Is cleanliness still relevant? – WWD
As the notion of “clean” has cemented its place in mainstream beauty marketing – July 15 is officially “National Clean Beauty Day” – the backlash against it is also growing.
On the one hand, content creators – influencers, young brand owners, and skincare experts with loyal online audiences – have questioned the meaning of the term.
“‘Clean’ means absolutely nothing,” Dr Shereene Idriss said in a statement to WWD. (The New York-based dermatologist – who often dismantles beauty misinformation on social media through her #Pillowtalkderm chat sessions – had lost her voice, ironically, and was unable to chat on the phone.)
“If you ever tried to take a step back to find a regulated, consistent, data-driven, and cohesive definition of what ‘clean beauty’ means, you would quickly realize that it doesn’t exist,” he said. she continued. “The definition varies from brand to brand, retailer to retailer, from ‘expert’ to ‘expert’, and so it is simply a subjective opinion imposed on consumers as “Facts”. “Facts” that are no longer questioned because they are perpetually repeated, ending up transforming into a kind of indoctrination. “Facts” delivered to the consumer through a veil of fear, in order to force the consumer to accept “their” story. “
Criticism started to emerge before the pandemic, but has gained ground.
“Clean beauty is just a marketing tactic to sell you products,” dermatologist Dr Andrea Suarez, known as Dr Dray, proclaimed to her 1.26 million YouTube subscribers, in a posted video. in January of last year. The eye-catching clip is titled “CLEAN BEAUTY MUST DIE IN 2020”.
“The fundamentals behind this are not rooted in science or anything of real value or merit to your skin,” she said.
Four months later, Gen Z skincare influencer Hyram Yarbro uploaded his own video on the topic, “The ‘Clean Beauty’ Problem.”
“If you’ve been in the skin care community for the past year or so, you’ll know that a certain term has come up and been very popular. It’s the term clean beauty, ”he told his subscribers. It currently has over 4.5 million subscribers on the platform (and 6.7 million on TikTok).
“I’ve received so many comments and customers have contacted me in the past saying, ‘I only buy clean beauty products,’ he continued. “And I’m like, ‘What does that mean?'”
These videos get thousands, sometimes millions of views.
“Whenever we debunk series of myths, they are very, very well received by people,” said Krave Beauty founder Liah Yoo, who also discussed the topic online, particularly on her YouTube channel where she has over a million followers.
Audiences are engaged, often commenting on influencer posts, videos, and direct messages.
“What I get a lot is people say to themselves, ‘I felt like I was in this clean beauty rabbit hole,'” said Charlotte Palermino, esthetician and co-founder of Gods. She frequently voices her point of view on Instagram Stories, sharing what she believes to be false or misleading statements fueled by certain brands and retailers in the “clean” movement – a billion dollar business today.
“They say, ‘I feel very stupid, but I’m very happy that you’re here because you’re not hurting me about this,” ”Palermino continued. “And I think that’s the ultimate thing, that no one should feel bad about being fooled by brilliant marketing.”
All brand builders are marketers, she said, “We all sell a product. Let’s be really honest about what your product does, the safety tests it contains, and don’t focus on those lists that don’t make us safer. These are just great PR times. These are great PR times. It really is who they are.
The “Free of” lists – registrations of potentially harmful ingredients not used in formulations – are not constructive, she added. “It’s not about creating better products. We are not creating an industry where people are curious about what is in their products. We are creating a negative industry, literally where we call it dirty. “
Gregg Renfrew, founder and CEO of Beautycounter, said “clean” goes way beyond lists.
“We aim to educate,” Renfrew said. “We don’t believe in fear at all. And we know businesses are doing this… We are using commerce as a driver of change. We believe that as consumers we can vote with our dollars.
Renfrew is active on Capitol Hill, working to pass laws that help protect the health of buyers. (The latest is the Personal Care Product Safety Act, a law allowing the FDA to review ingredients, provide advice to companies, and issue recalls of products that may cause “significant harm.” “.)
“There’s been a lot of talk about ‘Oh, cleanliness isn’t defined’, which is actually something we’ve been saying since our launch,” added Lindsay Dahl, senior vice president of social mission at Beautycounter. “We are trying to define what cleaning means for Beautycounter for consumers, because it is a complicated market for consumers right now. “
“I believe that all clean is not created equal,” Renfrew said.
