What exactly is ‘clean beauty’ and how does it make a difference to the planet?

With ingredient transparency and environmental impact at its core, discover what ‘clean beauty’ really means in 2021...

The phrase ‘clean beauty’ is arguably one of the biggest buzzwords in beauty right now.

Once a niche trend started by lesser-known indie brands that has now gone mainstream, consumers are actively looking for companies that consciously care about the ingredients they use to formulate products and how they impact the environment.

What does ‘clean beauty’ really mean?

So what exactly is ‘clean beauty’ and how do you define it? The answer is far more complex and nuanced than you might think. 

The term ‘clean beauty’ is unregulated in the beauty industry and very much open to misuse. Whether it’s sustainable, vegan, organic, natural or even hypoallergenic, a brand will have the ‘license’ to call themselves ‘clean’. 

With limited safety standards and governance in place, there’s also a grey area around product testing. Yes, there are regulations around labelling and packaging, but when it comes to formulations and categorising products as ‘all-natural’, ‘clean’ and ‘green’ the door for interpretation is again left wide open. 

So with an abundance of definitions dotted across the web, PR campaigns that greenwash consumers and confusing regulations on top of that, it’s understandable that we’re left struggling to navigate the somewhat complex landscape of ‘clean beauty’. 

This topic has so many subtleties - you really need to ask yourself what natural means to you.

What makes beauty products clean?

At the core of ‘clean beauty’ there should be transparency about the ingredients used, their effect on the environment and also a consistent standard of ingredient safety.

At skoosh skin, we try to make ‘clean beauty’ simple to understand. Our focus is primarily on scrutinising product ingredients to ensure skincare needs are met safely whilst also making sure that our impact on the environment is minimal.

How do we achieve this? Our algorithm-based routine builder uses research and scientific studies to filter out ingredients that may cause short-term irritations, long-term sensitisation, or hormone disruption. The recommendation engine also excludes products that are eco-toxic (harmful to the environment) and are persistent organic pollutants (POPs).

However, it’s important to note that it’s not enough to just ask “is this ingredient harmful?” because the answer will always be dependent on a number of things such as the way it’s formulated, its concentration and how it’s used by the customer.

Take all-natural skincare for example, there’s a big misconception that natural means ‘good for you’ but this is just not the case. Products containing ingredients solely derived from nature can be very potent and irritating if the dosage isn't correct. That’s why skoosh skin takes all these elements into account and also provides a step-by-step routine card with every order. 

Skincare formulations

Keep it clean: the ingredients to avoid

A recent report by The British Beauty Council shows that 1 in 3 people don’t understand the ingredients in the beauty products they use. This lack of awareness just serves to remind brands that more education is needed. 

Here’s our top three notorious ingredients to stay clear of when purchasing your next skincare product...


Phthalates refers to a class of chemicals that are used in many products to make them either more pliable or to increase shelf life. The ingredient is commonly found in personal care and grooming products such as deodorant, shampoo, creams, lotions and body washes.

There are many different types of phthalates and you’ll often find them abbreviated on an ingredients list. Here are some examples...

  • Benzyl butyl phthalate (BBzP or BBP) 
  • Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) 
  • Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) 
  • Diethyl phthalate (DEP) 
  • Diisodecyl phthalate (DiDP) 
  • Diisononyl phthalate (DINP) 
  • Dioctyl phthalate (DnOP) 
  • Di-n-hexyl phthalate (DnHP)

It’s important to know that the cumulative, long-term effects of phthalates on humans hasn’t been studied extensively and there’s still a lot of unknowns. However, DiDP has been linked to skin irritation, nausea, vomiting and dizziness, while DnOP has been linked to reproductive and hormonal disruption.

Although doses of phthalates are relatively low in skincare products, the chemical can still be absorbed into the body through the skin and regular use increases overall long-term exposure. Because of this, and a lack of research surrounding side effects, skoosh chooses to act with caution and exclude any product containing phthalates.

Benzyl salicylate 

Benzyl salicylate is a synthetic fragrance used in beauty products and surprisingly some essential oils, such as ylang-ylang and clove. Although it smells delicious, the chemical offers no skincare benefits other than acting as a sweet floral scent to your favourite moisturiser. 

This may seem like an harmless ingredient but it’s actually a common allergen for many people, triggering reactions especially for sensitive skin types. However, what’s more alarming is the chemical’s negative long-term effects on aquatic life and our oceans.


Found in many chemical sunscreens, octocrylene, is an ingredient that absorbs UVB and some UVA rays, acting as a UV filter to protect the skin from sun damage. 

Although the FDA has found octocrylene to be safe for use in concentrations up to 10%, reports suggest increasing rates of allergic reactions under sun exposure, especially among young children. 

However, the main concern surrounding octocrylene is its effect on the ocean. A staggering 14,000 tons of sunscreen collects in the world’s reefs each year. Whether washed off in the shower or ocean, there’s evidence that octocrylene may play a part in harming coral reefs and aquatic wildlife. It’s important to note that research on the overall environmental impact of octocrylene is still on-going. Because of this, skoosh prefers to take a cautionary approach to this chemical until further research is done.

Body brush with organic sponge and wash cloths

The benefits of ‘clean beauty’

So what are the potential benefits of switching to a smarter skincare regime and putting your products under the microscope with skoosh skin?

1. Reduces your exposure to potential long-term issues 

Looking good can sometimes come at a cost. Just take a moment to list out the personal care products you use in a day… you’ll be close to reaching double figures! These beauty products are often filled with chemicals so it’s important we pay attention to what we buy. By making a conscious effort to reduce your exposure to ingredients with potential cumulative effects, you’ll be doing the best you can to keep your skin happy and yourself safe. 

2. Kinder to the planet

In 2021 we’re caring more about the planet and our impact on it. Whether it’s your household cleaning products or the items you use in your skincare routine, by consciously choosing non-toxic products you’ll be helping to avoid harm to the environment and the creatures we share it with. 

3. Better for your wallet

If there was one thing that 2020 taught us, it was the benefits of living a more simplistic life. As humans, we’re led to believe that we need hundreds of beauty products when actually we don’t. Take a moment to look in your bathroom cabinet and count the half-used items that you no longer want. By taking your time to make considered purchases, rather than splurging on the latest serum or eye cream, you’re not only saving your hard-earned cash but also reducing your waste.

4. Safe for sensitive skin  

By excluding irritating or allergenic fragrances and ingredients, people who suffer from conditions such as eczema, rosacea or dermatitis can shop with confidence knowing the products they’re purchasing lower the risk of irritation. Take the skoosh skin quiz and let our data-driven recommendation engine serve you skincare that addresses your specific concerns.

5. Encourages self-care

Beauty goes more than skin deep. Taking care of your skin will also enhance your mental wellbeing. Whether you spend 5 minutes body brushing and applying a nourishing oil or 10 minutes in the morning mindfully focusing on your skincare regime,  you’re not only looking after your body but you’re slowing the mind and being more present. 

So what ‘clean beauty’ skincare will work for me?

Now you’re clued up on the different facets of ‘clean beauty’, the benefits and what the concept means to you... you might still be wondering what brands and products to buy?

At skoosh skin, not only do we identify ingredients that are harmful to you and the planet, we also recognise that skincare is not a one-size-fits-all formula. Our recommendation engine takes all the guesswork out and serves you with personalised products that meet your needs, budget and preferences. All that’s left for you to do is enjoy shopping sustainably and safely.

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