In short, say the experts, it can mean practically anything, since there is no agreed definition. To some, clean beauty might signify sustainable and reef-safe (sunscreens that don’t bleach coral in the ocean, for example), while for others it might refer to a product being free from certain ingredients such as synthetic fragrances. And with the continuous boom of influential wellness platforms such as Goop, the clean-beauty movement shows no signs of slowing down. Is ‘clean’ really the cream of the crop?
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Myth: Beware of toxic ingredients in skincare
The word ‘toxic’ is widely used in beauty to describe certain skincare ingredients. However, cosmetic scientist Sam Farmer finds the term misleading in this context. As he explains, the word relates specifically to the dose of a chemical, and not the chemical itself, given that anything can be toxic: ‘For something to be toxic means that it has reached a certain level where it can do you harm. For instance, water can be toxic because if you drink 15 litres of it in an hour, you’re going to dilute your blood and probably die. If you inhale water, you will drown. A glass of water in an hour is fine, but it doesn’t prevent water from being potentially toxic.’
Myth: Parabens and silicones are bad for you
When a brand proudly proclaims its face cream is ‘free from’ some thing, consumers assume that there is a scientifically backed reason for it being omitted, and therefore this ingredient is some thing to avoid putting on the skin. However, dermatologists argue that this is not always the case. Take silicone: its primary use in skincare and make-up is to give products a slippery texture and a silky feel on the skin, although it’s garnered a bad reputation due to reports that it is occlusive and blocks pores, and is therefore not suitable for acne-prone skin.
But Harley Street consultant dermatologist Dr Anjali Mahto believes that there is no data to support that. In fact, she hails silicone as a brilliant smoothing agent, which can work wonders on filling in acne scars: ‘As an acne-prone dermatologist, I love using products with silicone in them as they will smooth out the skin surface beautifully before I put on my make-up.’