What is so wrong with “Clean Beauty”?

This is a very personal rant, it is based on the reason Oh, Oh Organic exists and why we do what we do.

There is increasing push back on the term “Clean Beauty”. While the term may not be defined to everyone’s satisfaction, it is a good faith effort and a step on the path to cleaning up the chemicals used in the cosmetic industry. 

So – let’s back up here: the single largest threat to the planet is climate change as the result of various types of pollution. No matter what we do as a society, it is very clear that we all need to change. For the cosmetic industry that means we need to make better and more informed choices about both ingredients and packaging. Here we will address ingredients (packaging another day).

To ask a really bad punny question – what can the cosmetic industry do about ingredients to clean up the planet?

My three minimum criteria for “Clean Beauty” ingredients:

1 – All inputs should be from renewable feed stock (this means farms mostly).

2 – All finished chemicals and packaging should be biodegradable (not degradable, BIOdegradable*).

3 – Chemical manufacturing should follow the 12 Principles of Green Chemistry per Warner and Anastas, 1998 as closely as possible. Check it out.

Ethoxylates, silicones, ammonia compounds, many of the preservatives, and acrylates (to name a few) might be “safe” for human application to skin (a matter of opinion – what does the word “safe” mean?) but are consistently degrading the planet. While it is a significant challenge to replace the functionality of many of the chemicals generally used in the cosmetic industry, unless consumers and creative and determined brand entrepreneurs continue to demand newer, safer, and environmentally sound versions of these materials, the status quo will stand and we will continue to damage the planet and ourselves. Demand will, at some point, inspire supply of new and better chemicals. We know how to do this. And we know that usually, if it is safe to put down the drain and into our environment it is generally safe for living beings

“Clean Beauty” is an idea that is deservedly growing and it will be how everything is done in the future. Go ahead and complain about it but, it is a vital part of addressing climate change and the pollution that supports it. From my perspective, if you are not working towards solutions, you are part of the problem. Maybe just think of it as “What are you doing for the planet?

*Degradable – anything that can be broken down either biologically or chemically (every product). Biodegradable – a product that can be broken down by bacteria and organisms. Compostable – a product can be broken down into natural elements without harming the environment.