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These days, more and more skincare companies are going the natural route; even big-box stores like Sephora have entire sections dedicated to “clean” beauty lines made without harmful or synthetic ingredients.
And we get it. At Eight Saints, we only use responsibly sourced, cruelty-free, plant-based ingredients, and we pride ourselves on only using effective ingredients that are proven to work.
Yet, while this “clean” movement is certainly a step in a healthier direction, it can also be confusing. Terms like “natural” and “organic” aren’t regulated, meaning that companies can make clean claims without having the products to back them up.
Plus, is natural always better when it comes to skincare? After all, certain essential oils are known to cause irritation, and some natural products just don’t seem to work as well as their more traditional counterparts.
Let’s clear the air.
Clean beauty is big business. A survey done by Statista discovered that the organic cosmetics market is projected to double in size by 2024. What’s more, nearly 40% of U.S. consumers believe that organic personal care products are healthier than conventional items. Those same consumers value that these products are alcohol-free, skin-friendly, and environmentally friendly.
This growth marks a necessary shift in the U.S. cosmetics industry. While the EU has banned over 1,300 harmful ingredients from cosmetic problems, the FDA has only banned 11 cosmetic ingredients. Translation? A lot of conventional beauty products are chock full of harmful ingredients, including endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and known skin irritants (you can read more about those no-no ingredients here).
In short: the industry needs to clean up its act, and consumers today expect nothing less.
The problem, though, is that there is still a lot of ambiguity around terms like “clean,” “organic,” and “natural,” - and companies can basically define these words as they wish. Because of this lack of standardization, many companies have slapped these terms onto their products as part of larger marketing campaigns without having the goods to back up their labels.
This is possible, once again, because the FDA is fairly absent from this conversation (they only step in when it comes to prescription skincare). The word “natural” isn’t even on their radar as far as regulation goes, so it’s kind of the wild west when it comes to what companies can say on their labels - as long as they can claim int’s not “misleading.” Following that logic, a conditioner can label itself as organic if it has one drop of organic jojoba in it...sigh.
There is currently a push toward transparency, regulation, and clearer labeling with legislation like The Personal Care Products Safety Act, but the industry still isn’t uniformly there. It’s on you, then, to be a discerning consumer and to understand what you’re looking at and where you might be misled.
There are a few tips and tricks to becoming that discerning consumer:
First, it’s important for you to understand what kind of products to look for - and what misleading jargon to steer clear from. Here’s what you need to know about the most common clean skincare terms out there:
The fact that you’re dealing with such misleading or confusing claims means you should always look at - and familiarize yourself with - the actual ingredient lists of your product. A few tips to this end:
Yes, there are many clean ingredients that work - and a lot that don’t.
There are two things to keep in mind here: First, many truly organic ingredients can be super volatile, and they need some synthetic ingredients to help stabilize them. That’s not bad (just like not everything natural is good - hello, arsenic)... so don’t automatically freak out if you see something synthetic in your product.
Second, many natural ingredients don’t have studies to demonstrate their efficacy. Luckily, a lot do, including our Eight Saints.
But keep in mind that this isn’t a given, and you should do your own research if you have some doubts or you’ve never heard of something before.
Yes, clean beauty products from a vetted source can be a great way to treat your skincare concerns while cleansing your life of harsh chemicals. But natural beauty may not be the right choice for you, and you have to evaluate your specific needs.
If you’re prone to allergies, for example, many natural skincare products contain ingredients - like tree pollen, nuts, and stone fruit - that may provoke a reaction, so you should take that into account or patch test on your skin accordingly. Similarly, if you have an extreme condition like psoriasis or cystic acne, you may need to consult a physician and go with some pharmaceutical-grade products.
Stay informed and shop safely.