WTF Is Clean Beauty And Should You Try It?

"They have beautiful formulas — texture, scent and efficacy, elegant packaging and a real raison d’être."

WTF Is It And Should You Try It? is an original A Plus Lifestyle series: Every now and then, we take a closer look at the lifestyle trends taking over our news feeds and find out whether it's worth the hype.

"Clean beauty" is one of those terms you hear thrown around by beauty bloggers, makeup artists, and your vegan friends. But what exactly does it mean and why are people talking about it?

Well, from where we stand, it doesn't have a formal definition. It's a movement that means different things for different people. At its core, it's reexamining how our beauty products are affecting our health and eliminating the things that make cosmetics "dirty." Clean beauty products are mindfully created without using any toxic ingredients. For people following the clean beauty movement, that could also mean beauty products that are eco-friendly, ethically sourced, cruelty-free, vegan, or any combination of those things. 

"It's about putting health concerns as the top priority over simply looking beautiful," says Lily Tse, founder of Think Dirty, an app that allows users to scan beauty products for information about its ingredients. "It is a signal of a shifting of consumers' holistic views. They are taking care of themselves, inside and out. Parallel to the eat clean movement, women and men are valuing the glow that comes from within, as well as the outer beauty that enhances the natural glow."

" 'Clean beauty' in a nutshell is a declaration of 'I value both health AND beauty.' "

It's important to note that just because the shampoo you use is a best seller, or your favorite foundation comes from a distinguished designer, or the word "natural" is plastered across your sunscreen, doesn't make it safe. What many people may not realize about the beauty industry is that the FDA poses very few restrictions on cosmetics

So, the stuff you're putting on your hair, face, and body every single day could potentially contain ingredients that are incredibly harmful for you. And there's certainly nothing beautiful about that.

Luckily, those of us who don't want to sacrifice our health for our beauty regimen now have other glorious options thanks to clean beauty brands. Sure, organic makeup has been around for decades, lining the dusty shelves of health food stores and dressed up in packaging that was as dull as the products themselves. But, in the past few years, tons of beauty products have popped up in the market that easily give the designer brands makeup aficionados know and love a run for their money. 

"Internally we call this generation of brands 'Naturals 2.0' because, unlike the original natural beauty brands from the 1970s and 1980s, they have beautiful formulas — texture, scent and efficacy, elegant packaging and a real raison d'être," says Shashi Batra, founder of Credo, a Sephora-like company that curates clean beauty products from around the world

While we're here busting beauty industry myths, let's get one more out of the way. I know there's going to be plenty of people out there who appreciate the sentiment behind the clean beauty movement, but believe that organic cosmetics could never come close to their beloved yet toxic ingredient packed products. But many of those people would be surprised to learn that they're wrong — or soon to be wrong. 

"We would say 'seek and you shall find,' Batra tells A Plus. "There are very few products in the traditional cosmetics arena that cannot be substituted by an equally effective and beautiful product without all the harsh ingredients. If by some chance you do find one, at the pace of innovation we are seeing, you can be sure there will be a replacement tomorrow." 

In fact, Credo actually has a "clean beauty swap" section on its website that lists some of traditionally popular products and recommendations for their clean beauty counterparts. 

In recent years, the wealth of easily accessible information has empowered people to become more educated about the products they are using and consuming. It seems like now, more than ever, people are meticulously reading the ingredient labels on the foods they eat and caring more about the ethical and environmental impact of the clothes they wear. So, why shouldn't we apply these same principles to our skin care, makeup, hair care, and perfumes?

"The skin absorbs everything you put on it. Given this, as an example, we believe if there is a better alternative to petroleum, formaldehyde or paraben-laced products, everybody should switch to clean beauty," Batra says. 

If your personal health isn't a good enough reason to make the switch, there's plenty of other factors to consider. 

"Beyond the health benefits, a clean beauty routine is more environmentally friendly and, in some cases, more economical," Tse says. "Clean beauty usually involves fewer products with ingredients that are less likely to cause health concerns, that's sourced responsibly and causes less ecological issues to the environment."

"If a small change of habit could make the world a better place, why not?"

Switching your current beauty regimen to a "clean" one may sound stressful, but you can do it one step at a time. You don't have to start by dumping all of your products in the garbage this instant. Makeup is expensive and no one wants to see their hard-earned cash in the trash like that. 

The first step is to educate yourself. Research "dirty" ingredients and learn to read your labels. Apps like Think Dirty can help make this process more manageable by doing the hard work for you. 

"Stick with products that have a shorter ingredients list, that usually means there would be less fillers and preservatives," Tse says. "It is important to do it a pace that's comfortable for your budget and comfort level. For a lot of users who might face the challenge of doing a complete overhaul with a limited budget, simply replace items that you are about to replenish. That will help you slowly phase out products you would like to throw out."