Clean or Natural Beauty

Trying to choose between clean or natural beauty products? While they might sound the same there’s some important differences.

As natural, clean, green, organic and eco-friendly words become used more frequently and the products that go with them become more mainstream than ever, finding those that suit your skincare needs (and your ethics) can be a minefield. So, here’s the basics of what you need to know.

Clean vs natural 

Clean beauty embraces both natural and man-made ingredients but puts the focus on safety over source, meaning that the products are non-toxic and considered safe to use but not necessarily natural. A clean beauty brand will strive to formulate products which are not harmful to your health and most avoid the use of ingredients like parabens, sulphates, silicones, phthalates and synthetic fragrances.

Natural is generally used to describe the purity of the ingredients. Natural products usually contain ingredients found in nature rather than man-made ingredients. Though it’s important to know that just because a product is ‘natural’ does not mean that every ingredient in the product is safe, just as it does not mean that all synthetic ingredients are unsafe. The most commonly used example of this is poison ivy – it’s natural but you wouldn’t even consider rubbing it on your skin!

Many clean beauty brands offer a combination of the two, using both non-toxic natural and synthetic ingredients which work together to create an effective formula.

What to look for

The European law governing cosmetics is fairly stringent and all products must be clearly labelled using an INCI format with ingredients listed in order of percentage. The ingredient at the top of the list will be the highest percentage of the formulation and the one at the bottom the lowest. The INCI is an internationally recognised set of systematic names used to identify cosmetic ingredients, they are often derived from their scientific or Latin roots – so you may have to do some Googling at first! 

For example, if you are looking for a product rich in Vitamin E, have a look at the INCI list, if you don’t see Tocopheryl (INCI name for Vitamin E) near the top its somewhere near the bottom, you know that the actual percentage of Vitamin E in the total formulation is relatively low and consequently its properties would have little, if any, benefit.

It can be overwhelming at first, especially when faced with a long list of INCI ingredients. The easiest thing to do is to acquaint yourself with some of the more toxic ingredients and the ones you personally want to avoid and look for products that don’t use them.

Why choose clean 

Clean beauty products usually tend to be a bit more expensive than standard ones, but that can mean you're getting more for your money. Since man-made fillers aren’t used in clean products it leaves room for more of the active ingredients - which we hope means more bang for our buck! Plus, some experts suggest (and we agree) that using clean beauty products with safe ingredients - whether natural or man-made - can lower your risk of irritation, redness, and sensitivity.



Louise Carne