There’s nothing that irritates a cosmetic scientist more than the words ‘clean’ when it appears on beauty packaging. Clean is meaningless – there’s no standard and no authority to declare a product clean.
Clean means different things to different people, but in a marketing context, it hopes to imply a special purity about a product that may or may not genuinely exist. The problem with slapping the word clean on beauty products are many, but not least the fact that brands who genuinely are trying to create a different beauty footprint get lost in the mire of clean claims.
There is little regulation around what beauty brands can claim when it comes to ‘natural’ and ‘clean’. I remember when organic ingredients first surged into popularity and being highly impressed by a product that claimed to contain organic lavender as a minor ingredient. I definitely heard organic before I heard anything else despite the fact that the other, plentiful, non-organic ingredients far outweighed any possible benefits. Clean is claimed for all sorts of different things from mindful sourcing, ingredient purity, less ingredients, more ingredients, plastic free, recyclable, recycled, natural, sustainable, low carbon footprint, less air miles, locally sourced, unpolluted, organic, harmless, respectful and your clean product could be all of those things, one of things, some of those things or none of those things.
There’s a correlation between green-washing and anti-ageing claims. They both work on fear. Whether it’s instilling the consumer with a sense of terror about ‘chemicals’ (everything, more or less, is a chemical so nothing, by the way, is chemical free) or making them feel rubbish about their face so they buy more moisturiser – they’re both mind bending practises designed to make the consumer change their buying patterns.
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There ARE brands trying to do better and be better in terms of purer ingredients, less ingredients or being mindful of their beauty footprint on the planet but in amongst those there are many throwing their clean hat into the ring when rightfully, they don’t deserve to be there. At this end, I see ‘clean’ claims every day – they often arrive packaged in bubble wrap and sellotape which is an instant red flag that this ‘clean’ message isn’t nose to tail and needs closer inspection.
There is plenty of information to ensure that you are a savvy shopper in the beauty area when in comes to ‘clean’. Do your research as a consumer, ask questions about what you buy, arm yourself with product knowledge and look precisely at what the brands you love are actually doing claim ‘clean’ rather than accepting the label at face value. If ingredient purity is important to you, there’s plenty of information out there (I like this feature in the Guardian HERE).
It’s important, I feel, not to be a colluder in promoting a message that even those writing about beauty professionally aren’t sure of and find hard to substantiate. If I’m not sure, I don’t focus on or promote the clean claims in the same way that I don’t focus on or promote anti-ageing claims because I’m damn sure I’m not passing on the fear. I think what I’m saying is don’t be fooled: clean isn’t necessarily better – it doesn’t render those without the claims ‘dirty’ so when you’re considering a beauty purchase, keep it mind that the label that’s persuading you doesn’t always mean what you think it might.
All products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.