Red - - Skin Special -

It’s com­pli­cated. There’s an as­sump­tion that ‘clean’ means re­plac­ing syn­thetic in­gre­di­ents with nat­u­ral al­ter­na­tives (ie in­gre­di­ents that come from a plant source). That’s the phi­los­o­phy of brands such as Tata Harper and De Mamiel, which set the bar high for 100% nat­u­rally de­rived skin­care that doesn’t com­pro­mise on ef­fi­cacy and pleas­ing tex­tures.

Yet ‘nat­u­ral’ doesn’t al­ways mean gen­tler or less likely to cause re­ac­tions, nor do syn­thet­ics spell ‘toxic’, though the words are of­ten used in the same breath. ‘The prob­lem with the whole “nat­u­ral vs chem­i­cal” de­bate is that ev­ery­thing is a chem­i­cal!’ says Caro­line Hirons. ‘Peo­ple are led to “nat­u­ral” sim­ply think­ing they are mak­ing a bet­ter de­ci­sion, but that’s not al­ways the case.’ Es­sen­tial oils, which are nat­u­ral, can trig­ger an al­ler­gic re­ac­tion, for ex­am­ple, while many syn­thet­ics have a long his­tory of caus­ing no prob­lems at all.

And as for ‘tox­i­c­ity’, both nat­u­rals and syn­thet­ics can be harm­ful, but it’s all about the amount. There’s formalde­hyde in pears, for ex­am­ple, but only a tiny amount – much less than a toxic dose.

Brands such as Ren, Dis­ci­ple, Twelve Beauty and, of course, Drunk Ele­phant es­chew var­i­ous controversial in­gre­di­ents but they’ve far from ruled out syn­thet­ics, of­ten com­bin­ing syn­thetic ma­te­ri­als with nat­u­ral ones to cre­ate the most ef­fec­tive prod­ucts. For them, syn­thetic doesn’t mean harm­ful and clean doesn’t have to mean nat­u­ral. ‘To me, clean beauty means in­gre­di­ents that don’t in­ter­fere with the skin’s health, whether syn­thetic or of nat­u­ral ori­gin,’ says Twelve Beauty’s Pe­dro Catalá.

A word about or­ganic in­gre­di­ents: beauty brands don’t have to be or­ganic to be clean, but truly or­ganic lines can be con­sid­ered clean by de­fault, as the in­gre­di­ents will have been grown with­out syn­thetic pes­ti­cides. May Lind­strom is a case in point. She cre­ated her epony­mous range, which has just launched in Space NK, to ad­dress her own var­i­ous skin al­ler­gies, and found or­ganic in­gre­di­ents far more calm­ing. Her line is so loved by skin­care en­thu­si­asts of all per­sua­sions that the fact it’s clean seems al­most ir­rel­e­vant – and is not some­thing she shouts about, pre­fer­ring to fo­cus on her key pil­lars of lux­ury and small-batch pro­duc­tion.


Twelve Beauty Hyaluroil Lip Treat­ment, £28 Heal­ing, plump­ing and hy­drat­ing.

May Lind­strom The Honey Mud, £80 A honey and clay mask so good you’ll want to eat it.

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