Currently, the European Union bans more than 1,300 ingredients for use in cosmetics (although many are rarely found in personal care products). In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration bans 11 cosmetic ingredients. Last fall, Congress introduced the Safer Beauty Bill package, which if passed, will codify legal definitions for terms like “natural” and “naturally derived” and ban ingredients like parabens and formaldehyde. Japan, another major beauty market, has different regulatory standards.
This means that “many brands are taking it upon themselves to define clean beauty according to their ideals and agendas,” says Akshay Talati, the vice president of product development in Goop’s beauty and wellness division.
On the other hand, there are brands that don’t want to be compromised by the “clean” association.
“I think ‘clean’ skincare is all nonsense,” Ms McCartney told Elle UK magazine last year when she introduced Stella, her skincare line. She said she understood why people use the word, “because it conjures up beautiful images of purity, but I would never use it.”
So how is it defined?
Tata Harper is widely regarded as a godmother of the clean beauty movement, with a cult brand of the same name. She grew up in Colombia, watching her grandmother make body scrubs and hair masks from ingredients she bought at her local market, and later trained as an industrial engineer.
Ms. Harper started her brand in 2007 and her products use ingredients such as antioxidant-rich witch hazel, moisturizing jasmine and plumping alfalfa extract. A 30-milliliter bottle of her elixir vitae serum, with barley juice, borage leaf, and sea buckthorn, costs about $490.
“Back then, natural skincare wasn’t really made for a serious skincare consumer like myself,” Ms. Harper said. “That’s when I realized I had to make my own line because there weren’t any options.”