Clean Beauty – The Beauty Trend You Need to Know

As if there weren’t enough buzzwords in the beauty industry, the term “clean beauty” suddenly comes into prominence. So what’s the hype, how is clean beauty different from other beauty movements, and why do we have to care?

What is Clean Beauty?

In general, a clean beauty product means it’s safe, non-toxic and non-irritating. It’s quite similar to being hypoallergenic. Clean beauty can also mean that a product is ethical (think vegan, cruelty-free, eco-friendly, fair trade, responsible and sustainable). Many beauty products that claim to be clean are also paraben-free.

Sephora launched a “Clean at Sephora” seal in 2018. It defines clean beauty as being “the beauty you want, minus the ingredients you might not.” All brands with the “Clean at Sephora” seal offer products that are free from sulfates like SLS, SLES, oxybenzone, coal tar, triclosan and triclorcarban, and contain less than 1% synthetic fragrance.

How is Clean Beauty different from other Beauty Buzzwords?

Clean beauty is not to be confused with “natural,” “organic,” “cruelty-free,” “vegan” or “halal” beauty, although they can be related. Note that these terms are not government regulated, meaning any product can claim itself as being so.

Natural: This is a very vague term unless it’s ECOCERT-certified natural, which means the product contains at least 50% plant-based ingredients and at least 5% ingredients derived from organic farming.

Organic: An ECOCERT-certified organic product contains at least 95% plant-based ingredients and at least 10% ingredients derived from organic farming. Since water, salts and minerals are not sourced from farming, products such as creams and shampoos can at most be “100% natural” but not “100% organic.” Only essential oils can be 100% organic.

There are many organizations that provide organic certifications, but ECOCERT and USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) are the most globally recognized ones.


Clockwise from top left: Cruelty-free and vegan certification logos from Cruelty Free International, PETA (after 2015), PETA (before 2015) and KARA

Cruelty-Free: This means a product is not tested on animals, be it by the manufacturers or a third party. Cruelty Free International certifies cruelty-free products with a leaping bunny symbol (click here to learn more). Products sold in China are not cruelty-free since the government requires animal testing to be conducted. You can shop for cruelty-free beauty products here.

Vegan: This means a product is free from animal-derived ingredients, which can include ingredients such as honey and snail slime that are derived from living animals. A product can be vegan but not cruelty-free or vice versa.


How to look for cruelty-free products at YesStyle

Halal: This means the product is permissible under Islamic law and is free from animal derivatives and alcohol. Halal manufacturing facilities have to be strictly monitored to avoid cross-contamination.

Clean beauty is none of the above, but can be a combination of any of the above. They all mean well for the body and the environment.

Why Does Clean Beauty Matter?

The rise of clean beauty can be attributed to our increasing fear of pollution and contamination. Unlike the “natural” movement, clean beauty prioritizes safety over sources. The clean beauty movement is a protest against the false idea that all natural ingredients are safe and all synthetic ingredients are hazardous. Clean beauty matters because no one wants to slather on toxic chemicals, and we’re the guardians of our own health.

How to Distinguish a Clean Beauty Product

There are currently no widely recognized certifications for clean beauty. The easiest way distinguish a clean beauty product is to look at its ingredients list.

This article shows some of the ingredients to avoid if you have sensitive skin. Other potentially hazardous ingredients include chemical sunscreens, talc and formaldehyde.

EWG (Environmental Working Group) grades ingredients from a scale of 0-10. The lower the score, the safer the product is. You can search for an ingredient’s functions and safety levels at its Skin Deep database.

I always check CosDNA or SkinCarisma for the ingredients list whenever I try a new product. Both sites include a product search engine that shows the ingredients list alongside each ingredient’s functions and safety levels. They also analyze any ingredients list you submit.

Brands can mislead you with minimal packaging and tactful advertising. Sometimes only some of their products are clean, so always check the ingredients list of each individual product.

Clean Beauty Skin Care & Makeup Routines

Here are some clean beauty products made mostly with green ingredients (safety levels 1-2) under the EWG standards, and with the least comedogenic substances and irritants. Take note that I took only the “safe” approach, so these are not necessarily vegan or cruelty-free:

Skin Care:

1. Cleansing Oil 2. Foam Cleanser 3. Peeling Gel 4. Toner 5. Essence
iUNIK – Calendula Complete Cleansing Oil innisfree – Blueberry Rebalancing 5.5 Cleanser Cure – Natural Aqua Gel Pyunkang Yul – Mist Toner Benton – Snail Bee High Content Essence
6. Soothing Gel 7. Cream 8. Eye Cream 9. Sheet Mask 10. Sunscreen
Benton – Aloe Propolis Soothing Gel make p:rem – Safe Me. Relief Moisture Cream 12 Benton – Fermentation Eye Cream I’m from – Mugwort Sheet Mask Dear, Klairs – Soft Airy UV Essence SPF50+ PA++++

Makeup:

1. Primer 2. Foundation 3. Concealer 4. Browliner 5. Eyeshadow
SANA – Pore Putty Clear Make Up Base NAKEUP FACE – One Night Cushion (2 Colors) ONLY MINERALS – Medicated Concealer Acne Protector SPF 20 PA++ e.l.f. Cosmetics – Lock On Liner and Brow Cream theBalm – OVERSHADOW Shimmering All-Mineral Eyeshadow (3 Types)
6. Eyeliner 7. Mascara 8. Blush 9. Lip Tint 10. Face Powder
Etude House – Super Slim Proof Pencil Liner Etude House – Lash Perm Curl Fix Mascara theBalm – Girls’ Getaway Trio Blush Eco Lips – Ecotints Moisturizing Tinted Lip Balm MAXCLINIC – Catrin Natural 100 Sunkill RX SPF46 PA+++