A Crash Course in Clean Beauty

by morgan young

Let’s talk about clean beauty. It sounds good, right? It sounds nice, new, and squeaky clean. It is this new-ish term that has been floating around everywhere from drugstore to Sephora, but what does it even actually mean? I know that sometimes I can feel overwhelmed with all of the details, so let’s talk about what clean beauty is, what to look for, and why it’s a good change to consider implementing in your own life.  


Clean beauty is an umbrella term for basically any cosmetics product formulated WITHOUT certain ingredients that are considered harmful, in one way or another, and it was kind of born out of the understanding that things that are put on the skin can influence overall wellbeing.  So that sounds joyous and beautiful, right? It’s amazing! BUT the beauty industry isn’t regulated, and the word “clean” can be stamped on pretty much anything, without regard to the (admittedly, somewhat vague) guidelines that have been assigned to the term. That fact alone is proof that we need to develop some understanding of what to look for in our beauty products. We can only rely on brand transparency to a certain degree. So? What should we look out for?

It’s obviously nice to see the word, ‘clean,’ on a label, but to be honest, with a lot of products, especially higher-end, that won’t be the case, and those words don’t always mean that much when they are there. Now is when we must learn about ingredients! Some ingredients to look out for and actively avoid: sulfates (SLS and SLES), parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, triclosan, and triclocarban (this is the standard Sephora goes by for clean beauty). That’s a lot to remember, and to look out for, but I genuinely think there is something to be said for understanding what you’re putting on your skin, your largest organ. BUT, we are all human, and cheat sheets help, so here’s where resources come in. A quick Google search of, “clean beauty brands,” can help give you an idea. More companies are even coming out with lists of products in their own stores that meet their criteria for cleanliness; Sephora has a great one! So… With all of this being said, why should you consider moving towards more clean beauty options?

Clean Beauty is beautiful because it nurtures you from the outside in. Most of us have been putting a blue million things on our bodies for years, without any knowledge or awareness as to what is in them and whether or not it can actually harm us. Our skin is tough, and it’s great at protecting us, but what we put on our skin can be absorbed into the bloodstream, and, in my mind, that makes this awareness key. We all want to live as long as possible, and one step to help us to achieve that is avoiding toxic and harmful chemicals and ingredients when we can. I’m not a ‘chemical’ demonizer, by any means. Everything is comprised of chemicals, but I do believe there are some harmful ones out there, and I do like to avoid them whenever I possibly can, because I feel like it’s a good decision for my overall health. 


One other thing I want to touch on is the fact that clean beauty and all-natural beauty are not the same thing. Some people are sensitive to “natural” ingredients, such as botanicals and essential oils, which makes them stay away from the cleaner side of the beauty world, but clean beauty is comprised of both clean synthetic ingredients, and natural ingredients, and there are clean brands that don’t utilize essential oils or botanicals at all! I really think clean beauty is something that can work for everyone, sensitive, not sensitive, oily, dry, immature, mature, etc. Now, that all being said, I’m not one to judge, and I’m also not one to tell everyone to immediately throw out everything they have that doesn’t meet the “clean” standard. Clean beauty is great, in my opinion, but you shouldn’t waste what you have or go broke trying to achieve the “all clean everything” ideal. Baby steps make a huge difference, transitioning over time, either to totally “clean” or partially.  Any effort is a win in my eyes. 

Lastly, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite clean beauty brands. Farmacy, Drunk Elephant, Dr. Roebucks, and Supergoop are four of my absolute favorite clean, high-end skincare brands. They make amazing options for a variety of needs. As far as makeup goes, Lilah Beauty and ILIA are my absolute favorites. They’re clean, but they still maintain a variety of options for a variety of looks and vibes. And as far as drugstore brands go, I love Acure and Raw Sugar for skin and lip care. All of these brands are good places to dip your toes and look into what’s out there. Who knows! Maybe 2019 will be the start of something beautiful between you and clean beauty.  


follow morgan @mod.young