Clean beauty is the integration of mega trends like natural cosmetics, health, wellness, social, ethics, and environmental responsibility. Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious, better informed, and more concerned about the safety and efficacy of products or ingredients they are putting into and onto their bodies. Originally starting in the foods industry, clean beauty has now become a mainstream concept in personal care. The clean beauty sector is hot and grew 42% from 2017 to 2018 with projected global sales of $22 Billion dollars by 2024 with the top selling clean beauty personal care categories being skin care followed by hair care (1).

We believe that the current natural beauty trend has become overly extreme often resulting in products that are ineffective and more irritating. Just because ingredients are natural doesn’t guarantee safety or performance. Many times, the reverse is true; they are inconsistent in quality, performance, and stability. Synthetic cosmetic ingredients like silicones, thickeners, film forming polymers, chemical sunscreens, emulsifiers, preservatives are extremely difficult to replace with natural alternatives without compromising performance. Many synthetic ingredients have a long history of safe use and are produced from sustainable, environmentally friendly feedstocks which are frequently more cost effective.

The top consumer claims associated with clean beauty include natural, non-toxic, free of, cruelty free, paraben free, and hypoallergenic. There is however no universal list of “unclean” or dirty ingredients with each clean brand or retailer having their own list of no-no or free of ingredients list. Common dirty ingredients include SLS, Formaldehyde, Parabens, Triclosan, Paraffins, Phthalates, Aluminum, mineral oil, and Hydroquinone.

Clean beauty in principle is a holistic, rationale, approach to product development focused on using ingredients that are safe, effective, sustainable, ethnically produced, and environmentally friendly. Utilizing ingredients that are the best of science and nature focusing on safety/performance and not whether they are natural or synthetic. Unfortunately, many of the currently marketed clean brands don’t live up to their promises and are poorly formulated. Ingredients are not banned based on available scientific data but on the opinions of ill-informed individuals.

Clean beauty product development principles

  • Total product and marketing transparency- marketing data suggests that consumers trust transparent brands more than conventional ones and are willing to pay more for products from transparent brands (2). Honest labels can help assure the consumer that products and ingredients are safe, non-toxic, and effective. Product claims should be non-exaggerated and believable. The consumer over the years has been inundated with exaggerated claims and marketing stories. Additionally the internet has provided the consumer with the ability to do their own fact checking and research.
  • Effective products and actives backed by published scientific data and clinical testing. Using synergistic combinations of known, proven actives to increase performance. The use of natural based ingredients to help provide assurance of performance.
  • Simplicity-simplified formulations enabled by using multi-functional, consumer trusted ingredients.
  • Environmental and social responsibly-use of ingredients that are sustainably sourced and produced. Minimal use of packaging materials/refillable packaging that is safe for the environment and biodegradable.

Clean beauty formulation strategy

  • A strong technical rationale for each ingredient used, especially actives
  • Formulation simplification, less in better
  • Use of multi-functional ingredients
  • Use of actives credentialed/recommended by dermatologists or backed by clinicals performed using peer reviewed methods
  • Avoidance of using highly unsaturated ingredients prone to oxidation. Especially natural oils containing high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids
  • A though understanding of ingredients used along with impurities
  • Minimize the use level of preservatives, fragrances, essential oils and emulsifiers. Avoid using Phenoxyethanol and Benzyl alcohol since they can cause neurosensory skin irritation.


  1. org, NPD, Allure