Don’t you know that you’re toxic? How clean beauty is disrupting the industry

Don’t you know that you’re toxic? How clean beauty is disrupting the industry

Transparency. It’s become beauty’s latest buzzword with Wal-Mart leading the charge and just about everyone else following suit. But why? Why has 2017 become the year that all the big brands suddenly decided on disclosure? Two words: clean beauty.

A direct descendent of clean eating, clean beauty has exploded. It’s arisen both from a backlash against the famously opaque and overused term ‘natural’ and from a number of high-profile ingredients scandals that have led consumers to question anew what is in their products. Yes, we’re looking at you triclosan and formaldehyde.

“Customers are demanding it. They made it clear in the food segment. They’re making it clear in the beauty segment,” Frederic Benque, General Partner at Nextworld, the private equity fund behind clean beauty e-tailer Credo, told Business of Fashion. “There is a push for brands to be clearer and to help them navigate the ingredients list.”

Frontrunners such as Beautycounter started championing ‘clean’ products as far back as 2011 – it’s now set to hit a 10-million products sold milestone and CEO Gregg Renfrew has been named as one of Goldman Sach’s 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs. A slew of e-commerce sites have sprung up since, among them Credo and Follain, while Goop added beauty to its clean-living e-commerce platform two years ago and, last year, Biossance published a 2,000-strong ingredient blacklist, taking clean beauty to the next level.

But that bar has been raised once again by the latest batch of brands. Now we’re talking products with so few ingredients you could almost knock them up on your own stove, and even single-ingredient beauty.

Take Dominika Minarovic and Elsie Rutterford, the brains behind Clean Beauty Co. Their brand was born literally in their kitchens, with a blog charting their quest to ‘apply the same principles that we had been using for cooking and baking with no additives, to making beauty products’. Within months, the duo had secured a book deal. Then came a £50,000 boost from Virgin StartUp with which they set up their first product line, BYBI, and they’ve just completed a £150,000 funding round which will see them take the brand to the next level.

Then there’s the likes of Drunk Elephant, Raw Is Everything and Trilogy, who dedicate very little space for ingredients lists on their packaging – they don’t have to, given they sell single-ingredient facial oils. This isn’t just clean beauty, this is the cosmetics equivalent of the raw food diet.

And while I’ve described my problem with the clean-living camp in detail on this platform before (to sum, all that pseudo-science really gets my goat), there’s no arguing with the basic philosophy: that we should know what we’re putting in and on our bodies. In short, whatever our choice, it should be an informed one. And presumably, P&G, Wal-Mart, Unilever, Holland & Barrett et al agree with me. I think that’s what you call a win:win for consumers, all consumers.