The reality is that cosmetics are largely unregulated here in the USA. There is no regulatory oversight on words like “clean,” “natural,” “cruelty-free” or “non-toxic”. This is so appalling, as we have a huge beauty market here in the US, with very little regulation. Here at Private Label Skincare Florida, we strive to be natural and organic, and mainly plant-based in most of our formulations. We were Clean beauty before there even was such a thing as Clean beauty.
We talk a lot about what we put into our bodies, but I am astonished all the time, at how little time we spend talking about what we put on our bodies. Given that our skin is our largest organ, you would think we’d give it a little more airtime. You would also think that more time would be spent educating the population on the effect of pH (either way, too alkaline or too acid) as well, but nearly on one has a good grip on the impact the Ph has on the skin and hair, and how it must be a part of a “Clean beauty” regimen.
Unlike the food we eat, the products we use on our skin are wildly under-regulated which is a dirty little secret no one ever talks about. While the UK has banned over 1,000 toxic compounds from cosmetics, the US FDA has only banned eleven. According to the FDA’s own website, they do “not have the authority to require cosmetic manufacturers to submit their safety data to FDA.” There is no regulatory oversight on words like “clean,” “natural,” “cruelty-free,” or “non-toxic,” so companies often market such proclamations without backing them up. There is also no specification about to whom the product is “non-toxic” – the consumer? The environment? The product factory workers and residents living around the factories? The sea life? Another dirty little secret
How do you define clean beauty?
When I asked my friends about their favorite clean beauty products, I was shocked to hear them singing praises for brands like Glossier. When I asked why the brand made their clean beauty lists, most friends admitted they “just assumed” based on packaging design, marketing aesthetic, and their “no makeup” look, that Glossier had commitments to clean beauty. In reality, they have almost none, other than compliance with laws already in place. Even more, an interview with Glossier CEO Emily Weiss notes that she “just doesn’t think her customers care about ingredients if they’re happy with the results.” Yikes, really?
Other companies are even bigger offenders when it comes to false marketing and toxic ingredients. People are always shocked when it is pointed out that Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox. While the brand maintains sustainability initiatives and is bringing that energy to their parent company, some customers still feel duped after realizing their favorite “natural” brand is owned by a chemical giant.
Water treatment plants don’t remove the chemicals from cosmetics that we wash down our drains every day. These chemicals can be toxic to marine organisms.
This is why the “clean” beauty line gets a little fuzzy, and a bit dirty. While most “clean” beauty products avoid parabens and sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), that’s about where the consistency ends. That’s why right now when it comes to “clean” beauty, it’s up to the individual customer to determine what the term means for them. For some, clean beauty may just be about avoiding potentially toxic chemicals, while for others it may go beyond that to include animal, social, and environmental welfare.
Those who consider all the above in their quest for clean beauty recognize that the cosmetics we use have the power to harm more than just our own health. Every time you wash your face or take a shower, the cosmetics you use are being washed right down the drain. Water treatment plants don’t filter out chemicals or microplastics, which means that the products you’re using end up in the marine environment. Phototoxic sunscreens (like oxybenzone) act as endocrine disruptors and have been found to cause mortality in corals even at nearly imperceptible concentrations in the ocean. The triclosan in your antibacterial soaps and toothpaste also acts as an endocrine disruptor, this time in fish. Synthetic musks in your perfumes and soaps have been found in water and soils in the Great Lakes. The BHT widely used as a preservative in your lipsticks and moisturizers can bioaccumulate to toxic levels in marine organisms.
