Irish Daily Mail

Why ‘clean beauty’ DIRTY can be a business

It’s the latest buzz phrase in skincare, thanks to stars like Gwyneth. But behind the hype lie some troubling truths...

- By Claire Coleman

A12-MINUTE video of Gwyneth Paltrow taking viewers through her skincare routine horrified skincare experts.

Their main issue with the post by was what they perceived to be her irresponsi­ble attitude to sun protection. ‘There are a lot of really harsh chemicals in convention­al sunscreen so that’s a product I really want to avoid,’ she proclaimed.

She opted instead for what she called ‘a clean mineral sunscreen brand’ before confiding: ‘I’m not a head-to-toe slatherer of sunscreen, but I like to put some on my nose and the area where the sun really hits.’ Then she daintily applied a smear to her nose and under her eyes.

‘Not only is Gwyneth wrongly applying SPF — you need around half a teaspoon for your face and neck — but she is presenting biased, wrong and dangerous informatio­n,’ says Dr Sonia Khorana, a GP and dermatolog­y doctor. ‘Not using sunscreen properly puts you at risk of skin cancer and 80 to 90 per cent occur on the face or neck. She has such a large platform, it’s sad she’s providing inaccurate informatio­n.’

While a spokespers­on for Paltrow’s Wellness brand Goop later claimed the video had been edited, other skincare tips in her video were considered problemati­c by dermatolog­ists, such as her daily use of a gritty glycolic acid exfoliator on dry skin, which can damage the skin barrier.

This isn’t the first time Paltrow’s ‘advice’ has incurred the wrath of the medical community. Last year healthcare executives criticised a Netflix series from Goop which showcased alternativ­e therapies. The ‘dubious products and dodgy procedures’ posed a ‘considerab­le health risk’ to the public, he said.

A spokeswoma­n for Goop said the company was ‘transparen­t’ about the fact they ‘cover emerging topics that may be unsupporte­d by science or may be in early stages of review’.

Gwyneth has also advocated a vagina steaming treatment with ‘real healing properties’, forcing gynaecolog­ists to point out that, far from healing, it can affect the healthy balance of bacteria, causing irritation and infection.

BUT is her most damaging legacy her insistence on referring to beauty products as ‘clean’? Gwyneth is at least partly responsibl­e for the current ‘clean beauty’ mania. There are almost four million posts on Instagram with the hashtag #cleanbeaut­y, and in the past ten years, Google searches for the term have increased ten-fold.

The trouble is, it means nothing. ‘Under cosmetics legislatio­n, there is no legal definition of the word “clean”,’ says Dr Emma Meredith, director general of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Perfumery Associatio­n (CTPA). As a result, different brands interpret it in different ways. For some it may mean not using ingredient­s of animal origin; for others, excluding ingredient­s they call ‘nasties’.

‘“Clean” is just another marketing buzzword,’ says Millie Kendall. ‘I still don’t understand what it means.’

It’s not just that ‘clean’ doesn’t mean anything — or worse, can mean any number of things — it’s what it implies about any product that isn’t labeled ‘clean’.

People assume products without the buzzy label are ‘dirty’, packed with ‘toxins’ or ‘chemicals’.

‘This sort of misinforma­tion is very damaging for the reputation of the industry,’ says Millie, who believes part of the issue is the number of people with large followings on social media, who don’t have any training or knowledge. ‘Anyone can pick up a camera and share informatio­n with a very large group of viewers, but that doesn’t mean it’s accurate.’

In the Vogue video Paltrow talks about ‘crazy ingredient­s — like antifreeze’ being in moisturise­rs. But as Dr Meredith explains, the truth is ‘while some cosmetic ingredient­s may have other useful properties, their use in cosmetics is rigorously assessed for safety.

‘Propylene glycol’s use in antifreeze is not relevant to its safe use in cosmetics, just as the corrosive nature of acetic acid [used to remove rust] is not relevant to its use in food as vinegar.’

It’s like saying you’re ingesting perfume when you drink wine because both contain ethanol.

Dr Meredith, a pharmacist with a PhD in skin pigment and malignant melanomas, adds: ‘There are more than a thousand ingredient­s banned from cosmetics, while others can only be used subject to specific restrictio­ns.’

While anyone can get an allergic reaction to anything, if you can buy the product here you can be sure the formulatio­n has been screened to ensure any risk is extremely low — regardless of whether or not it has the word ‘clean’ on it.

NOT only is the ‘clean’ label confusing, the resulting panic it causes can be dangerous. Take parabens — natural preservati­ves found in fruit such as raspberrie­s. They were demonised by a widely reported, yet potentiall­y flawed, piece of research linking them with breast cancer.

The result? Manufactur­ers bowed to public pressure and started going ‘paraben-free’.

But as Sam Farmer, whose toiletries for young people include parabens, explains, this caused problems of its own.

‘When companies moved away from parabens, they needed another inexpensiv­e, effective preservati­ve,’ he says.

‘Methylisot­hiazolinon­e (MI) had long been used in shampoos and other wash-off products, but formulator­s knew it was not advisable to use it in leave-on products, such as sun cream. But in the rush to replace parabens, this seems to have been forgotten.’

The result is that some consumers buying paraben-free products are getting sensitivit­y reactions to MI on their skin, so they can no longer use any products that contain it. One dermatolog­ist described it as ‘a worldwide epidemic of allergic contact dermatitis from MI’.

The last word goes to Dr Khorana ( @dermgp on Instagram). ‘Celebritie­s have a responsibi­lity to make sure the informatio­n they’re sharing is safe,’ she says, ‘because giving biased opinions on topics they’re not experts in, without reference to evidence, can be damaging and dangerous.’

 ??  ?? Criticised for her advice: Gwyneth Paltrow on
Criticised for her advice: Gwyneth Paltrow on

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