Clean Beauty

Clean. Non-toxic. Organic. Natural. Green. Eco. Plant-based. These are some of the many descriptors that conscious beauty consumption has given rise to in recent years. There is no doubt that the beauty industry has been significantly challenged as savvy consumers begin to scrutinise the ingredient labels on their everyday personal care products, scanning for any toxicity that could be lurking in their favourite face cream.

As a consequence, many legacy beauty brands have struggled to hold on as consumer trust slips through their fingers one suspect ingredient at a time. In response, a new generation of beauty brands have entered the market to cater to the growing collective consciousness – each brand aligning with one or more of the aforementioned labels. But what do these trending terms mean? How are they different? Are they genuine values and philosophies, or just clever marketing? Most importantly, should we be concerned?


The clean beauty movement has grown internationally in recent years thanks to trusted beauty platforms dedicated to educating consumers. While the movement continues to expand as more brands identify as ‘clean’, there is currently no formal definition to regulate what classifies a clean beauty product. As it stands, the concept is still open to interpretation with each clean beauty brand defining their own concept of the term.

Clean beauty tends to almost always go hand-in-hand with the concept of non-toxic beauty. Non-toxic beauty, as the name suggests, are products that are made without any harmful or toxic ingredients. These are ingredients that are considered carcinogenic or are known, or suspected, to have adverse effects on our body such as endocrine (hormone) disruption. In addition to potential carcinogens and endocrine disruptors, ingredients identified as irritants or allergens are also usually omitted from clean beauty products.

From this perspective, the clean beauty movement has made massive moves to bring awareness to toxic ingredients that have no business being on our bodies. Since then, much of the clean beauty philosophy has gone mainstream with plenty of brands, clean or not, ditching some of the ingredients on the clean beauty crusader’s dirty list.

However, there is a counterargument to the clean beauty movement which would be biased of us to ignore. For some, clean beauty has become a dirty word. The clean beauty movement has been criticised for relying on fear tactics, green-washing or misleading information to drive the movement forward and to leverage it for marketing claims and monetary gains. Some clean beauty brands or retailers have adopted an extensive list of ingredients that they deem to be dirty – which some cosmetic chemists claim is vilifying ingredients without any science-backed evidence. Are these concerns valid? Absolutely. So, what is Asrai Skin’s stance on clean beauty?

We consider ourselves a conscious beauty supplier, for which the concept of clean is just one value that we align with (we’ll cover more in blogs to come). We believe in the good of the clean beauty philosophy, as do many of the brands we stock. We would be evading our responsibility as cosmetic suppliers if we did not consider the safety of our customers. Therefore, we want to trust that the products we sell are not toxic and harmful to your health. 

There are a couple of rules we live by. For one thing, we would never want to induce fear among our valued customers, nor would we want to aid in the proliferation of misinformation. Therefore, we conduct extensive research, reading studies and viewpoints of varying perspectives, before we consider an ingredient toxic. So, which ingredients made it on our ‘dirty list’? Well, here they are:

1. Formaldehyde & Formaldehyde Releasers (carcinogen):

Formaldehyde has been declared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogen. The toxic ingredient has been used in personal care products as a preservative. Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde releaser which means it releases formaldehyde over time.

2. Ethanolamine (carcinogen):

Ethanolamines have been linked to cancer and include the chemicals Triethanolamine (TEA), Diethanolamine (DEA) and Monoethanolamine (MEA) which are used in various cosmetic and personal care products to give them a creamy feel.

3. Polyethylene Glycol or PEGs (carcinogen):

PEG compounds themselves are not dangerous. However in the manufacturing process, PEGs may be contaminated with chemicals called ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane. Ethylene oxide has been declared by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as a carcinogen, while there is also research that suggest that ethylene oxide is cancer-causing.

4. Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate or SLES (carcinogen):

SLES is a surfactant and foaming agent used in personal care products. Similar to PEGs, SLES can be contaminated with both ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane which, as we have revealed, are carcinogenic substances.

5. Triclosan (endocrine disruptor):

Triclosan has been used in personal care products as an antimicrobial agent. It has been flagged as an endocrine disruptor and linked to hormone-related health problems including obesity and infertility.

6. Phthalates (endocrine disruptor):

Phthalates, particularly DBP and DEHP which are banned in cosmetics sold in Europe, are known endocrine disruptors and are also sometimes hidden in the use of the term fragrance or parfum on an INCI list.

7. Oxybenzone (endocrine disruptor):

Oxybenzone is a common ingredient found in chemical sunscreens. It has been flagged as an endocrine disruptor. The chemical has also been found to kill coral ecosystems and has been banned in Hawaii to protect coral reefs.

8. Parabens (endocrine disruptor):

Parabens are yet another suspected endocrine disruptor that are used to preserve personal care products. Beware of isopropylparaben, isobutylparaben, phenylparaben, benzylparaben, and pentylparaben on the INCI list.

The good news is that there are regulatory shifts happening in the cosmetic space. Europe has banned the use of over 1300 toxic ingredients in cosmetics produced on the continent, setting a precedent for the rest of the world. However, other countries have yet to follow suit. We are continuing to do more research into suspect ingredients, and we will keep updating our list should we find evidence to suggest concerns.

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