What You Should Know About the Clean Beauty Trend

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The clean beauty trend is becoming increasingly popular in cosmetics markets around the world. Industry leaders are developing clean beauty product lines, and new brands are springing up to offer organic, natural, toxin-free cosmetics. The natural and organic personal care market is growing at an accelerating rate, with expected incremental growth of over $8 billion between 2019 and 2023. Consumers are demanding clean beauty products, and the market for them is thriving.

What is clean beauty and why is it so popular?

“Clean” means different things to different people – and brands. It isn’t a regulated term, meaning there’s no official set definition for it. As such, each cosmetics brand has its own interpretation of the clean beauty trend, and ingredients and practices that one company finds acceptable may be blacklisted by another. There are several different things that brands can mean when they talk about clean beauty products: free of toxins, free of chemicals, organic, vegan, or sustainable are all examples according to different companies.

Some brands, such as Tata Harper and Holland & Barrett, consider clean cosmetics to be ones that are free of any chemicals and ingredients that aren’t “natural,” while others consider only certain ingredients to be problematic. These companies disagree about which ingredients should be blacklisted, however, with some eliminating just 2 or 3 items while others have lists of over 50 ingredients to be avoided. Drunk Elephant, a US cosmetics brand, calls out the “suspicious 6” as ingredients that are “the root of almost every skin issue we see”: essential oils, drying alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes, and sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS). On the other end of the scale, Sephora started off considering products to be clean if they were free from 13 specific ingredients, but has since expanded its list to include more than 50.

Suggested reading: Top 10 Cosmetics Companies in the World

What skincare ingredients should people avoid?

Despite the disagreements over which ingredients do or do not fit into the clean beauty trend, there are two in particular that are almost universally dismissed as being unhealthy: parabens and SLS. Parabens are preservatives that prevent cosmetics products from going bad, and SLS removes oils and produces lather in products such as shampoo and body wash. Both ingredients are extremely common in cosmetics, and proponents of the clean beauty trend argue that they irritate the skin, especially when someone uses multiple products that contain them.

According to dermatologists, however, this isn’t accurate. While SLS can occasionally irritate the skin, it varies from person to person, and products that use it tend to include it in low enough concentrations that most people will be unaffected by it. Whether SLS impacts someone depends on the person’s skin, whether they have a condition such as eczema that would make them more vulnerable to it, the quantity of SLS in the product, how much of the product is used, and where it’s applied. Since SLS is still used in many personal care products, it’s likely that it’s used in small enough quantities that it won’t harm most people’s skin.

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As for parabens, consumers are concerned because they have been linked to cancer. However, researchers and organizations such as Cancer Research UK say that while parabens have similarities to estrogen – which can increase the risk of certain types of cancers if its levels are high enough – they are much weaker than estrogen and not likely to make an impact on the body. As with just about anything, quantity is a key factor in how harmful something is. There are vitamins and minerals that are essential to survival, but too much of them can still be deadly. That doesn’t mean people should cut those things out of their lives entirely – indeed, it would be harmful to do so.

While parabens themselves may not be essential to survival, they still play a role in keeping cosmetics and skincare products safe. The role of parabens in cosmetics is to keep them fresh and prevent spoiled products from harming the user. Products without preservatives, or with inadequate preservatives, can cause problems such as skin irritation or even ulcers. By cutting out parabens in order to try and reduce risk to consumers, brands actually introduce a different risk instead.

Not all clean beauty brands that are eliminating parabens actually believe that the ingredient poses a risk. However, since many consumers are now looking for products that are paraben-free, companies are developing products that cater to that demand in order to satisfy their customers. This in turn contributes to the idea that parabens are bad, since the clean beauty trend is excluding them, which heightens the demand for paraben-free products.

Suggested reading: What Makes South Korea a World Leader in the Cosmetics Industry?

Should you buy clean beauty products?

None of this means that consumers or companies should ditch the clean beauty trend and abandon natural products. For consumers, it simply means that it’s important to know what you’re looking for and what each brand offers. With so many different takes on what clean beauty means, there are bound to be products out there that match a given person’s criteria – and products that don’t. For companies in the personal care market, it’s key to be aware of what customers are looking for and what dangers or benefits are present in any given ingredient. Following a standard set by other brands means that there will already be a proven market for your products, while creating something a little different will help you stand out from the crowd. It turns out that just like beauty as a whole, clean beauty means something different to everyone.

Learn more about the natural and organic personal care industry with Technavio’s market research report, including:

  • CAGR of the market during the forecast period 2019-2023
  • Detailed information on factors that will accelerate the growth of the natural and organic personal care product market during the next five years
  • Precise estimation of the global natural and organic personal care product market size and its contribution to the parent market
  • Accurate predictions on upcoming trends and changes in consumer behavior
  • The growth of the natural and organic personal care product industry across the Americas, APAC, and EMEA
  • A thorough analysis of the market’s competitive landscape and detailed information on several vendors
  • Comprehensive details on factors that will challenge the growth of natural and organic personal care product companies