Coming Clean

A local skin care formulator weighs in on one of the most popular buzz words in beauty marketing A word that used to, back in

A local skin care formulator weighs in on one of the most popular buzz words in beauty marketing

A word that used to, back in the day, be associated with your daily house chores is now stamped on a wide range of skin care products—and statistics show lots of customers are sold on the idea of “clean” beauty.

According to the NPD Group, the natural skin care market has skyrocketed in recent years—growing 23 percent, about $1.6 billion, from 2017 to 2018 alone.

But what does “clean” really mean? Should this word drive a decision to purchase one product over another? We asked Karrye Flowers, founder and lead formulator for Oshun Organics, LLC in the Lynchburg Community Market, to help sort out the vocabulary.

Clean, defined (sort of)

First off, there is no set definition for what makes a product truly “clean.” The Food and Drug Administration does not regulate these product descriptions.

But Flowers says the general consensus in the skin care world is that “clean” means non-toxic.

“That’s also very subjective,” she explains, adding that they only use objective words to describe or market their plant-based products. “For example, we say our products are vegan. Vegan is a very specific word with a clear definition. Everything is derived from plants. We naturally scent and dye our products with essential oils or plant extracts.”

Don’t just read, research

She says with the rise of “clean” beauty products, customers are starting to take a closer look at that long ingredient list on the back of their face wash or eye cream. That’s a good thing, but with one caveat.

“People want things to be 100 percent natural, so they are looking for my ingredient list to only say things like ‘aloe vera’ and ‘coconut oil.’ But it’s very important to me that the products I offer are effective, as well as minimally processed. There is a balance,” Flowers said.

Meaning: You might need a stronger concentration of an ingredient, even a plant-based one, for it to work. For example, at first glance cetyl alcohol may look like an unrecognizable chemical. But it’s actually derived from palm oil, Flowers explained.

“You want to be able to trace an ingredient back to where it came from, even if it was lab created. You can’t make something from nothing,” she says.

Paraben propaganda?
Dermatologists are often critical of the natural skin care movement and the ingredients that have been red flagged through the years: such as sulfates, parabens, chemical sunscreens and others.

In an article published by JAMA Dermatology, “Natural Does Not Mean Safe—The Dirt on Clean Beauty Products,” two dermatologists wrote: “… many of the strongest voices in the clean beauty movement suggest avoiding ingredients owing to a theoretical risk of endocrine disruption and cancer, despite the fact that a causative relationship between these disease states and the concentration of these ingredients in cosmetic products has not been proven scientifically.”

They went on to say there is a safe use of preservatives such as parabens in order to prevent severe infections in users. Again, balance is key.

Flowers agrees that the research is limited, at best, about so many skin care ingredients, and says preservatives have their place, especially in skin care.

“You want to have some preservatives in anything you buy to prevent the growth of bacteria. Every time you put your hand in that jar of cream, you are taking bad microbia and putting it in there,” she says.

Getting practical

The only ingredients Flowers says she would try to avoid in skin care products are dyes.

“For many creams and lotions, you will find something like red 4 or yellow 2 at the end. They are so unnecessary and only make the product look good,” she explains. “They do nothing for you.”

Also, beware of greenwashing. Don’t buy a product solely because the creator claims it’s clean or more environmentally sound. Do your research.

Otherwise, if a “clean” product you swear by works for you, then by all means keep using it.

Just don’t get on a soapbox about it. It’s just a word after all.

Learn more about Oshun Organics, LLC at

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