How clean is your cream? The health-inspired beauty craze

by Bella Blissett

The ‘clean eating’ movement has inspired a whole new beauty craze. Bella Blissett reports. 

‘What we put into and on our bodies has become a national obsession’


Clean eating, clean living; Instagram snaps of everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to Jessica Alba and Karlie Kloss in the latest ‘it’ leggings, power shake in hand… These days, even ‘smashed avo’ is practically a social media celebrity in its own right. Which all adds up to the fact that what we put into and on to our bodies has become a national obsession. So is it any surprise that beauty is getting in on the clean-up operation too?


‘Non-organic beauty products have been known to contain toxic ingredients and non-biodegradable chemicals, which may have a negative impact on our health. So it’s no wonder that many beauty brands are choosing to go organic or eliminate certain ingredients and processes, providing us with a safer alternative,’ says Lauren Bartley of the Soil Association, the UK’s leading organic certification company.


Data from market research company Mintel certainly supports this belief. According to their report, an astonishing 36.4 per cent of products launched in the UK in 2016 carried the claim ‘botanical’ or ‘herbal’, compared to a global average of 1.4 per cent, indicating our marked preference for brands that are perceived as being more ‘natural’.


For Victoria Buchanan, trends analyst at The Future Laboratory, ‘The clean beauty movement reflects wider ideas about “clean living”, which is impacting all lifestyle sectors. It follows in the footsteps of clean eating and reflects the food sector’s obsession with all-natural products.’


Terms such as detox, gluten-free, vegan and cold-pressed seem to be blurring the boundaries between what we eat and what we apply to our skin. Yet it’s not just about using so-called ‘clean’ ingredients – there’s something about this trend that is justifiably concerned with whether the beauty industry has a clean conscience too.


‘The digital revolution and social media have given us a collective “eco-conscience”. Where before we might have succumbed to marketing claims or a celebrity endorsement, now we’re able to look up a brand’s policy towards ingredient sourcing and the environment,’ says Olivia Thorpe, founder of Vanderohe skincare. A new entry into the UK skincare market, her serum comes packaged in recycled and recyclable stiffened cotton cartons, illustrated with a map showing where in the world her high-grade oils are sourced.


Luckily for us, products in this category that might once have been judged at best worthy and at worst ineffectual are now both cool and effective. So we can have products with non-harmful ingredients and good intentions towards the wider world from brands that we know reflect our own values. Clean and simple as that. Here’s our pick of the best new clean-beauty products…


‘You’d easily find the plant, nut and seed ingredients in your power smoothie’


Vanderohe No 1 Nourishing Face Serum, £88,


Olivia Thorpe’s ‘perfect face serum’ is 100 per cent organic and contains ingredients that include rosehip oil from Chile and apricot kernel oil from Pakistan, which hydrate, plump and perfect the skin’s texture and even out patches of pigmentation. Suitable for all skin types, its slightly thicker, oilier texture may mean most people use it at night. Pop on a drop or two in the morning, however, and you’ll love how it also works as a fabulous make-up primer when you need an extra glow. So clean it’s been certified as ‘food grade quality’ by the Soil Association. You could eat it – but I’d save it for your skin.


Neal’s Yard Remedies Deliciously Ella Rose, Lime & Cucumber Facial Wash, £16, and Moisturiser, £25,


Like whipping up a healthy recipe for one of her cookbooks, wellbeing influencer Deliciously Ella (aka Ella Mills) has chosen ‘skin-loving ingredients’ – including hydrating rose essential oil plus antioxidant-rich blueberry oil and turmeric to protect and soften your complexion in her bestselling collection for Neal’s Yard Remedies. Naturally, both are certified by the Soil Association, Vegetarian and Vegan societies. Watch this space for more clean products coming from Ella in September.


RMS lip2cheek, £28,


Founded by make-up artist Rose-Marie Swift, this favourite among seriously glowing models (Miranda Kerr, Gisele and Lily Aldridge) is based on her belief that ingredients in many mainstream cosmetics are refined, bleached and deodorised – and thus stripped of their natural skin benefits. Instead, RMS skips all these processes, is gluten-free, has no GMOs (genetically modified organisms), comes in recyclable packaging and contains ingredients such as coconut oil, St John’s wort and liquorice that wouldn’t be out of place in a healthy eating regimen. Lend lips and cheeks a healthy glow the clean way with this gorgeous tinted balm.


