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Clean beauty:
What’s behind the new trend?

Clean beauty is the new buzzword in the beauty world. The word “clean” stands for “free from.” The movement, which began as a niche trend has now loyal followers around the world who advocate for more transparency in the skin care jungle.

Clean beauty products are cruelty-free and do not contain any harmful ingredients. In our guide, you’ll learn about the philosophy behind the cosmetics trend and what sets it apart from natural cosmetics.

What does clean beauty mean?

A clean thing: Clean beauty refers to products that are safe for people and the planet. The focus is on high-quality active ingredients that optimally care for our skin without having a negative impact on the environment.

Is clean beauty therefore skincare without chemicals? No. “Clean” beauty brands may refrain from using questionable ingredients, but they do not exclude synthetic ingredients. Especially since all ingredients used in cosmetics are chemicals – regardless of whether they are synthetically produced or derived from a natural source.

Unsurprisingly, products that are vegan, organic and sustainable are readily grouped under the clean beauty label. However, these product labels might be misused. The clean beauty movement has recognized the problem of greenwashing and is countering it with consistency. It not only bans questionable ingredients from skin care, but also transparently identifies the ingredients used.

This meets the desire of consumers who desire skincare products that have no negative impact on the environment but also a conscious shopping experience.


What are the origins of the clean beauty movement?

A growing number of consumers are taking a conscious look at their skincare products and examine their ingredients. They want to know what’s in it and generally desire more transparency in the cosmetics industry. Clean beauty is responding to this change and driving it forward by having manufacturers raise the issue of skin irritation caused by controversial ingredients.

Another important topic is sensitive skin, which has displaced even everyone’s favorite, anti-aging, from the first place. Many dermatologists report that the phenomenon of sensitive skin has increased, caused by external factors such as stress and pollution. This increases the demand for traceable, harmless and natural ingredients. Many consumers even go one step further: they prefer skincare products with as few ingredients as possible.

Clean beauty products are cruelty-free and do not contain any harmful ingredients

What ingredients of concern are not used?

Which ingredients are considered harmful at all? That depends primarily on where you live. While more than 1,300 ingredients in cosmetics are on the index in the EU, the cosmetics industry in the USA bans just 30 of them. The clean beauty trend has set its own rules and created a long no-go list. Although there is no universal definition, the following offenders are usually in the focus:

  • Silicones (Dimethicones, methicones, polysiloxanes, cyclomethicones)
    A synthetic ingredient used in skin and hair care. It is suspected of clogging pores and weighing down hair.
  • Parabens (Methyl-, Butyl-, Ethyl-, Propyl-)
    Controversial preservatives linked to breast cancer and reproductive risks.
  • PEGs (Polyethylenglykol)
    Improve the consistency of cosmetics, but are difficult to break down and thus a burden on the environment. In addition, the substance is suspected of causing allergies and being potentially carcinogenic.
  • Sulfates (SLS)
    Chemical foaming agents such as sodium lauryl sulfate, which can have an irritating and drying effect due to their strong cleaning power.
  • Phthalates (DBP, DEHP, DEP, BPA)
    Plasticizers that are absorbed through the skin and can enter the body. There may be a connection with hormone disorders.
  • Mineral oil products (Mineral oil, petrolatum, paraffinum liquidum)
    Cheap by-products of the petroleum industry that contribute to pollution and seal the skin.
  • Certain UV-filters (Oxybenzone, homosalate, octocrylene)
    Chemical UV filters that may enter the body, have hormonal effects and cause allergic skin reactions.

Clean beauty: What is the difference between organic, natural, sustainable and vegan?

When it comes to clean beauty, other trend terms such as organic, vegan, natural and sustainable are often mentioned. In fact, there are some differences between the various labels. Clean beauty is cruelty-free and does not contain controversial ingredients. However, these products are not necessarily vegan or sustainable. In our checklist you will find a short definition of the most important terms:

Clean beauty

The label indicates that the cosmetic is free of controversial ingredients and provides the skin with high-quality active ingredients. It does not necessarily have to be vegan or sustainable, although the conditions are often given.

Natural cosmetics

Certified natural cosmetics are based on natural and nature-based raw materials. They are often minimally processed and do not contain silicones, parabens or synthetic fragrances and preservatives. However, natural cosmetics does not equal only ingredients sourced from nature, as they may contain synthetically produced active ingredients. Also, natural ingredients are not necessarily particularly mild to the skin. Essential oils such as menthol, lavender or orange can irritate the skin and cause inflammation. The most common certificate labels for natural cosmetics include Natrue, Ecocert and Soil Association.

Organic cosmetics

Organic products go one step further: they predominantly contain natural ingredients from organic cultivation. This means no genetic engineering, chemical pesticides or antibiotics. These advantages are associated with additional costs for agriculture and processing which have an impact on organic cosmetics price tags. Since 2017, the BDIH label has carried the addition “Cosmos Natural” or “Cosmos Organic” and distinguishes natural cosmetics in organic quality.

Vegan cosmetics

Pure vegan skin care products do not contain any active ingredients of animal origin such as honey, beeswax, collagen, silk proteins, carmine, egg white or gelatine. The label of the “Vegan Flower” lets you know that the entire production process is free of any animal-derived ingredients or by-products. 

Sustainable cosmetics

Sustainable skincare aims to use resources in an environmentally friendly way from ingredients to packaging and avoids substances such as microplastics. 

Cosmetics free of animal testing

Cosmetics and skincare brands that do not test on animals for their products or individual ingredients. The “Leaping Bunny” label is a famous and internationally renowned certificate.

How to recognize clean beauty products?

Although the cosmetics trend has become mainstream, clean beauty is not a protected term and is subject to various interpretations. An official certificate for “clean cosmetics” does not exist. That means the only way to find out if your cosmetic products are ‘clean’ is to study the labels. With a little practice, this can even be a fun experience.

To keep track of INCI lists and easily find beauty brands that do not use harmful and/or toxic ingredients, you can either use the CodeCheck mobile app or cosmetics platforms like Hautschutzengel, which decode skincare products labels and put ingredients to the test. The vegan, animal-free and certified natural cosmetics certifications presented above offer further guidance. Meanwhile, some beauty stores offer a selective curation of clean beauty brands.

At EJO Skin, we are devoted to clean beauty. This movement is a long overdue step towards a more mindful beauty routine that not only makes skin glow, but also respects our planet. Our vegan skincare line contains no questionable ingredients, is free of animal testing and sustainably packaged.

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