‘Clean’ vs ‘Natural’ Beauty: What’s the Difference?

Nowadays, the words ‘clean’, ‘natural’, and ‘sustainable’ get thrown around so often, not just amongst skintellectuals but also across many other industries. Some companies even attempt to co-opt these terms even when they are not completely true and do not apply, thus contributing to greenwashing.  

The beauty industry is one of many industries where greenwashing is prevalent due to the fact that it is a massive market, and is predicted to grow to USD 800 million by 2025 — prompting many brands to join the bandwagon that carries this industry. In a study done by Ipsos 2/3 of participants said that they would only be interested to try new brands if they were clean

While it’s easy to interchange ‘clean’ and ‘natural,’ it’s essential to know that they’re not the same thing. As a consumer, learning in general, will not only help you find products that suit your immediate skincare needs but, you will also find products that belong to Brands whose values align with yours.  

Defining ‘natural’ beauty 

When a product is ‘natural,’ this usually refers to the purity of ingredients — emphasising ones that are nature-derived as opposed to synthetically created in a lab. However, the trouble with natural products is that they aren’t regulated at all. Any brand can claim that they use natural ingredients, but it doesn’t mean its formula isn’t harmful or questionable. Think of it this way: poison ivy is a natural ingredient, but it has no benefits to humans and it can certainly cause negative skin reactions. 

Having said that some of the most popular natural ingredients to look for in skincare are coconut oil for hydration and antioxidants; aloe vera for calming inflammation and preventing premature aging; rose water for cleansing and soothing; and argan oil for diminishing fine lines and fighting sun damage. These are excellent ingredients that work great on their own or when combined with other formulations.  

When purchasing a product, it is important to take note of the following: When the box says natural, it may not be completely natural and there may be ingredients that may not be good for you. Second to this, when a product is labeled organic, this could mean only a small percentage of all the ingredients are organic. When looking for effective natural products, set some guidelines for yourself, dependent on how comfortable you are using certain products - and with that make sure to read your ingredient labels and fully understand what is going on your skin. 

After all, informed purchase is much better than binge shopping and not being able to use half the products we picked up.   

Defining ‘clean’ beauty 

While clean beauty may not be as regulated as well, it does hold more weight in the industry, usually when you’re looking for something sustainable and safe, ‘Clean Beauty, is the section you’d be looking to browse through. Most Clean Beauty brands are committed to avoiding toxins and hazardous ingredients.  

These include sulfates, parabens, formaldehyde, artificial fragrances, phthalates, and more (check out #TheLens where we cover toxic ingredients to steer clear of). You can find these toxins in everyday commercial products like deodorant, shampoos, soaps, and much more. And while many of them seem harmless (after all, they’re everywhere!), they can have harmful effects — not only do these ingredients increase the risk of certain cancers and liver damage, but they also trigger imbalances within your endocrine system!  

Clean Beauty aims to provide better options for those who want it, options that are not only less harmful to our plant but to us as well. 

What’s important to note about clean beauty is that these products don’t automatically exclude synthetic or lab-manufactured ingredients. A few of the best examples are hyaluronic acid and niacinamide —both of these ingredients can be extracted from plants but need the assistance of a lab to be placed into product - both these ingredients can be extremely good for you. But remember, everything in Moderation! Additionally, clean beauty products are often tied to cruelty-free and eco-friendly practices, making them the better and more responsible choice overall.  

How to know if a product is safe and sustainable 

So how can you tell if a product is actually safe, sustainable, and effective? For consumers, it entails doing your research on the brands you want to support. Read the ingredients carefully, and find out any certifications they may have. If there’s something that isn’t communicated on their website, don’t be afraid to reach out. Real brands that care for the environment and your well-being have nothing to hide!  

At the end of the day, there is no clear-cut definition of ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ beauty. Around the world, there are different safety standards for skincare — including which toxic ingredients are banned or not. At its core, clean and natural beauty is transparent, safe, and sustainable. For us at Founders Beauty, it means upholding a transparent supply chain and working with ethical suppliers too. It also entails having a high standard for safety and efficacy with every ingredient. That’s clean beauty — good for you, and better for the planet. 

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