The Dirty Truth about Clean Beauty

The Dirty Truth about Clean Beauty

Published by Simone on Sep 20th 2023


In the world of beauty and skincare, there's a movement that's hard to miss - Clean Beauty. This movement, which champions sustainable, clean, and natural products, has gained momentum, fueled by our global consciousness about environmental preservation. As an advocate for eco-friendly practices, I stand firmly behind efforts to heal our planet. But here's where it gets tricky: what about the formula inside the pretty bottles and jars? Labeling a formula as "clean" can be a complex issue when the concept of 'clean beauty' is more representative of marketing and fearmongering than based in actual scientific evidence and could (and is!) potentially misleading consumers into believing that traditional beauty products are harmful without substantial proof. 

So, the question is, how as consumers do we navigate this convoluted movement and indulge in the products we truly love and value the most? 

No Clear Definition 

"Clean beauty" is a term used to describe cosmetics that steer clear of potentially harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients, with the goal of offering safer products for both consumers and the environment. However, it's important to note that this term operates in a relatively unregulated field and lacks official recognition from the FDA. This lack of oversight introduces significant ambiguity, leaving room for vastly different interpretations of its meaning by both companies and consumers. 

For instance, Sephora faced a class-action complaint alleging that its "Clean at Sephora" program misled consumers about the true extent of product cleanliness. The plaintiff argued that "a significant number of products with the ‘Clean At Sephora’ label contained ingredients inconsistent with consumers' understanding of this term." 

Sephora, along with numerous other brands, will continue to establish and promote their own unique definitions and standards for "clean" beauty. However, this approach can potentially give rise to more cases like the one mentioned above. Many brands have developed "free from" or "banned" ingredients lists based on potential hazards, adding to the complexity. As a result, consumers find themselves in a perplexing situation where one brand's claims may differ from another's, creating a challenge for individuals who want to make informed choices. 

And who is to say what they are marketing is even correct? 

It's indeed commendable that you harbor curiosity about understanding the ingredients listed on products. However, today's cosmetic ingredients undergo rigorous scientific testing and regulation, ensuring their safety when used in cosmetics at prescribed levels. It is crucial to recognize that deeming ingredients as hazardous or unsafe, without considering these safety measures, can be misleading. 

Should we place our trust in beauty brands' banned ingredient lists as a reliable measure of product safety and transparency, or is there a possibility that they are primarily employed as marketing tools to enhance their image and attract conscientious consumers? 

In this landscape, marketing wields immense influence, and companies often have two primary concerns: maintaining product performance and crafting a compelling marketing story. 

Given these concerns, it is important to exercise caution and thoughtful consideration before unquestioningly accepting everything you see. In an environment where the lines between authenticity and promotion can blur, being an informed and discerning consumer becomes more critical than ever. 

Where do we go from Here? 

I find alignment with the cosmetic and toiletries definition established in 2017, which upholds three fundamental principles: 

  1. Simplifying Formulas: Streamlining cosmetic formulas by eliminating unnecessary ingredients. 
  2. Prioritizing Safety: Emphasize the importance of ensuring safety for both consumers and the environment. 
  3. FDA Compliance: Calls for avoiding ingredients that have been blacklisted or flagged by the FDA for specific reasons. 

From the perspective of a formulator, create products using the essential ingredients needed to craft exceptional and highly effective solutions. At Equibal, we respect the concept of beauty minimalism. Our approach underscores the importance of consciously selecting ingredients that are safe, effective, and sustainable in practice that deliver tangible results, thereby guaranteeing customer satisfaction. 

Now that we possess a more profound comprehension of the marketing strategies employed by "clean" beauty brands, we can engage in a thoughtful evaluation of products and their ingredients based on a value-driven approach, rather than one fueled by unfounded fears. 

So, How do You Accurately Evaluate a Product's Ingredient List to Ensure it Meets Your Standard? 

Next week, I'll be conducting a comprehensive formula review of the  Blemfree™ cleansing wash concentrate. This will serve as an instructive example of how to dissect a list of ingredients (LOI). I'll also provide some great resources to look up any materials that might raise concerns for you. 

The  Blemfree™ Primary Package aligns seamlessly with the three guiding principles I hold dear. It boasts a formulation that is minimal, safe, and highly concentrated, all of which converge to offer consumers a remarkably cost-effective solution to acne problems. This approach encourages individuals to embrace a skincare routine that minimizes expenditure and product waste, a concept that deeply resonates with our beliefs at Equibal. 

Our commitment to delivering top-tier quality products is unwavering, and it extends beyond the realm of efficacy to encompass manufacturing efficiency and waste reduction. I am genuinely thrilled to walk you through a product that I wholeheartedly trust. I'm confident that, after this insightful review, you will be well-equipped to evaluate products and discover those that truly align with your values. 

Until then, maintain your scientific skepticism—it's a powerful tool in navigating the world of cosmetics and personal care products! 



Isabelle Buneo. Sephora Is Being Sued Over Their ‘CleanBeauty’ Program. New Beauty. (2022, Dec 5)  Sephora Is Being Sued Over Their 'Clean Beauty' Program - NewBeauty

Karl Laden Ph.D. Purging the Confusion from Clean Beauty. Cosmetics & Toiletries (2023, June)  Cosmetics & Toiletries - June 2023 - page 22 (

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