Demystifying Clean Beauty

Every time that I’m at a store, roaming around the skincare and makeup aisles, I feel overwhelmed with the number of products there. With each product touting a different ideal skincare ingredient, it can be hard for us consumers to understand what they all mean. Until very recently, I never thought to look deeper into what products I used beyond what skincare problems they claimed to solve. As someone who has been dealing with acne since she was 14, I have been an avid skincare enthusiast, eager to try any product that could potentially give me the clear, healthy complexion I was looking for. I know it’s not just me that cares about the general wellbeing of her skin, though! With nearly 65% of women using skincare products daily, it is crucial for us to stay educated, current and vigilant in attempts to care for our skin and bodies.

According to a Harvard Health Blog, the Clean Beauty Movement stemmed from a general frustration over the lack of proper regulations within the beauty industry. Even with the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, ingredients used in the beauty industry are exempt from FDA regulation. Instead, the beauty industry is self-regulated through the Personal Care Products Council, which means there tends to be less accountability due to this unsettling conflict of interest. Due to the lack of regulation within the beauty industry, skincare, haircare, and cosmetic products are advertised as being “clean,” “natural,” and “safe.” However, without regulation, these terms have no standardized meanings, which causes confusion among consumers. 

After doing some research, I learned about some harmful ingredients which are commonly used in the beauty industry: aluminum, parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates and polyethylene glycol. Many of these ingredients either disrupt hormone and endocrine functions or are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). 

Some skin care products arranged next to flowers Charisse Kenion

Parabens, in particular, are used to prevent contamination of beauty products to increase a product’s shelf-life. They can enter our bodies through ingestion, skin absorption, and inhalation. Upon entering, parabens can alter estrogen levels in the body. Many studies have shown that parabens can affect normal breast cells and cause abnormal cell growth and division, which could potentially cause cancer. When people hear words like “cancer,” it instills a fear in them, which is why beauty products that claim to be “natural” are huge now (because of a fear of chemicals). Though customer mistrust is at an all-time high, it is important to remember that everything is made up of chemicals, manufactured chemicals can oftentimes be used to help us, and not everything that occurs in nature is going to be good for us to use. 

However, it is understandable that the average consumer feels skeptical of beauty industry products. Doing research on beauty products and common ingredients used within these products made me feel overwhelmed and apprehensive towards products that I have been using for years! I’ve been using the same brand of deodorant since I was young, but never thought to look into aluminum-free deodorants! I have even been using hair care products with sodium lauryl sulfates nearly my whole life! But at the end of the day, with consumer mistrust on the rise and the beauty industry is delving into a new era of “Clean Beauty,” which is why I’m sure the changes that need to happen will be made if we continue to hold large beauty corporations to high standards.