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Clean Beauty – Where is this trend coming from?



Trend Clean Beauty

Korean (K-Beauty), German (G-Beauty), and Australian brands have been all the rage in the U.S. in recent years. Consumers see them as reliable, compatible with the skin, and safe (or at least safer than others). They could even be the reason behind a trend that is already well established in the U.S. but has also been gaining popularity in Germany over the last year: Clean Beauty. 

This trend stems from a desire to use cosmetics that are free from ingredients that consumers perceive to be harmful: in other words, “pure” cosmetics. Whether the ingredients in question are in fact harmful in cosmetics, or whether they are even commonly used in other applications, does not seem to matter.

So, why is Clean Beauty an emerging trend in Germany? Especially if there are already flagship products on the G-Beauty wave? Perhaps there are new trade winds here. Buzzwords, such as “sustainable, vegan, natural, organic” and “less is more” (have a look at our blog “Less is more – how much do we need?”), are being combined together with the attributes we mentioned earlier. Still, there is no universally agreed definition, let alone any legal regulations, for Clean Beauty. Rather, the claim is being used for products that do not contain certain – arbitrarily nominated – raw materials. 

The perfumery chain Douglas, for example, defines the term on its website as follows:

“CLEAN BEAUTY stands for cruelty-free products that are produced without certain controversial ingredients. The unique selling point of clean is not “better than” but rather “free from”. CLEAN BEAUTY is therefore not to be equated with “natural”, “vegan”, or even “without synthetic ingredients”; rather it aims to offer swift and easy orientation in the buying decision for those customers who consciously wish to avoid certain ingredients in their cosmetic products.”

Ingredients that Douglas classifies as controversial and thus excludes are:

On its website, ICADA now anticipates that there will be multitudes of highly individual attempts made by companies to define Clean Beauty, or to play up their own products, and has preemptively published an extensive blacklist of some 3000 substances as “the world’s first ‘Clean Beauty’ standard”. Also self-defined, mind you. 


Does Clean Beauty = natural cosmetics?

Not necessarily. As a perfect example, the essential oils popularly used in natural cosmetics do not fall under the definition of harmless ingredients. For people with sensitive skin, these can quickly trigger skin irritations and even allergic reactions. So, whether they can generally be classified as “clean” is questionable. Without a clear definition of CLEAN BEAUTY, this matter therefore remains open to interpretation.


Clean Beauty: More than just skin care

According to estimates by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if we do not change our general consumption behaviour, there will be more plastic than fish floating in the oceans by 2050.  That means Clean Beauty often goes beyond the question of harmlessness in terms of skin tolerance. It should also stand for skin care that works in the interests of nature. The greatest environmental problems are still posed by packaging, but the insides can also harbour risks in the form of microplastic particles, for example, which stay around in the environment for a very long time because of their poor biodegradability. 

Even if Clean Beauty has no single, clear definition, the overarching issues are safety and sustainability. In general, those cosmetics that fit the description tend to be products whose ingredients largely come from nature without harming it in the sourcing process (for example, easily renewable source materials or use of waste products in upcycling) and which have been only minimally modified (low energy consumption, good biodegradability etc.). In the ideal case, the company is also actively pro-environment.

Clean Beauty is thus more than just a trend, it is a life decision: a decision in favour of conscious handling of ingredients – however open to interpretation that may be. 





Leslie Schlüter

Senior Product & Sales Manager

During my studies in biology I never thought I would end up in sales in the Personal Care industry. But as life goes, it happened about 7 years ago. I postgraduated in business administration and the mixture of scientific content (anti-pollution, microbiom, epigenetics...) and sales is a thrilling experience for me. I have been working for IMPAG in Germany since November 2017.

My biggest hobby is food...and sports (jogging, swimming, cycling, diving...) to indulge the former without a guilty conscience. But as I don't like cooking, my husband is taking over for me.

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