Clean Beauty: A Journey into Clarity

In the realm of cosmetics, the term “clean beauty” has gained significant popularity as a claim for various formulation benefits. However, the true meaning and advantages of clean beauty remain open to interpretation. In this article, we explore the historical context of clean beauty, its present-day definition, and engage in a debate surrounding its potential for simplifying cosmetics. Join us as we delve into the complexities of this evolving concept.

The origins of the clean beauty movement can be traced back to CoverGirl’s “Clean Make-up” campaign, which aimed to promote a natural and unadorned look. However, the use of the term “clean” in the context of beauty took on a new meaning in the 2000s with the introduction of emphasizing the absence of “harmful” ingredients. As demand for wellness-oriented lifestyles grew, the clean movement gained momentum alongside other practices such as clean eating.

While the term initially aligned with the natural products movement, its ambiguity led to ongoing discussions within the industry and attempts to establish clear guidelines. Industry groups, experts to define clean beauty based on criteria such as: 

    • safety,
    • sourcing,
    • sustainability,
    • ethics,
    • and eco-conscious packaging.

Debating Skincare Simplification in Formulations

Despite the industry’s efforts, consumers have formed their own interpretations of clean beauty. Recent legal action against Sephora USA demonstrates the concern that labeling programs that can mislead consumers by taking advantage of loosely enforced cosmetic industry regulations. Such programs may create consumer expectations regarding the absence of specific ingredients, such as parabens, sulfates SLS and SLES, phthalates, mineral oils, and formaldehyde.

As the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has successfully provided definitive guidelines for terms like “natural,” “naturally derived,” and “organic” in the cosmetic industry, clean beauty could potentially learn from this example. By establishing clear standards, the industry could enhance transparency and better align consumer expectations with product formulations.

The concept of clean beauty continues to evolve, with ongoing debates surrounding its definition and implications for cosmetics.

As industry stakeholders strive for clarity, it becomes imperative to establish transparent guidelines that address consumer expectations and foster a harmonious relationship between product formulations and marketing claims. By navigating the complexities of clean beauty, we can forge a path towards a more informed and empowered cosmetic industry.



  1. Stauffer, S. (1969, Dec). This is it: Clean make-up. Available at