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Confused about Clean Beauty? So are many people.

Confused about Clean Beauty? So are many people.

By now you have probably come across the term “clean beauty” at least a thousand times. What is the buzz about and what does “clean beauty” really mean?

Although the concept isn’t new, brands like Goop or Drunk Elephant helped make it mainstream and all over the media.

Clean beauty seems pretty self-explanatory and straightforward. However, with the lack of regulations on the use of the term, every brand having their own interpretations of the meaning of “clean” and the usual green washing going on in the beauty industry, consumers are getting confused about what it really means.

What does clean beauty mean for Terres d’Afrique?

Most people associate the word clean with safe when it comes to beauty products. Safe means exempt of molecules that are potentially harmful to your health such as hormone disruptors, carcinogenic molecules or simply skin irritants.

The issue with an ingredient centric interpretation of “clean” is that it does not take into consideration the safety/health impact of the packaging. It also does not take into consideration the health of the environment, which also has an impact on human health.

Are natural ingredients automatically clean? Not always!

Pesticides and fertilizers that can be potentially harmful for your health can contaminate natural ingredients from conventional agriculture.

How do you define whether an ingredient is clean or not?  Unfortunately there is no official definition and each brand has to make up their own.

How do we select the ingredients we use?

  • Avoid any ingredients known or suspected to be potentially harmful.
  • Avoid synthetic ingredients unless absolutely necessary to preserve the product. Any synthetic ingredients used needs to be approved by a third party organic certification.
  • Prioritize organic certified or wild harvested ingredients over ingredients from conventional agriculture to minimize contamination by pesticide.
  • Avoid ingredients susceptible to cause sensitization or irritation. In the case of essential oils, we only select oils known to have low levels of allergens. Each essential oil is used in very small amounts, making it harmless.
  • Use biodegradable ingredients.
  • No animal or GMOs derived ingredients.

How do we define “clean” packaging?

Green washing has consumers believe that plastic is safe and recycled. However there are many scientific evidences of leaching of plastic molecules from packaging into the liquids. Most of these molecules are carcinogenic.

Plastic isn’t being recycled. In fact only 9% of plastic ever made has been recycled so far according to National Geographic. The equivalent of a garbage truck of single use plastic packaging ends up in the oceans every minute. Microplastic particles, resulting from the degradation of plastic packaging in the environment are now found everywhere, in the oceans, fish and other marine life, in raindrops and the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Recent studies have shown microplastic particles in women placentas.

Plastic packaging is not clean!

So what is the safest packaging?

Glass is by far the safest. There is no danger of inorganic chemicals leaching into liquids regardless of temperature. It’s just heavy and breakable.

Aluminium would be the 2d safest. The small amount of leaching has been deemed safe for human consumption. It is more sustainable than glass however.

Bioplastic alternatives are safe but not sustainable. With an ever-growing population, demand for food production will increase between 25 and 70% by 2050.  Using farmlands to create bioplastic isn’t sustainable.

Although it is almost impossible to avoid plastic altogether (pumps and caps for instance), brands that claim to be clean must also ensure their packaging is clean and safe for human health and the environment.

How to assess whether your beauty products are really clean or not?

As mentioned previously, there is no official regulated definition for the term. However, this is what we recommend:

  • Try avoiding products with harmful ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, PEGs, ethanolamines, chemical sunscreens, synthetic fragrance, BHT, and BHA to name a few. There are many sites that list potentially harmful ingredients. In the absence of regulations for standards for clean beauty, it is necessary for the consumer to educate themselves and make up their own mind about what is and isn’t acceptable. You can also use apps that evaluate how safe the product is. However not all brands are listed on all these apps.
  • Look for an organic certified brand, preferably from a European certification such as Ecocert or Soil Association. The beauty industry in the USA is minimally regulated with only 11 cosmetic ingredients banned by the FDA, while the EU has banned 1,300 ingredients already. The EU has much stringent regulations than the US. Regardless of what the brand says, without an organic certification, you have no guarantee that they actually use organic ingredients.
  • Avoid plastic packaging. If a brand is really honest about being “clean” and safe, they should not package their products in plastic for the safety of their consumers but also for the environment.