Over the last few years, we have been witnessing a new trend that has radically changed our approach and behaviours when it comes to purchasing and formulating cosmetics: the clean beauty trend. What are the pillars of this new philosophy? Clean beauty promises to stay away from cosmetic ingredients that are deemed to be harmful, according to guidelines that are supposedly more stringent than current government regulations. While EU regulations ban about 1300 substances and impose limitations on the concentrations that can be used, US regulations on cosmetic ingredients are far less stringent. The clean beauty movement aimed to address the gaps in US regulation, but their methods for choosing which ingredients that are safe are, at times, based on flawed reasoning and biased interpretation of the scientific literature.
The clean beauty trend has heavily impacted the beauty market, resulting in the predominance of products that are free from ingredients such as parabens, fragrances, silicones, alcohols, sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), and other ingredients that have been deemed to be “dirty”. Yet, cosmetic products that adhere to clean beauty standards are not enough to guarantee healthy skin. Dermatologists continue to report cases of sensitised skin in patients who have used such products. In a market in which “clean beauty” is rapidly becoming a standard communication point, the discussion automatically begs the question – what’s next?
If the clean beauty label is here to stay, it will have to embrace the fact that “toxin-free” products, as understood by clean beauty proponents, might not be the only step that has to be taken to ensure the health of our skin.
Now that clean beauty products have been widely used and tested for the past few years, it is becoming increasingly clear that products that are formulated to meet clean beauty standards can still negatively impact skin health. There have been numerous reports of dermatitis and other skin reactions due to the use of clean beauty products. Most ingredients that are deemed to be safe under clean beauty standards are plant-derived, but plant-derived ingredients such as limonene and linalool can cause skin irritation and sensitivity. In some cases, these ingredients can disrupt the skin microbiome.
The aforementioned cases of dermatitis and other skin conditions are commonly associated with dysbiosis, the disruption and imbalance of the skin microbiome. Therefore, products being free from ingredients that do not meet clean beauty standards is not enough to ensure that such products will not harm the skin microbiome. This is because the effect of cosmetic ingredients needs to be studied in greater depth in order to determine how they affect our microbiome and whether the formulation and how it is used causes disruption of the microbiome.
As the clean beauty label becomes less of a unique selling point, and more of a common standard, this is a chance for brands to enhance their competitiveness and offer ‘’skin microbiome-gentle’’ products. This will be one way of evolving towards a new standard for microbiome-gentle ingredients and formulations – driving the evolution towards “Clean Beauty 2.0”. If the clean beauty movement is to remain relevant, its main concern and its strongest ally will be to identify ingredients that are gentle to the skin microbiome.
Kind to Biome advocates for the evolution towards “Clean Beauty 2.0”. Although, the clean beauty label remains highly subjective, and many parameters such as sustainability, safety, production ethics, and potency could (and should!) fall within the term “clean”, we believe the standard of clean beauty will evolve to mean that which is non-harmful and beneficial to the skin. Consumers are demanding more than just “clean” products: they want products that are safe, gentle, and effective. From this perspective, “Clean Beauty 2.0” will describe products that do not negatively impact the health of our skin, being gentle to both the skin and its microbiome.