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The Glossary: Clean Beauty

  • Glossary
  • 3 min read
The Glossary: Clean Beauty

It is common knowledge that exposure to pollution, poor nutrition, stress and digital aggressors are substantially damaging our skin. In recent years, consumers have become more aware of their beauty hygiene and how it is affected by both external factors and the products they use.

Marketing has responded to consumers’ concern over cosmetic safety with a large offering of ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘green’ products. 

The confusion in definitions, the absence of clear regulations around natural and organic personal care products (NPOC) and the limitation in reliable sources of information have made it a tedious operation for consumers to make educated purchase decisions. 

To help you on your quest for qualitative and sustainable cosmetics, we have demystified beauty claims and rounded up our top guidelines.


Natural: A product made from natural ingredients and natural resources. These products should not contain any synthetic derivatives.

Organic: A product made from ingredients that have been grown, harvested and manufactured without any herbicides, pesticides etc. These products will have extremely few or no contaminants 

Clean: A clean product goes beyond the definition of natural products ; it highlights a consideration for ingredients collected from the best sources – such as grown or manufactured in a sustainable environment – as well as accurately used for their distinctive properties. 



Although this may be obvious, no cosmetic product can be chemical free. It is important to note that all chemicals are not synthetic. All solvents, including water, are molecular combinations, therefore called chemicals. 

Moreover, it is important to look for products free of certain synthetic ingredients rather than synthetic free. Indeed, whether it be for health or environmental reasons, synthetic ingredients can be necessary in the composition of our beauty products and avoiding them isn’t always best. 

Natural does not imply sustainable: Palm oil for instance, can be found in many cosmetics for its moisturising properties, yet its production is extremely damaging to rainforests. 


Like for most things in life, what really matters in cosmetic composition is dosage. It is paramount to adopt a beauty regimen that suits your skin type. 

However, there are general recommendations on which components to avoid. Firstly, it is advised to avoid products stating ‘derived from’ as it implies a fractioned sourcing, which can be hard to fact check. 

Here below is a list of components you should try to avoid:

Skin Irritants



– Hydroquinone

– Methyl Cellosolve (banned in the EU)


Poorly Absorbed

– Aluminium powder

– Petrolatum

– Paraffin


Can cause Hormonal Disruption

– Phthalates 

– Parabens like methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparapen and ethylparaben


Not Sustainable 


– Silicones

– Palm Oil 

– Animal derived products

It is also important to look out for cruelty free brands and consider key elements such as product quality, manufacturing process and labour conditions.

AUTHOR’S NOTE – Much like in every industry, these guidelines are likely to evolve as new research gets published. This article does not supplant information from dermatologists and other experts who will have more tailored answers.

Written by - Violaine Stévenin

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