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January 25, 2021

Understanding Clean Beauty, According To Non-Toxic Skincare Pioneers

More skincare companies than ever are offering products free from “suspicious” and “controversial” ingredients. Two clean beauty leaders weigh-in to help you make informed decisions.


 

Definitions of “clean” beauty vary from source to source, but the best way to decide which products to buy and which companies to support is to base your decisions on things that matter most to you and your family. 

 

clean beauty

 

Personal care products should meet your needs and align with your beliefs, so making your own list and creating your own definition will serve you well in the long run. For instance, many clean beauty aficionados avoid added fragrances, synthetic ingredients, potential endocrine disruptors, and ingredients that harm the environment.

 

They also value products that are:

 

  • Vegan
  • Cruelty-free
  • Contain organic or sustainable ingredients from renewable resources
  • Packaged with biodegradable or recyclable materials

 

Non-Toxic, Medical-Grade Skincare 

 

As a Beauty Expert favorite, Restorsea products are “non-toxic, natural, [and contain] NO parabens, phthalates, sulfates, silicones, PEGs or mineral oil.” Formulating a product without parabens (aka preservatives) is especially complicated, which is why they’re also prevalent in commercially produced foods. Simply eliminating them from beauty products doesn’t solve the problem, though. Skincare products need to be shelf-stable, so they don’t biodegrade or grow mold. 

 

For Restorsea, Patricia (Patti) Pao, Founder, and CEO, says, “The most difficult part [of the formulation process] was to create a preservative system. Most preservative systems contain parabens because they are inexpensive and very effective. We created our own plant-based preservative system based on honeysuckle.” 

 

Choosing to “formulate with naturally-derived and non-toxic ingredients” does figure into a brand’s costs, but Pao says that clean beauty customers are “very well educated and understand that what they ingest and topically apply affects their overall health.” So while the cost of a cleaner product may be higher than something produced with traditional preservatives, most savvy consumers understand and are willing to pay more for something that aligns with their personal preferences. 

 

For beauty lovers in search of a product that is backed by clinical studies, beloved and recommended by dermatological professionals, and delivers results on par with retinol without irritating the skin, AND ensures no harm comes to living creatures during the process, Restorsea is the answer. Aquabeautine XL®, Restorsea’s proprietary enzyme, is released by baby salmon and helps them break free of their eggshells. The entire enzyme collection process is cruelty-free and non-toxic and utilizes the hatching water that would otherwise be discarded. 

 

clean beauty

 

Pioneers In Natural Skincare Weigh In

 

Legions of fans trust their skin to Epicuren Discovery, and a quick look at their “Standards and Certifications” page tells much of the story. The logos clean beauty fans rely upon are proudly displayed, including those designating their cruelty-free commitment to avoiding animal testing to designations as a California solar-powered, recycle friendly, a certified organic company with a generous 20 percent of their product line, “14 out of 77” per Epicuren’s Director of Education Lisa Reinhardt, being vegan. They even received the Leaping Bunny certification recently.

 

Considering the immense interest in plant-based products, particularly collagen, Reinhardt explained that Epicuren has opted not to utilize it because the primary source for it is in China, which requires that products be tested on animals. In this case, trading a cruelty-free designation for a vegan one goes against Epicuren’s standards and the concerns of many consumers.

 

Understanding Certifications in the U.S.

 

Do a little research, and you’ll come across European companies referencing ECOCERT and COSMOS on their labels. In the U.S., companies desiring an organic certification apply through the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). USDA Organic Certifications have four levels, which Reinhardt carefully explained:

 

  • “100 percent organic” 
  • “Organic” products contain 95 percent organic ingredients, and the labeling can feature the USDA organic seal
  • “Made with Organic ______” must have a minimum of 70 percent organic ingredients, which allows companies to use the words “made with organic ingredients” but not the USDA organic seal on their labels
  • Products that contain less than 70 percent organic ingredients cannot use the word “organic” or the USDA organic seal on their principal display panel but may list specific organic ingredients in the ingredient list (i.e. x, x, organic x)

It’s worth noting that even if a cosmetic product is labeled as organic under the USDA program, it must still comply with all FDA safety and labeling requirements

 

clean beauty

 

Beware of Fearmongering

 

Sadly, misinformation and exaggerated claims about chemicals cloud people’s judgment about skincare ingredients. Reinhardt shared a widely circulated story about dihydrogen monoxide, for example, which is found in water pipes, can cause suffocation and corrosion, is used as a fire retardant, and can make it difficult to stop your car in certain circumstances. Sounds bad, right? It’s water, and the information, while written as a parody, serves as an excellent lesson in evaluating a source’s credibility before accepting its claims as fact. 

 

So, before you decide to accept someone else’s definition of “clean beauty,” do a little research (including identifying marketing hype) or ask your trusted Beauty Expert what to avoid.

