What Makes a Product Clean?

Good question. I have a feeling many of you already know a lot about what makes products dirty. Ingredients such as parabens, petroleum, and synthetic fragrances immediately come to mind. But I would argue there’s more to clean beauty than simply what’s in it. What about if it’s tested on animals? Or the ingredients are sourced from companies with questionable practices that exploit the lands and local populations providing their goods? Or the company is known to exploit their employees or pollute the environment?

While we, as consumers may want absolute perfection in a product, from farm to face,  it may be unrealistic to expect. With my own experience in formulator, R & D, and production roles (including sourcing ingredients), I understand the constraints companies face. A good company listens to and respects their customers’ feedback, and the smaller a company is, the easier it is to consider the feedback in a process of continuous improvement. However, there are real constraints as to what expectations a company can meet. For example, if customers want products to be less expensive, the products may need to be packaged in plastic to allow for that (glass packaging is more expensive). Or if customers want their products to deliver quick, dramatic results, the use of purely organic ingredients may not get the job done as quickly as desired. And while there are constraints you can have it all; you may just have to wait longer for results to appear with all plant-based ingredients (although not necessarily) or pay more for the glass packaging.

However, don’t get me wrong. I have a few things that I think are non-negotiable when it comes to cosmetics and skin care products. For me to even consider using a product, let alone reviewing it, it must be cruelty-free and the ingredients must definitely be non-toxic. And I’d add that employees should be treated fairly, with respect and appreciation and sustainable practices and ethical sourcing should be adhered to as much as humanly possible, but unfortunately, these qualities can be more difficult to determine. But the truth is, these days companies are choosing to be more transparent about their internal practices, and with the clean beauty trend only picking up speed, it is easier than ever for companies to meet these criteria. Additionally, consumers are more aware than ever of their power to effect change by simply choosing to support companies that share their values, and companies are also very aware of this. So remember: the more we as customers stick to our values and support companies that share them, the more we will see change. This change will benefit, not only us, by giving us more options for clean beauty products and great companies to support, but also the planet and our animal friends as well.

These days, with so many choices of “clean” or “green” products, I think we should demand more from the businesses we choose to support with our hard-earned money. After all, would you give someone money who is treating the planet, their employees, or your health as an afterthought to their cash flow? NO! The planet generously provides the goods for the clean beauty products we want, and the employees make those products available to us so we don’t have to use toxic crap on our skin. Let’s take care of those who take care of us and demand a bit more from clean beauty, including sustainability and social justice.

From my perspective, the clean beauty community is about supporting companies that are transparent with their practices, so it’s easier to know what’s going on behind the scenes. With all this in mind, I believe that by being aware of which companies we choose to support with our hard-earned money, we can continue to shape the future of the beauty industry.

What do you think?

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