“We’ve said all along, ‘Natural doesn’t mean safe. Not all conservatives are toxic, ”Dahl said. “We welcome the conversation because the science around this is very complex. We live in a world where people want things to be black and white, and science is not black and white.
Palermino echoed similar sentiments.
“There are so many nuances,” she said. “All of these reviews I have right now are for brands that actively scare people off about ingredients, or tell them to swap their beauty products, or talk about ‘non-toxic’, because that doesn’t mean say nothing. Everything can be toxic.
When the “clean” movement started it was well-intentioned, critics noted. But in some cases the campaigns have taken a bad turn.
“[It] aimed to do better for the consumer, ”Idriss said. “But the current state of ‘clean beauty’ is a travesty of human intelligence: it involves marketing, fear and avoiding insecurities. “
Yoo agreed, “It was to provide safer products. But I think the evidence they gathered had to match the story. Complying with the clean beauty standard was really selling more. It was flawed, as they were collecting a lot of misinformation instead of factual evidence. “
There has been “demonization” of certain ingredients, Suarez noted in her video, even “something as benign as petroleum jelly,” she said. “They claim it’s toxic and carcinogenic… It’s absolutely not true. For a dermatologist, this is one of the best ingredients. It’s a superior humectant, and it works great for treating skin barrier issues, dry skin conditions. And also, it’s non-allergenic, which means that of anything you could put on your skin, petroleum jelly is probably one of the safest things you can put on your skin.
Used as an ointment and found in products like petroleum jelly, petroleum jelly is a gelatinous substance made from a mixture of hydrocarbons.
The problem, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (started by the nonprofit Breast Cancer Prevention Partners), is that when petroleum jelly is unrefined, it can become contaminated with toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. “When properly refined, petroleum jelly has no known health problems,” the organization says.
“I hate it when people make me defend the FDA,” Palermino said. “There are a lot of things that I’m not a fan of with the FDA. But the idea that it’s a self-regulating industry – the fact that the media publications published it without checking the facts. It is not a self-regulating industry. What are you talking about? There are so many regulations when doing skin care by law. The problem is, the app isn’t great. So, do some people do skin care in their tub? Yes. Should they be? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean these large multinational corporations are dumping toxins into your skin care. This is just not the reality.
“I don’t think anyone will ever disagree, whether you talk to me or you talk to Sephora or Ulta. [Beauty] or anyone else for that matter, that cleanliness is really about safety and supply, sustainability and ethics and being really transparent about it, ”said Annie Jackson, Co-Founder and Director of the operation of Credo Clean Beauty. “It was extremely disappointing to see some brands in our store, in our ecosystem sort of the leaders of the backlash against the clean.”
Alongside her team, she created “The Dirty List” as part of the retailer’s “Credo Clean Standard” – a detailed explanation of “what clean beauty means to Credo.” It is the “clean” gold standard.
“It’s an industry where there are 12,500 chemicals approved for beauty use, but the vast majority of them have not been evaluated for their safety by any regulatory body,” Jackson said. “We don’t fear chemicals and we don’t encourage our customers to fear chemicals. “
She noted the publication of a recent study released on June 15 by Environmental Science and Technology Letters (via the nonprofit scientific organization American Chemical Society). Researchers found that per- and polyfluoroalkylated substances – man-made chemicals that the United States Environmental Protection Agency says are linked to “adverse effects on human health” – were found in cosmetics such as foundations, mascaras and lipsticks purchased in the United States and Canada (to increase their durability and water resistance).
The document states: “The manufacture, use and disposal of cosmetic products containing PFAS are all potential opportunities to harm health and the ecosystem.
“No one has all the answers,” Renfrew said. “But it’s safe to say that there is scientific evidence that points to some chemicals of concern. And I think we can all agree that there are certain chemicals that are linked to the reproductive toxicity of cancer or endocrine disrupting chemicals that we don’t want on our bodies.
“Clean, you know, maybe that term will evolve into something different, but it’s a way to distinguish those brands that are doing a meticulous job of not buying potentially harmful chemicals,” Jackson said. “Not to recognize them among the sea of other brands that do none of this is just simply unfair.”