The demand for clean dovetailed with the rise of the broader wellness movement, specifically the “clean-eating” lifestyle that embraces unrefined and minimally processed foods. It has also been fueled by a growing awareness of the tougher regulations that govern cosmetics in other parts of the world. The European Union, for instance, has banned approximately 1,300 chemicals in cosmetics, a category that covers makeup, lotions, hair dyes, deodorant, nail polish, shaving cream, and other beauty products. By contrast, the United States — where the average woman uses 12 such products containing 168 chemicals on her body each day — bans and restricts only 11, according to the Environmental Working Group, a health advocacy group that has helped spearhead the clean beauty movement along with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
Scott Faber, senior vice president at EWG, claims that although many chemicals in cosmetics probably pose little risk on their own, repeat exposure to some of those chemicals has been associated with serious health problems. In written testimony to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, Faber said that 617 cosmetics makers have reported using 93 chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm in more than 81,000 products, citing data from California Safe Cosmetics Program, which is part of the state’s Department of Public Health.
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And so demand for clean beauty products keeps mounting. Within the $19 billion “prestige beauty” market, skin-care labels that positioned themselves as natural grew 14 percent year-over-year in 2019, while clean brands jumped 39 percent, said Larissa Jensen, beauty analyst at the NPD Group, a market research firm. Today, the clean skin-care category makes up 13 percent of high-end skin-care sales, more than double the size from four years earlier.
Dirty Truth Part 2
Let’s take a look at where this all started.
First came small indie brands — think Tatcha, Drunk Elephant and Indie Lee — that developed a loyal following but individually could not make a dent in the overall cosmetics market, Jensen said. “These brands proliferated, and now they’re a force,” she said. “Collectively, they’re eroding the dollar share of legacy prestige brands.”
Initially, their messaging centered on terms such as nontoxic, pure, safe or safer before coalescing around the clean label, said Nicole Acevedo, an environmental health scientist who works with clean cosmetic brands and retailers. The “magic of the Internet” makes it tough to track exactly when the marketing switch occurred, Acevedo said.
But once the number of brands reached a tipping point, clean-only beauty retailers such as Follain, Credo, and the Detox Market emerged to showcase them. Beautycounter broke into the market with its own line, sold primarily by independent consultants. Each retailer pledged not to sell any products that include ingredients on their no-no lists.
“These [clean-only] retailers upped the ante in terms of clean,” said Elizabeth Kopelman, owner of Frisson Beauty, an international beauty strategy consultancy. “They made it so nobody could hide behind clean and natural anymore without being specific about what it was.” This is a first in getting some ethical and actually clean products into the marketplace.
Eager to snatch a share of this increasingly lucrative market, big-name players followed suit. Within the past two years, Sephora and Target created icons to distinguish their “clean” products, based on their own lists of forbidden ingredients. Walmart and Amazon debuted their clean skin-care lines last year. And in January, Revlon unveiled a clean skin primer, its first product to meet EWG’s standards. Other industry behemoths snapped up buzzy brands. Last year, Shiseido announced it would acquire Drunk Elephant for $845 million, and Unilever, which now owns Ren, said it would buy Tatcha for a reported $500 million.
With so many ingredient manufacturers and raw material suppliers involved and with advances in green chemistry, there are now clean formulas and textures that rival traditional brands, said Tara Foley, Follain’s founder. “That’s another reason people are switching.”
For now, it’s difficult for consumers to evaluate what they’re getting. Credo’s “dirty list” (with 2,700 ingredients) does not neatly overlap with the lists maintained by Beautycounter, Follain, and others. Some products with the “Clean at Sephora and natural ingredients that have some gr” icon get mediocre ratings on EWG’s Skin Deep database or the Think Dirty app, both of which churn out hazard scores for cosmetics. And some brands, such as Tatcha and Drunk Elephant, have the Sephora clean seal but contain ingredients that are restricted on Credo’s and Follain’s lists. The dirty truth is that none of these lists have done a great job at R&D on these ingredients and sometimes throw the baby out with the bath water!
“There’s a lot of disagreements in this space, even among ingredient experts,” said Cindy Deily, Sephora’s vice president of skin-care merchandising, adding that the Sephora program is not static and continues to evolve.
On the sidelines, some scientists are saying enough already. There’s a disconnect between the information widely circulated by clean beauty enthusiasts and scientific facts, said Curtis Klaassen, a toxicologist and a member of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, an industry-funded committee of independent scientists set up in 1976 with FDA support.