Tracy Ann Teel is a full-time freelance writer and the owner of Finesse Writing and Editing LLC. She’s a tutorial writer for San Francisco Globe’s beauty platform, FierceLeague.com, covering everything from skin and hair care to makeup and nail art. She writes for skincare companies, dermatologists, and cosmetic surgeons, and proudly taught at her MFA alma mater, the University of California Irvine, as a member of their adjunct faculty in English. She’s been a textbook reviewer for Prentice Hall, been recognized three consecutive years in the Who’s Who Among America’s Teachers, and has written professionally for 30+ years. Her poetry chapbook Such Dust was published by Finishing Line Press, and her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Rattle, Pearl, Kaleidoscope, and Lake Arrowhead Life.

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COMMENTS 23

jonniskincare


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Clean is relative and what is best depends on the person's needs. Just because an ingredient is synthetic and you can not easily recognize it( coconut oil, rosemary, etc) doesn't mean it's bad for you. Read amazing articles like this and you will learn more well-informed info than on social media!

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Thank you for your kind words, Jonni.

marinadubrovina


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Once I started learning ingredients I was surprised to find toxic ones in some luxury skincare products I was using. And most of the natural skincare doesn't seem very effective to me. So I was very happy to discover Restorsea! It has only the best clean ingredients, passed the clinical studies and definitely does what it claims. Their serum is my new staple.

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Restorsea is a staple in my routine, too! The Neck & Décolletage treatment is LIFE.

madijane

I took this "earth sciences" class in college and one day we were asked to bring in a few skincare / beauty products to research and discuss the ingredients... I found out that my shampoo included known carcinogens. Everyone has a different interpretation of "clean", but it's very important to know about the "dirty" ingredients as well. Thanks!

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Great point, Jane! My college courses (both as a student and as a professor) always included environmental focuses with a research component. I think a mandatory course in advertising/marketing would benefit so many individuals -- and save them from being overwhelmed by jargon and hype.

elyciarubin

Having used both Epicuren and Restorsea for a long time, the word of these clean brands is gold to me. Thanks for sharing.

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

As the industry continues to evolve and consumers demand more transparency in labeling, I think there will eventually be tighter regulations on the use of the word "clean." At least the optimistic part of me thinks so. Consumers will have to be the catalyst for the movement, though.

brittaneybunjong

This is very informative, there's definitely a lot of research to be done prior to making beauty purchases.

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Exactly! More than ever before, consumers need to do their homework before accepting the word "clean" at face value.

james

After listening to a Clubhouse room full of MD dermatologists and chemical formulators, it was eye opening to listen and learn the in's and out's of how products are marketed as clean. It was also quite interesting to hear MD's giving insight on why synthetics and preservatives are not all that bad. I think the education is key and empowering customers to make their own final decisions.

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

What saddens me most is when consumers choose "celebrity" over "science." While I will always value the opinions of some people in my life, I think it's important for people to periodically reevaluate the sources that they deem credible. For me, MD trumps IMDb any day of the week.

samsuarez


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Loved this article so much! I always go straight to the ingredient list instead of reading the labels in the front. I’ve seen so many products that are falsely advertised as “oil free” or “clean” . These are just tactics to help the consumers think the product is good.

Something good to know is just because a product says “dermatologist tested” doesn’t mean it’s a good product. They could have tried it and hated it but companies are still able to advertise it as if dermatologists recommend it. There’s a big difference between “dermatologist tested” and “ dermatologist recommended”. Read more

elyciarubin

So true. We have to dig deep.

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Good point! Phrases like "dermatologist tested" lend a degree of credibility to a product, but the phrase itself lacks context and conclusions. It's like reading a medical abstract instead of the entire article. As consumers, we're responsible for thoroughly vetting products before buying them based on keywords and advertising jargon.

kbrown


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Excellent article!!!! Educating our clients is key and it can get so confusing if you do not know what your looking for. Always read the label and research on your own. The first 5 ingredients are the most important in you skincare label as well as food labels.

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Thank you for mentioning the importance of reviewing labels -- and concentrating on the ingredients at the beginning of the list. Scrutinizing labels before applying something topically is as important as scrutinizing them before ingesting something. :)

justcallmejenny


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

This article is so important for consumers! The information on product labels can be so misleading and using buzzwords can really sway purchasing behaviors. For example, clean beauty could mean the products are ethically sourced, made with non-toxic, organic, plant derived ingredients. Sounds like a fair assumption, right? Well, unfortunately that can be naïve thinking. Because the cosmetic industry, is for the most part self-regulated, and actual cosmetic regulations in America are incredibly outdated. This means that companies can slap sexy buzzwords on their labels like, “clean, safe,” and “contains organic ingredients” so we are smitten, but in actuality,... Read more

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

Beautifully articulated, Jenny! I liken this to some food labels I've noticed recently. My husband is borderline diabetic, so I started looking for "No Sugar Added" goodies. And guess what? That claim comes along with a "Not a Low Calorie Food" warning. So, a little common sense needs to accompany any decision, especially when advertisers are pushing buzzwords at consumers.

acarmon

wow this was so informative! It really makes me think about what comes in my skincare products. Thank you for writing this!

tracyteel


Verified experts are beauty professionals who receive free products for independent reviews without receiving payment.

My pleasure. Feel free to write to me any time if you would like to see something specific covered in another editorial. I'm always open to new ideas!

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