An Expert Weighs In On The Claim That Clean Beauty Is Better For You

Phthalates and parabens and sulfates, oh my! As more and more research emerges about toxic ingredients, people are becoming more concerned about the health risks presented by their favorite skincare and beauty products. The hashtag #cleanbeauty has now reached more than 1.3 billion views on TikTok, soaring in popularity alongside the "clean girl" and "that girl" aesthetics. Clean beauty is a relatively loose term describing the new wave of makeup and skincare products that are supposedly made with 100% safe and natural ingredients. But is there any truth behind the trend?

The answer may not be as simple as it seems. In an exclusive interview with Glam, Sonia Roselli, the esthetician and makeup artist behind Sonia Roselli Beauty, offered some expert insight into the clean beauty trend. "The truth behind the claim that clean beauty is better for us than non-clean beauty counterparts is complex and multifaceted," she explains. To help us separate fact from fiction, Roselli offers some thoughts to consider before dumping out your makeup drawer. 

Clean beauty is mostly a marketing tactic

Here's a shocker (or not): companies are willing to promise almost anything in order to get you to buy their product. Whether it's fewer wrinkles, acne-free skin, or bright, shiny teeth, they know how to sell a convincing image to their customers, and they know how to keep up with marketing trends. Mainstream beauty brands often adapt to the demand for eco-friendly items by greenwashing their products, manipulating them to make them seem more natural, environmentally friendly, and/or safe for the body. Greenwashing beauty products could even be as simple as using recycled packaging or sticking a few herbs and flowers on the label. 

In reality, Sonia Roselli says the companies don't actually reflect these values. "Marketing claims of clean beauty products can be misleading. Many brands use the term 'clean' to appeal to consumer demand for natural and organic products without providing any scientific evidence to support their claims," she explains. Unlike organic or vegan products, there is no strict definition for items labeled as "clean." Of course, who wants to buy skincare or makeup that seems dirty or unhealthy? "Sadly, clean beauty is often associated with fear-mongering, with many companies using scare tactics to promote their products without providing any accurate data to support their claims," Roselli adds. "Brands like Sephora and Credo decide what is considered clean beauty, which can be concerning as they also have a financial interest in the industry."

Clean beauty may not be so clean

In addition to the misleading marketing, Sonia Roselli says, "The regulation of clean beauty products is often made by companies with a financial interest in the industry, leading to a lack of oversight and transparency." This means that the products themselves don't have to live up to any "clean" or "green" standard, and if they do, it's because the standard was set by the major companies themselves. When they control all levels of product design, scientific testing, and marketing, consumers have no way of knowing which ingredients are actually harmful or beneficial. 

Even if ingredients can be vetted by non-biased testing, Roselli warns that clean beauty products aren't always all they're cracked up to be. She explains, "Furthermore, many clean beauty products contain newer, less-studied ingredients that may not have a proven track record of safety and efficacy. This can be concerning, as consumers may unknowingly expose themselves to potential risks believing it's better." Just because something is natural doesn't mean it's safe or healthy to put on your skin. For example, lavender and tea tree oil have been found to disrupt the endocrine system and cause abnormal breast tissue growth, especially in young boys. 

Better beauty for you and the planet

Don't let this information discourage you from finding authentic, healthy beauty products that are better for you and the planet. Now that you're aware of the tactics major beauty companies use to persuade eco-conscious consumers, you can watch out for obvious greenwashing and vague descriptions of "clean" products. Do your own research and invest in a high-quality beauty brand that is transparent with its ingredients, sourcing, and testing practices, and avoid reaching for a beauty product just because it's in a green box or it claims to have all-natural ingredients.

Sonia Roselli would also encourage you to dive deeper into your search if you truly want to find healthy skincare solutions. A truly clean beauty company isn't afraid to depend on real scientific studies. "As a skincare line creator, I understand the importance of using scientifically-backed ingredients and working with a chemist to ensure the safety and efficacy of my products," she concludes. "We, as brand owners, should strive to be transparent about the ingredients we use and their effects. But let's remember that in this field, as in most, there is no silver bullet, and science evolves, so we should continuously strive to improve." So, next time you look through clean beauty videos or products, keep this in mind, and know that they may not be as great as they appear.