When assessing the safety of a chemical, it’s important to consider the dose, Klaassen said. Although some chemicals can be dangerous in very high concentrations, the low doses found in cosmetics do no harm — in the same way, that hurricane winds can kill, but a breeze will not, he said. Furthermore, there’s no scientific evidence to support claims that the cumulative effect of exposure to many chemicals daily can be toxic.
What’s the difference between these buzzwords?
From a marketing perspective, these terms are often grouped together and used interchangeably. However, they actually have different meanings. Feeling flustered yet? Don’t worry, we’re here to break down these clean beauty buzzwords and explain why it’s so important to know the difference. We’ve created a simple chart to help you get a clearer and better understanding of what clean beauty is.
Clean Beauty – Think of “clean beauty” as a blanket term that covers all of the categories that clean beauty encompasses. The term “clean” mainly refers to non-toxic ingredients (natural and/or synthetic) that aren’t harmful to your health.
Non-Toxic – A general term that describes a product that is free from ingredients that can harm your health or the environment.
Natural – Refers to ingredients sourced from nature. It’s important to know though, that legally, the word “natural” is a completely unregulated term that companies use to market their products. A product can be stamped as natural but in actuality, it can contain a whole chock full of synthetic ingredients. Also, there are many assumptions that natural is always better than synthetic. However, of course, not all-natural ingredients are good, and not all synthetic ingredients are bad either.
Green Beauty – Refers to beauty brands that operate its business in a way that helps to reduce the impact on the health of their customers and the planet.
Organic – A legally defined term used by the USDA to certify food, agricultural products, and beauty products (containing or made up of agricultural ingredients) as being produced under very specific standards and requirements from farm to market. Overall, companies must demonstrate that their products have been produced through approved methods and don’t contain ingredients that can harm people and the environment.
So what? Why is this important to know?
Understanding what these buzzwords mean is becoming more important as people are gravitating towards living a healthier and cleaner lifestyle. Seeing a product labeled as “natural” may look like a better choice at face value, but you have to take that extra step to read the small print. Just because a product claims itself as natural or clean, doesn’t mean that it really is. It’s really up to us as consumers to do our own research on the kind of products we’re using on ourselves and in our homes. The more we educate ourselves, the more prepared we are to make informed product purchase decisions. After all, knowledge is power, right?
Are there any free resources to help me?
It’s okay to feel overwhelmed by the whole concept of clean beauty. Trust us, we’ve been there too. Fortunately, there are a ton of great resources out there to help you on your quest to unearth cleaner and safer beauty products. We’ve zeroed down on our top two beauty apps that help conscious shoppers, like ourselves, make better purchase decisions based on the safety of product ingredients. They’re super easy to use and best of all, they’re free! We here at Private Label Skincare Florida are not afraid for anyone, or any scientist t look us over!! We hare clean and green, as is possible in today’s demanding market. We use as much plant-based material as is possible, and feel our organic percentages in our formulas are very high against the industry standards! Please give us a call, and let us show you how clean and green we are! Thanks for reading, hope t hear from you soon!
Think Dirty App
Think Dirty® app is a super-easy tool to help you learn about all the ingredients in your beauty, personal care, and household products. You just scan the product barcode and the app will provide you with all the information you need to know about the product, its ingredients, and cleaner alternatives. How convenient is that? Enjoy!!!!!! PLSF!!!!
2. GoodGuide App
GoodGuide’s mobile app is another great resource to help consumers decode product labels, research ingredients, interpret complex information about the potential hazards of different chemicals and make better product-purchasing decisions through science-based ratings. All you have to do is scan the product barcode and retrieve ratings and information on your phone while you shop.
With so many trends that come and go, it’s easy to think of clean beauty as another one of those passing fads. But, it’s far more than just a trend. It’s a health issue and it’s up to us as individuals to be conscious of the products we use on a daily basis.
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