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As we would do for fashion, looking at working conditions, fabrics, and certifications, we decided to look into ingredients, packaging and their safety for the environment and the users. We, women, apply daily more than 100 ingredients on our skin, often ignoring their impact on our broader health and safety. After the food sector, it is time for the beauty industry to “clean” itself. But what does that really mean in 2020? 


What is "clean beauty" exactly? 

The beauty industry is worth more than 500 billion dollars in the US alone. Several factors may oppose traditional & clean beauty consumers. For clean beauty aficionados there is a need for detoxification of products and their ingredients following a growing knowledge of consumers demanding stripped down and a return to nature. After the aerosols products’ negative impact on the ozone layer or the effect of chemical sunscreens on the coral barrier, consumers connect the dots between their own safety and the one of our planet. Another factor is the rise in sensitive skin. For women, skin sensitivity is the new buzz topic ahead of anti-aging, and this is driving a shift towards caring for skin with natural, honest ingredients.
In 2016 the “clean beauty” movement was worth $11 billion and will likely be worth more than twice that by 2025. 

Nevertheless, “clean beauty” is still open to interpretation. Claims such as "natural", "clean", "green", and "hypoallergenic" have no set definition. Also, terms like "chemical-free" don’t mean much since all ingredients are chemicals, whether they are sourced from nature or synthetic. However, let's try to make some clarity on the most popular claims such as "natural", "organic" and "vegan".


Natural, Organic & Vegan beauty 

Those are the most common claims you'll likely hear from "clean beauty" labels; we've stripped them down for you.

Natural products contain ingredients from plants and nature and are minimally processed. They combine essential vitamins, botanicals, and minerals that heal and restore our skin. However, natural does not necessarily mean better – poison ivy is wild born too! Today, it is much easier to formulate with natural ingredients than it was some years ago; and natural skincare doesn’t not equal low performance.
Organic products take ‘natural’ several steps further: they are made with non-GMO ingredients that have been grown, raised, harvested, manufactured, and preserved without chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides, or antibiotics – giving you products with fewer contaminants. Mádara products are organic and certified with Soil Association COSMOS. 
A genuine vegan product doesn’t contain any ingredients derived from animals – including honey, collagen, albumen, carmine, cholesterol, and gelatin. Our beauty labels are integrally Vegan & additionally Cruelty-free, meaning they are not tested on animals. 

Certifications to trust in the clean beauty industry 

Europe certified with Soil Association COSMOS. Guarantees no animal testing, no GM ingredients, no controversial chemicals, no Parabens and Phthalates, no synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances. 

Cosmos Organic. 95% of all ingredients must be organic, namely ingredients coming from plants or other natural products, such as minerals. 

Cosmos Natural. Suitable for products usually containing a lot of water, salt or clay such as toners, bath salts, face masks.

Vegan / Cruelty-free. No animal derivatives, no animal testing. 

Ecocert Bio. A historical player in the world of organic farming certification. 

Recyclable Packaging. Often times, plastic is not recyclable, even if you correctly dispose of it. Make sure you buy recyclable packagings such as many kinds of paper, glass, cardboard, metal, plastic. The use of biodegradable materials is also a form of recycling! Mádara, for instance, is experimenting with plant-based plastic tubes that are fully biodegradable.

B-corp. The only certification that measures a company's entire social and environmental performance. 

10 ingredients to avoid

How toxic an ingredient is depends on where in the world you are!

While the EU bans more than 1,300 ingredients from cosmetics, beauty is one of the least regulated industries in the US, where around 30 are forbidden. 

Mádara lists the following ingredients that are completely banned from their beauty & makeup line: 

  1. Parabens. Studies show that some parabens can mimic estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, in the body, messing with your endocrine system.
  2. Mineral Oil is not readily biodegradable, toxic to the environment, plant, fish, and wildlife.
  3. Chemical UV filters penetrate the skin and absorb sun rays like a sponge. Studies detect a particular health risk associated with these filters – from accumulation in the body to irritation and potential endocrine disorders.
  4. Talc. There are thousands of lawsuits as of January 2020 against cosmetic companies who use talc in their products in the USA. Johnson & Johnson, who has produced talc-based baby powder for more than 100 years, 
  5. Synthetic glitter. Shiny plastic particles, born to dazzle for the duration of an Instagram story. After that, they turn into microplastic debris, often ending up in the environment or the ocean. 
  6. Silicones are a group of synthetic materials, widely used in cosmetics to give beauty products a spreadable texture. They are stable and inert compounds, which make them highly functional and extremely persistent in the environment.
  7. PEG. The main safety concerns of cosmetic use of PEGs are associated with their production process and by-products generated during the manufacturing.
  8. Synthetic colorant. A recent study shows that azo dyes might have mutagenic, genotoxic, and carcinogenic effects. 
  9. Carmine. Up to 100,000 beetles are killed to produce 1 kg of carmine. Obviously, not a vegan-friendly or cruelty-free ingredient
  10. Artificial fragrances. Synthetic perfumes are used to fragrance consumer products from cosmetics to candles and laundry detergents. No regulation requires the listing of aromatic ingredients on the cosmetic product label; they all remain unclear. So, thousands of chemicals can hide under the name fragrance, parfum or perfume.

Other list we trust:

Want to scan your products and discover which potentially nasty ingredients they contain? Download this app


The packaging challenge 

Research by TerraCycle showed the global cosmetics industry produces a staggering 120 billion units of packaging every year. 70% of the waste reaching landfills, depressingly, almost none of the beauty packaging is recyclable from brushed, mirrors, mascara wands, and the list goes on.
Virgin plastic is, of course, omnipresent, but glass, against common belief, is not a safer (risk of breaking) nor environmentally friendly alternative (heavy to transport resulting in higher CO2 footprint).

At thegreenlabels, we've selected a few low waste alternatives such as the soaps, shampoos & conditioners from Helemaal Shea and bathroom accessories from Bambaw such as a razor and makeup pads

Cleaner beauty labels available at thegreenlabels 

As we uncovered that clean beauty is subjective to many angles of concerns, we've made a debut in the curation of this category following our ethos and principles we shared with you in this article. 

SMPLDutch based, uses 100% natural products. Their plastic packaging is made of recycled materials. 

Mádara. For both make-up and skin care, Mádara uses only natural and organic ingredients, avoids parabens or other "unnecessary stuff", as they like to call it.

Ere Perez. From the Aussi expertise in innovative beauty, this make-up brand uses the power of natural ingredients such as jojoba oil, almonds, papaya, or aloe.

Axiology. Our (almost) zero waste make-up label! Multi-use crayons are definitely their star product.

Abbey LabFocusing on skin cleansing and moisturising using herbal power. 

Elan SkincareMade in England, they focus on natural, chemical-free skincare, all produced on low water consumption.

Helemaal Shea. Natural bar soaps for body, face and hair. All packaging free!