The Ordinary 100% Organic Cold-Pressed Rose Hip Seed Oil, £9,


This is organic, vegan, nut-free, silicone-free and made using a cold-pressed technique (meaning that the plant source hasn’t been exposed to external heat during the extraction process). It is said to yield the highest quality, uncorrupted oil without degrading its skin-hydrating, brightening and regenerating benefits. Containing only one ingredient, it’s simple, honest – and is exactly what it says on the very pared-down label.


The Natural Deodorant Co Clean Deodorant Balm, £6,


Parabens, phthalates, aluminium… the chemical ingredients commonly found in mainstream deodorants have been linked with hormone disruption, reproductive and developmental problems – and even cancer. So skip the nasties and let the magnesium oxide and sodium bicarbonate in this super-light balm provide odour control while your skin is nourished by coconut oil and shea butter – and you are left smelling sweetly of vanilla.


Kure Bazaar Nail Polish in Coquette, Kelly and Caicos, £15,


Nail varnish is notorious for the so-called ‘toxic trio’ – toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate – which have been linked to potential hormone disruption within the body. Now your tips can come clean with Kure Bazaar’s range of shades that replace the trio with innovative ingredients such as potato starch to make the polish durable and cotton to make it hard and shiny. Crucially, colours are intense and glossy – and they last.


Clean Beauty Co Babe Balm, £28,


When founders Elsie and Dominika started comparing the labels of food and beauty products, they found themselves horrified. Made with ‘positivity’ and ‘transparency’ in mind, their own skin and hair products contain plant, nut and seed ingredients that you’d just as easily find in your post-workout power smoothie. Try their multi-purpose monoi, hibiscus and calendula balm, which can be used as a cleanser, a highlighter or a moisturiser for the brows, elbows, cuticles… the lot. Then make your own home-kitchen beauty products by following the ‘skin mixology’ recipes on their website.


Clean Reserve Skin Eau de Parfum, £79 for 100ml,


This floral musk bouquet of vanilla orchid and peony with orange blossom and honeysuckle has sensual copaiba oil at its heart. Clean Reserve – a ‘simple brand with a simple concept’ – creates eco-conscious fragrances which come in packaging that’s both recycled and recyclable. It even uses a solar-powered manufacturing facility and works directly with communities in the Amazon to help ensure the sustainability of the oil.


Kérastase Aura Botanica Bain Micellaire Shampoo, £21.20,


Driven by consumer demand for science-based haircare that’s free from traditional silicones (which merely give the illusion of shine), phthalates and parabens, Kérastase’s Aura Botanica range contains ingredients such as Samoan coconut oil and Moroccan argan oil. The formulae are 99 per cent biodegradable, 98 per cent of ingredients are of natural origin, and the brand supports Samoan women and invests in a tree-planting scheme. This shampoo contains skincare-like micellar technology (comprising oil- and dirt-grabbing particles called ‘micelles’), which deeply cleanses the scalp while remaining gentle on skin.


Soaper Duper Fruity Green Tuberose Body Scrub, £7.50,


Not only does this brand bypass parabens, sulphates and microbeads (tiny plastic beads that build up in oceans and are due to be banned in cosmetics by the end of the year), but it also avoids any ingredient that contributes to sea contamination and supports WaterAid and Clean the World, which help get water to drought-affected communities.




Lauren Bartley of the Soil Association sorts the facts from the claims.


✿ Certified Organic The ingredients have been farmed organically using no harsh chemicals or manufacturing processes. You don’t, unfortunately, have the same guarantees with organic cosmetics that aren’t certified as there’s currently no legal standard in place to protect the use of the term ‘organic’ in these products.


✿ Certified Natural Carries the same principles as certified organic, but may not necessarily contain organic ingredients. While organic is clearly the gold standard, opting for natural certification can be more feasible for businesses. Again, uncertified natural products do not carry those guarantees and ‘greenwashing’ of the term ‘natural’ is widespread.


✿ Green A subjective term.


 Non-toxic Again, subjective. For consumers looking for ‘non-toxic’ products, we would suggest looking for certified organic products.