In recent years, the skincare market has seen the rise of a movement known as “clean beauty,” a term that the industry has never clearly defined. Science and technology offer a better alternative, that combines environmental concern and safety for your health
Anyone who looks at how beauty product labels have evolved over the past decade will notice the widespread use of terms such as “natural,” “green,” and “non-toxic,” which can ultimately influence consumers’ purchasing decisions. In particular, one trend in the past few years has gained significant ground in the industry: “clean” products.
According to McKinsey & Company’s latest survey on wellness in the top six wellness markets in the world (Germany, Brazil, China, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom), a majority of consumers prefer natural/clean products for skin care, even if less effective. While 36% say they usually choose the more natural/clean option, 21% choose the more effective one.
This growing popularity of “clean” products has generated a significant movement in the industry, the so-called “clean beauty.” Brands were established based on the premise of formulating their products with clean ingredients. The term became an umbrella word for anything environmentally friendly, organic, free of toxic components, not tested on animals, etc. In short, good for one’s health and for the planet.
When the clean trend took off in the 2010s as a global movement of the beauty industry, it was intended to designate products with two essential features:
Thus, many brands call their products clean with good intentions. But there are two problems. The first is that there is no definition of what it means —none of the world’s major regulatory agencies have ever defined requirements for how a product can be designated clean. Hence a second problem: as there is no regulation, each brand can provide its own interpretation of what constitutes “clean.”
This allows manufacturers to market clean-labeled products based on their commercial interests. In many cases, “clean” has become just a marketing ploy to attract people who are legitimately concerned about the dangers to health and the environment. So, relying just on that word printed on a label can prove risky to both health and the environment.
At the beginning of the clean beauty movement, some brands did make an effort to also highlight product safety, as a precondition to being clean. However, the trend got washed out amid the market boom, when some marketing ploys became apparent.
During the pandemic, the concept of safety gained renewed importance. Covid-19’s psychological effects on the global population put science in the spotlight. Market intelligence firms such as London-based Mintel have identified that today’s consumers not only want sustainable products, but also want them to be safe and effective. Therefore, brands need to provide scientific evidence to back the effectiveness and safety of what they offer.
In this scenario, the industry is increasingly adopting the term “safe beauty” because it provides for a more clear-cut definition that includes:
But it is not enough to say that a product is safe and effective. The beauty industry is starting to get used to discerning consumers, who demand access to product test results and want to understand the scientific process that proves each benefit. Now, scientific proof is the biggest argument a health and beauty company can offer in support of its products. It is not enough to say; it is necessary to prove.
The best means of determining the effects of skincare products on human skin is to test them on human skin itself. But how to do that without putting people at risk? Scientists at OneSkin, a 2Future portfolio company, developed 3D human skin models to perform those tests.
Laboratory-produced skins have all the characteristics of natural human skin. They are exposed to the ingredients that make up the products, and the team of experts then evaluates:
The procedure makes it possible to determine the safety and toxicity of a given substance at the cellular level, as well as identify potential benefits. It proved, for example, the difference in results between popular products on the market and the topical supplement OS-01, launched by OneSkin after the company developed the first peptide (a compound of amino acids) capable of preventing and reversing skin aging with scientifically proven safety and effectiveness.
Transparent, evidence-based testing processes are essential for the rising safe beauty movement to take hold in the skincare industry. And technology and science pave the way for future attempts to regulate the term.
Meanwhile, there is a proven formula for the beauty industry to boost consumer confidence: educate the public about its techniques and demonstrate how scientific research can result in revolutionary and safe products. Transparency and information are the best ingredients the beauty industry can use to establish a new positive consumer profile.