online shop curates the best of natural beauty and never compromises efficiency, while ensuring all products are always cruelty-free. They even keep an up to date list of banned ingredients that you will never find in the products they sell.
Credo Beauty also has an impressive lineup of brands that are clean, sustainable and ethically sourced. Credo never carries products with known harmful ingredients or animal byproducts, and they only stock brands that never test on animals. Another great option that is close to home is The Beauty Agenda. Described as a luxury online, premium beauty retailer with a conscience. The Beauty Agenda has a carefully curated collection of ethical beauty and wellness products. All products are ethically sourced and not tested on animals. The majority of brands boast vegan friendly ingredients and packaging is kept to a minimum and eco-friendly wherever possible.
Here are a few brands to look out for when shopping for your next clean beauty haul.
This low-waste brand offers refillable packaging and is handcrafted in small batches removing the artificial methods of manufacturing that most big brands are accustomed to. Kind Beeuty’s team checks each formula for quality, consistency, and efficacy so that you get exactly what you purchase. Their cruelty-free products that are made in the UK are a helpful step towards a more waste free approach to beauty. The brightening face mask with turmeric and rice powder is a firm favourite.
A growing family business based in Milton Keynes creating ethically made products containing organic ingredients with a goal to make the world a little bit healthier and more holistic. The natural lifestyle brand prioritizes low-waste practices, plant-based solutions, and plastic-free packaging wherever possible. Awake also introduced the UK’s first vegan, natural deodorant with probiotics, the plastic free natural deodorant is a must have.
LIHA is an innovative, luxe natural, organic and vegan skincare brand that blends the rich botanical life of West Africa with traditional English aromatherapy and folk remedies. All packaging and materials are made, designed and produced in the UK by other family run businesses and all packaging is recyclable and reusable. The Idan Oil is made with natural, cold-pressed coconut oil and is delightfully nourishing.
Odylique crafts effective and game-changing skincare products using only natural ingredients and organic herbs. With one of the most expansive ranges for UK-based brands, including facial creams, body washes, and makeup, you can find nearly anything natural you need—including an array of vegan options. Products are cruelty-free and made in the UK. The Organic Vegan Rose Moisturiser is the perfect addition to beauty cabinets everywhere.
A unique line of scientifically-proven luxury skin, hair and scalp products formulated with natural plant and herb extracts. All products are formulated and produced using high quality raw materials. Working closely with suppliers to remain faithful to ethical, sustainable and fair-trade practices. The Enrich Hair Mask is a must-have revitalising and nourishing treatment for dull hair.