The Instagram logo

The clean beauty guide

Expert tips for making the switch to clean beauty products

The clean beauty movement has gathered pace in recent times as increasing numbers of consumers are switching to natural and organic products. From parabens to propylene glycerol, consumers are demanding to know exactly what ingredients are in their beauty products and what effects these toxic chemicals can have on our health.

Make the smarter choice

“Clean beauty refers to beauty products and cosmetics that are free from any harmful or questionable ingredients,” explains Natalie Elliott, Campaigner and Global Speaker on Clean Beauty, and founder of Sakrid ( “They are also organic, vegan and sustainable. Consumers are getting smarter and shopping smarter. We are all aware of ourselves and the role we can play in supporting the future health of our planet, along with the responsibility we have for making better choices for ourselves and our families.”


“Your skin will absorb whatever you put onto it,” says Margo Marrone in her new book, The Organic Pharmacy Complete Guide to Natural Health and Beauty (Watkins Publishing). “This means that if your cosmetics contain toxins, your skin may well absorb some of them. For example, some research has shown that harmful ingredients such as parabens are able to penetrate the skin to be released into the blood stream. Choosing cosmetics carefully is vital. In organic skincare products, the herbs and other plant ingredients have been grown without the use of pesticides, artificial fertilisers and so on – just as with organic foods. This means that organic cosmetics do not contain some of the known carcinogens and other harmful chemicals that are in many standard cosmetic products. Research has also shown that organic extracts contain higher levels of nutrients than non-organic products to keep your skin well-nourished, and so healthy and beautiful-looking.”

Do your research

So what should you do if you want to buy cleaner beauty products? “Do your research!” says Natalie Elliott. “There is currently no formal definition of what constitutes a ‘clean beauty’ product. As a result, there is a tremendous amount of ‘cleanwashing’ in the market. This is where beauty brands make claims to be something they are not, often by using botanical looking packaging and stating percentages of natural for example. The issue with these types of products is that they very often include ingredients that are completely unacceptable to the clean beauty movement. We are all busy and don’t have lots of time to spend scanning ingredients labels, but I would strongly recommend knowing a few of the most serious ingredients to avoid and ensuring that you check for these.”

Natalie adds: “Clean beauty products use naturally derived ingredients, including for stabilisers and preservatives, which are both required to make the product safe and remain safe for the duration of its life. Although product labels may seem confusing at first glance, plant names are written in Latin and generally have the English translation in brackets beside it. It is important to understand that just because something is natural it does not always make it safe, and so the intention of a clean beauty product to be 100 per cent free from harm is an essential one.”

Ingredients to avoid

Margo Marrone recommends avoiding any cosmetics that contain the following harmful chemicals:

Essential oils and anti-inflammatory herbs

“At the heart of clean beauty is the principle of formulating skin care without ingredients harmful to human health, both on an individual and ecological level,” says Lucy Gulland, Community and PR Manager for Balmonds Skincare ( “Many synthetic ingredients are irritants, pollutants, or even potential carcinogens; they may have been approved as safe for use by official agencies, but people with sensitive skin or those concerned about the impact of the beauty industry would prefer to avoid them completely!

"One of the great advantages of going natural is that many clean ingredients not only work to improve the stability, scent and texture of a formulation, but also actively care for skin, something that functional additives – the emulsifiers, scent-maskers, preservatives that brands need to add to petrochemical formulations – simply can’t manage.

“Take essential oils: an oil is likely to have been chosen primarily for its skin-kind properties, but used in combination and at the right potency, essential oils can also act as preservation systems, curbing microbial growth without the need for the preservatives that clean beauty proponents steer well clear of, like benzyl alcohol or phenoxyethanol or triclosan. And as a bonus, they tend to smell delicious, so creams don’t need to include synthetic fragrances which trigger irritation in sensitive skin!

”Clean beauty also makes use of traditional herbal extracts that work incredibly well to look after skin. Calendula, for example, has antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties, and has been shown in trials to be beneficial in managing eczema and other irritant rashes. Chamomile, chickweed, and nettle are also great active ingredients in clean skincare, helping to soothe irritation and support the natural cycle of skin cell repair and regeneration. The result? Going natural can mean so much more than simply avoiding the nasties!”

Read articles from our latest issue here...