Pin It
donna trope beauty target photography
Photography Donna Trope

‘Natural’ and ‘clean’ beauty products not always safe, warn dermatologists


TextAlex Peters

Natural may not always be better

Beauty products that are marketed as ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ are not necessarily safer than their traditional counterparts, dermatologists have said.

In an editorial for medical journal JAMA Dermatology, Dr Courtney Blair Rubin and Dr Bruce Brod of the University of Pennsylvania argue that with the failure of the FDA to define and regulate terms such as ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ they’ve become open to interpretation by non-dermatologist retailers, bloggers, and celebrities. These “arbitrary designations,” however, do not necessarily make products superior nor safer for consumers.

In an effort to appeal to conscientious shoppers, Rubin and Brod write, many brands in the clean beauty movement have haphazardly selected ingredients to denounce and demonise without scientific grounds. Petrolatum, for example, which they say dermatologists have “consistently recommended to patients with skin barrier disruption owing to its nonallergenicity, superior qualities as a humectant, and economical cost that makes it accessible to patients of all backgrounds.” Parabens are another commonly avoided component for clean beauty devotees despite the fact, the authors say, that parabens are some of the least allergenic preservatives available and were named 2019 nonallergen of the year by he American Contact Dermatitis Society. 

“Many of the strongest voices in the clean beauty movement suggest avoiding ingredients owing to a theoretical risk of endocrine disruption and cancer, despite the fact that a causative relationship between these disease states and the concentration of these ingredients in cosmetic products has not been proven scientifically,” they write.

Further to this, Rubin and Brod argue that many ‘natural’ products often contain high concentrations of botanical extracts that can cause irritation and allergies.

Between 2017 and 2018, the natural skincare market by 23 per cent to $1.6 billion, accounting for over 25 per cent of the $5.6 billion of annual skincare sales in 2018 according to the NPD Group. Rubin and Brod point to influencers such as Goop’s Gwyneth Paltrow who have “ignited fear in consumers who are now hungry for skincare that is safe and non-toxic,” to account for this growth. 

They conclude by urging the FDA to define terms such as ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ and for both consumers and physicians to demand that the clean beauty movement back up their claims with evidence.

Read Next
Commercialised Menstruation
How is the commodification of periods impacting those who menstruate? Beauty Feature
Molly Goddard SS17
How to create the TikTok favourite bubble ponytail for yourself Beauty news
Ayanna Williams
Watch the woman with the world’s longest nails get them cut after 30 years Beauty news
Khloe Kardashian
Khloé Kardashian responds to criticism over unedited photo controversy Beauty news
Porsche Poon POTW
This hydrating cleansing oil will leave you with soft, soothed skin Product of the Week
Kim Kardashian
Everything we know so far about Kim Kardashian’s skincare line Beauty news
ITZY for Maybelline
K-pop’s ITZY make history as Maybelline’s new global spokesmodels Beauty news
11
What’s the gloss? A slick, sexy shoot throwing back to 00s glam Photo story
Alex Paula's Choice
How cult fave Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant changed my skin Product of the Week
Gwyneth Paltrow
No, Gwyneth Paltrow that isn’t how you use SPF Beauty news
beauty horoscope Aries season 2021
Our beauty horoscope on how to navigate the month ahead Horoscopes
We Are Fluide
These joyful portraits celebrate Trans Day of Visibility Beauty Feature
Chella Man x Private Policy
Chella Man’s jewellery collection celebrates the beauty of being deaf Beauty news
Kim Kardashian
Gwyneth Paltrow has bottled the smell of Kim Kardashian’s orgasm Beauty news
CARDI B
Cardi B’s new haircare line will teach people about ‘Afro-Latina’ hair Beauty news
Not Another Teen Movie
How to get your hands on the world’s first biodegradable sex toy Beauty news