Hype, Marketing & The Clean Beauty Backlash
Over the past couple of years, the clean beauty movement has been gaining momentum spreading its influence into our beauty cabinets, onto our dinner plates, and into our lifestyles in a swiftly incremental manner. From detoxifying juice cleanses to adding avocados in everything, and including the multi-hyphenate CBD to benefiting from the multi-tasking oil of the grape seed, you’ve probably tried and adopted some clean beauty practices over the years.
Indians are no strangers to clean beauty practices. For generations, we’ve been using all-natural ingredients from our kitchens to whip up “organic” and “completely natural” skin care remedies. We’ve all tried turmeric and multani face masks and have been acquainted with the exfoliating and nourishing benefits of oils. So, we Indians are predisposed to clean beauty methods.
With the growing number of clean beauty brands in the market today and our proclivity towards such brands, we as consumers need to be aware of what we’re spending our money on.
A growing awareness of clean standards
One glance at a label on a shelf or website throws up words like organic and natural or non-toxic and chemical-free. Clean beauty is most often associated with terms like these. While we might think we know what these words mean, there’s no clear and standardised definition for what the word “clean” in clean beauty stands for.
Brands in the clean beauty space all have their own standards of clean. For some, clean is organic, for others, it’s non-toxic and cruelty-free. This lack of clarity has started to sow suspicion in claims of clean and the real benefits of these products.
What is universally agreed upon is that clean beauty products are free of toxic and harmful ingredients. They are free of substances like parabens, phthalates, and sulphates that are known to cause harm to animals and humans alike if used in large quantities. They are free of heavy metals like mercury, lead, and chromium that are known poisons in the industry.
If it’s that simple, what is the problem?
Flashy claims and misleading marketing
There is a growing number of cosmetic chemists and clean beauty brands in the Indian market. There are A LOT of them globally. These brands have their own unique definitions of the word clean. There isn’t a lot of definitive information out there based on solid scientific facts. Most of these claims by brands are made by marketers to sell more products.
The regulations governing the beauty industry are quite antiquated and can be bypassed by smart marketing. Products labeled as organic, natural, and chemical-free fly off the shelves because customers think that they’re better than synthetic ingredients formulated in labs.
Clean isn’t always sustainable
Sustainability and clean beauty are a part of the same cultural movement. For a lot of beauty enthusiasts, these two philosophies are tied in deeply with each other. So, in the name of sustainability labels have been subjected to greenwashing. Brands can claim that their products are sustainable and environment-friendly. Now, who isn’t going to want to pick an earth-friendly brand?
In an industry that lacks transparency, we need to get more educated as consumers. In that attempt, here are some clean beauty myths that no longer serve you.
Myth 1: Chemical-free is good!
All skin care is made up of chemicals. Clean beauty branding has made chemical a bad word. It sounds harsh and damaging. The truth is chemistry is the basis of every living thing. Therefore, chemicals can be completely natural or synthetic.
Your product can contain synthetic lab-made ingredients that are derived from plant ingredients. This does not mean it is any less clean than a natural plant extract.
Myth 2: If a product doesn’t have these “dirty ingredients” it’s safe to use
There aren’t many governing authorities who have created a list of clean beauty ingredients that are completely safe to use. Note the word: completely.
Most of the clean brands are going to be free of parabens, phthalates, and sulphates. But the list of ingredients to avoid is not completely reliable.
Meanwhile, studies conducted on the presence of harmful ingredients in skin care and makeup remain inconclusive. The quantities of nasty ingredients in beauty products are trace and their effects are seen as negligible.
However, it is widely believed that the beauty industry uses many harmful and toxic ingredients even today. Which further pushes the need for clean and safe skin care and makeup to the forefront of beauty research.
Myth 3: Chemicals from skin care pass into the bloodstream
Another common misconception that is widely circulated in clean beauty circles is that your skin absorbs toxic chemicals from your skin care and this lands up in your bloodstream. This bioaccumulation can poison you.
As many dermatologists and clean beauty bloggers will tell you the skin care you apply on your face stays on your face. Beauty products form a barrier to protect your skin but do not penetrate it. This prevents most toxic chemicals from entering your body. If your skin care does penetrate your skin then you should consider switching brands immediately.
Myth 4: All clean beauty brands are sustainable
All clean beauty brands are not sustainable, but a lot of them try to be. Some of the natural ingredients required to make these products may be sourced through unsustainable practices or they’re just harder to get. Some products are created in small batches, making it difficult to produce quality products at a low price.
So what should you look for in a skin care line?
The key qualities of a great skincare line are transparency and formulation. Transparency means a lot in an industry where the customer believes most of what they’re told. Marketing messages that emphasise natural ingredients sometimes omit less-botanical-more-synthetic ingredients. Some products with all-natural ingredients could contain allergens that might cause reactions in some people. So, transparency is really important. The more you know about the brand and the ingredients in your products the better.
Clean beauty isn’t as good as they say it is and it’s not entirely bad either. Living a clean lifestyle has received some good press and some bad press. The most important thing as consumers of clean beauty products is being informed of the best practices. Overall, clean beauty can positively impact the environment, as long as ingredients are sustainably sourced and ethically made. Not falling for overhyped trends and claims can help you find better products for your body and your health. To make the most of clean skin care stick to ingredients that you are familiar with and formulations that come dermatologically recommended.