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"Clean Beauty" vs "Transparent Beauty" Products. What's in a Name?

As a cosmetic formulator and aromatherapist people often ask me if I create products using all sorts of buzz words. Some people ask for "chemical free" (impossible by the way because everything is made of chemicals ...) or non-toxic, all-natural, organic, clean, therapeutic grade, etc.

I live in the United States and there are a lot of marketing and beauty buzz words surrounding skin and hair care products but the truth is a lot of the terms used don't have a clear or regulated meaning.

While the FDA does not regulate the term "organic" as applied to body and skin care products, an organic certification from the USDA does mean something.

From the product being made with 100% USDA certified organic ingredients (excluding water and salt), an organic product (made with 95% organic ingredients), or made with organic ingredients (contains 70% organic ingredients).

But sometimes we see claims of "clean", "non-toxic", "natural", or "therapeutic" but such terms are not regulated by the FDA or other governing body and the meaning therefore really has no universal or ubiquitous quantitative or qualitative standard. In a sense it means what is simply implied by its use.

As an artisan formulator I am tempted to use terms such as clean and non-toxic, but have come to realize that simply being transparent with clients about ingredients is the best and most truly meaningful way to go.

That means while I strive to create high quality, safe products that incorporate organic and natural ingredients, rather than use buzz words, it's important to simply disclose what ingredients I use and why I've used them in my products.

To moisturize the skin I can make an all natural salve using shea butter, avocado oil, beeswax, and mango butter. It's lovely and definitely offers moisturizing properites for the skin and hair and is perfect for some clients, but can be greasy and lack the performance others are looking for.

If I create a face cream, I have many options for emulsifiers, actives, emollients, preservatives, and other ingredients. For example, honeyquat is derived from honey and is highly moisturizing but how is it made and why is it included instead of just pure honey? Vegetal or Montanov 68 is an emulsifer that allow oils and waters to combine to form lotions and creams and is approved for organic formulations while emulsifying wax NF is not. Does that make a difference to a client or not?

It's complicated. That's why I like the term "transparent beauty products". What is in the product and why? How is it derived? What is its EWG score? Does it potentially contain any concerning residues?

As an artisan formulator the goal is to create products that work, using quality ingredients. If I incorporate a botanical extract, essential oil, or natural ingredient I want to use it in amounts that are meaningful, not necessarily just to put it on a label to get a consumer to buy the product because it's a trending ingredients.

As I move forward in my formulation journey I am looking for ways to ditch plastic (exploring shampoo and conditioner bars), evaluating ECOCERT ingredients and preservatives, and noting that it's not always easy to be green and offer the same level of performance and stability. But it's a journey I'm excited to embark upon.

So as you consider the products you purchase think about the "terms" and "buzz words" surrounding the product vs the product ingredient transparency. Even if something sounds chemically is it safe? Why is it in the product? Is it free of potentially harmful residues?

Are there any buzz words you'd like to better understand? Any ingredient questions you have?

Be well, stay beautiful.

aromatic blessings my friends,



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