CLEAN MEANS NATURAL?
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.
‘NATURAL DOESN’T ALWAYS MEAN GENTLER’
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.