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What are clean cosmetics?

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Clean cosmetics are a rising consumer trend, driven for a desire by consumer who want safer, healthier products on their skin, but are they really “clean”? Is it just greenwashing by major brands?

There’s been a lot of coverage of clean cosmetics across the internet and on radio and television and the demand is growing. The Global Wellness Institute puts the clean beauty products worldwide market at just over $1.083 Billion and it’s growing rapidly. In Canada, all cosmetic products must be safe to use and be approved by the U.S. FDA for sale here as well as the United States. Thing is though, these regulations in Canada and the States, don’t cover the ingredients. The safety of ingredients is covered Personal Care Products Council, which is a self-regulating body supported by the cosmetics industry.

Research has shown that of the over 82,000 chemicals used in traditional cosmetics, over 14,000 are industrial chemicals, ranging from carcinogens to pesticides and hormone disruptors.

So what are clean cosmetics?

There’s no true definition and it is often defined by the brand creating and selling them. Like the concept of clean eating, clean cosmetics are part of the clean beauty trend. Essentially, clean cosmetics use natural ingredients and avoid things like parabens and phthalates as binders and preservatives.

Natural ingredients might include essential oils and plant-based oils, , herbs and flower extracts. Basically, no chemicals.

Safety risks of clean cosmetics

So there’s a real risk of being mislead since there is no real regulation around listing ingredients in most cosmetics. Given that these types of cosmetics purport to contain natural ingredients, some people may have allergic reactions to whatever they’re made up of. 

What we’ve been able to determine is that clean cosmetics contain natural, plant-based materials…think vegan products for your skin. So for the majority of people, they are safe. Keep in mind that words like “eco”, “natural” and “earth-friendly” are not regulated, so you’ll want to do some research on a new product.

Some clean beauty products also contain essential oils, which sounds very nice but can be problematic for some people. Take peppermint as an example. Just one drop of peppermint oil is equa to about 28 cups of peppermint tea. Too much extract in a skin cream can be painful for some. And essential oils are not regulated. So try a tester first! Some companies also cut essential oils will various fillers, some of which can also be bad for your skin.

The best approach is to check out the brand’s website, look for online reviews and try a sample size first.

The benefits of clean cosmetics

There are a lot of upsides to using clean cosmetics, from helping the environment to your own health. For cosmetics that you wear everyday such as foundations, body creams or eyeliners, moving to natural, clean cosmetics is a great idea! Since we absorb a lot of chemicals through our skin, all-day cosmetics should be clean ones. Better for the environment and your skin!

You can mix it up with regard to other cosmetic uses, but overall, clean cosmetics, like clean eating are much better for your health! 

Canadian clean cosmetic companies

There are a number of new brands on the market and some well-known ones like Sephora are putting a push on clean products, including listing what isn’t in their clean cosmetic line. The newest brand to hit stores in Canada is MisMack based in British Columbia and now making a major push into the United States.

Another one is award-winning Elate, based out of Toronto with gorgeous packaging and a truly natural product, including lipsticks and skincare products.


  • Alex Hurst is a writer for HUM@Nmedia covering Optimyz and Silver magazines in print and digital editions and is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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