What Is â€˜Cleanâ€™ Beauty, Anyway?
It all depends on whom you ask. â€œThe definition of â€˜clean beautyâ€™ is pretty nebulous,â€ says Michele Farber, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group in Philadelphia. There are no strict guidelines on what can be called clean or natural, which makes it complicated for a skin-care consumer.
Because thereâ€™s no formal guidance, itâ€™s up to you to decide what clean beauty means to you, and that will depend on what youâ€™re looking for. Clean beauty could mean:
- Youâ€™re actively looking to minimize certain controversial chemicals in your skin care, including fragrance, preservatives like parabens and phthalates, and dyes, all of which can be irritating for skin. But this may mean that you are still using products that contain chemicals.
- Youâ€™re looking to minimize your exposure to all chemicals. You might then opt for truly natural products, like using coconut oil as a body moisturizer.
- Youâ€™re â€œcleanerâ€ when it comes to certain products in your routine, like cleansers and soaps, but still use conventional acne products because you find these treat your skin problem better.
Is There Any Science Behind This Approach to Skin Care?
Concern is growing among consumers and professionals that many ingredients used in skin-care products may affect our health. As the Environmental Working Group (EWG) points out, people use about 10 personal-care products a day, amounting to 126 different ingredients.
EWG, an organization that funds research and advocates for more transparency for personal-care products, argues that most of the ingredients the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows in these items have not been proved safe. They also note that more than 500 products available in the United States â€œcontain ingredients banned from cosmetics in Japan, Canada, or the European Union.â€ Thereâ€™s the concern that some of these may be carcinogenic or endocrine- disrupting, meaning they cause cancer or dysregulate your hormonal system.
Whether those claims are true remains unclear, though. â€œWe live an environment where there are tons of chemicals everywhere, and itâ€™s impossible to live a chemical-free life. Though I think itâ€™s good to try to limit the number of chemicals weâ€™re exposed to, with certain skin conditions, itâ€™s not always possible,â€ says Rebecca Baxt, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Paramus, New Jersey. For instance, if you like to moisturize with plain coconut oil, thatâ€™s fine â€” but if youâ€™re acne-prone, you shouldnâ€™t put this on your face.
Advantages of a Clean Skin-Care Routine
If youâ€™re using products that are free of the most common ingredients that cause skin to react â€” think fragrances, dyes, parabens, and phthalates â€” it may help your skin remain calmer, and you may experience fewer symptoms of irritation, like redness, burning, and flaking.
Disadvantages of a Clean Skin-Care Routine
This is something that dermatologists everywhere will warn you about: â€œJust because something is organic or natural doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s good. It doesnâ€™t mean itâ€™s bad, either,â€ says Dr. Baxt. â€œOrganics still have a ton of ingredients, and I find they use a lot of scented oils, which people are often allergic to,â€ she says. In short, youâ€™re not guaranteed happy, irritation-free skin just because youâ€™re using something labeled as natural or clean.
Also, itâ€™s entirely possible to take these efforts too far. Never make your own sunscreen, for example. The sunscreen you buy should be broad-spectrum, SPF 30 or higher, and water resistant, says the American Academy of Dermatology.
Ingredients to Use (and Ones to Avoid) in a Clean Skin-Care Routine
In general, this approach to personal care is about finding products without certain ingredients. More on that below, but these unwanted contents generally include fragrance, dyes, preservatives, parabens, and phthalates.
Ingredients to Opt For
You may want to seek out the following, commonly present in â€œcleanâ€ beauty products:
- Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, ceramides (moisturizers)
- Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide (found in mineral-based sunscreens)
- Vitamin C (a protective antioxidant)
- Alpha hydroxy acids (glycolic acid for evening skin tone)
- Beta hydroxy acids (salicylic acid for acne)
- Bakuchiol (a retinol alternative, used to address fine lines and wrinkles)
Clean Skin Care Product Staples and Recommendations
Cleanse with micellar water. Try Simple Kind to Skin Micellar Cleansing Water, formulated to be exceptionally gentle on skin. Simpleâ€™s micellar water leaves out artificial fragrance, color, dye, alcohol, parabens, and phthalates.
Use a mineral-based SPF moisturizer and sunscreen. Minerals like titanium dioxide or zinc oxide reflect rays and are not absorbed in the skin. They are considered the â€œcleanerâ€ choice, says Farber. Coola Mineral Face Matte Tint SPF 30 has both titanium dioxide and zinc oxide for broad-spectrum protection.
Protect with an antioxidant serum. Farber recommends a vitamin C serum, which will offer antioxidants to counteract the harmful effects of free radicals â€” chemicals that cause skin aging, as research shows. Drunk Elephant is a beloved brand in the clean beauty space, and their C-Firma Vitamin C Day Serum contains pure L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and is suitable for oily, normal, and dry skin.
Even tone with glycolic acid. You can find glycolic acid, an alpha hydroxy acid made from sugarcane, in creams and serums, an ingredient that encourages the dead skin layer on top to slough off to reduce the look of discoloration, says Farber.
Treat acne with salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, which comes from the bark of the willow tree, is a gold standard ingredient for addressing acne issues, and itâ€™s considered okay for clean beauty. It too works by exfoliating dead skin cells that plug up pores and can lead to blemishes, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.
Hydrate with a moisturizer. The main goal is to look for a simple moisturizer that contains as few ingredients as possible and is fragrance-free, says Farber. Common ingredients found in â€œcleanâ€ moisturizers include hyaluronic acid, glycerin, panthenol, and ceramides.
Morning and Night Steps to Follow in a Clean Beauty Routine
The ideal routine for everyone will look different â€” skin care isnâ€™t one-size- fits-all, says Farber. But one general principle, she says, is that less is more. One way to accomplish your goal of a clean beauty routine is to simply pare it down. By using fewer products, youâ€™ll reduce your exposure to a variety of ingredients and chemicals, including those that may be irritating your skin. Here are the three steps you need in the morning and evening, according to Farber.
5 Common Hygiene Myths You Shouldnâ€™t Believe
Do you need to shower every day? Wash your hands with scalding-hot water? Here's the dirt, according to health experts.
Which Collagen Sources Should You Try?
From powders and gummies to foods and topicals, hereâ€™s a list of collagen sources ranked from best to worst.
Potentially Toxic Chemicals Called PFAS Are Common in Cosmetics, Study Finds
Lab tests suggest that more than half of cosmetics sold in the United States and Canada may contain high levels of the chemical. U.S. legislators recently...
6 Places You're Missing When You Apply Sunscreen
No matter how thorough your SPF routine, these are the spots experts say are often overlooked.
Ask a Castle Connolly Top Doctor: How Aging and Gravity Affect Your Skin
A renowned plastic surgeon, recognized as a Castle Connolly Top Doctor, discusses the factors that affect our skinâ€™s appearance, and how patients can ...
California Bans 24 Toxic Chemicals From Personal-Care Products: What to Know
A bellwether state for federal efforts, California just became the first in the nation to ban certain chemicals from cosmetics and personal-care ingredients...
What Are the Benefits of Fish Oil for Your Hair?
Eating more whole fish with omega-3 fatty acids may help strengthen your tresses, but thereâ€™s limited evidence that fish oil pills will do the same.
What Is Face Yoga? Plus, 5 Exercises to Try at Home
Just like going to the gym keeps your body in shape, these yoga-inspired exercises are said to tone the muscles on your face to help keep you looking ...