The term “clean beauty” gets thrown around quite a bit, but few people know what the phrase actually means. Which is understandable: The FDA has not come up with a concrete definition for it, so it’s mostly up to beauty companies to decide what does or doesn’t qualify as “natural.” In order to get a better sense of what exactly clean beauty is, I asked a handful of aestheticians, dermatologists, and my own Instagram followers for their definition, along with a couple of clean products they trust and like.
The general consensus is that while any product can be marked “clean,” a true clean product avoids the use of ingredients like parabens, sulfates, silicones, phthalates, and synthetic fragrances. While picking products that don’t have parabens (which are known to disrupt hormone function) and phthalates (an industrial chemical that can damage the liver, lungs, and reproductive system) seems like an obvious choice, there are a lot of people who remain reluctant and fearful that “clean” products won’t combat acne and other skin issues. In order to test the efficacy of the clean beauty products recommended to me, I’ve recently been using them during my time of the month — a week during which my skin is, without fail, a mess. I’m happy to say that many of the products I put to the test both met and even exceeded my expectations. Below, a few of my favorite clean beauty products that really got the job done.
My favorite clean exfoliating mask
Tata Harper is an effective and splurge-worthy beauty brand that uses 100 percent nontoxic ingredients. This exfoliating mask is gentle yet wildly helpful at combating any kind of dark spots or overall dullness on your skin. It’s perfect for when you want to give your skin a boost after a long, tough, sweaty summer day, and just as effective at brightening and softening your skin before makeup. A true staple!
My favorite clean cleanser
This cleanser is masterful at taking off all the sweat, dirt, and grime from my face at the end of the day without stripping any of my natural oils. It’s also amazing for taking off any makeup like stubborn mascara or eye shadow. I’m sensitive to cleansers and this one has never left me dry or broken out.
My favorite clean toner
Witch hazel is one of the world’s best natural toners for restoring your skin’s pH after cleansing. It’s far too drying to use all over my skin, but I love patting it on breakout areas with a cotton pad to prevent acne, and on already-existing pimples to speed up the healing process. But as I said, it is super drying, so be sure to use a thick moisturizer after.
My favorite clean face and body product
For cracked, dry, painful skin on your face or body, this product is everything. I use it on the heels of my feet to help them survive sandals-only summers, and on extra-dry parts of my face like my under-eyes. I also occasionally use it on the high points of my face as an extra natural highlight. [Editor’s note: Author Stephanie Danler is a Weleda superfan.]
My favorite clean oil
Pai is a company that prides itself on using all nontoxic, organic, and as they put it, “no nonsense” ingredients. And rose hip can be an acne wonder product. If you struggle with blemishes or breakouts, and you haven’t given rose hip a chance to change your life, you really should. This product regenerates, conditions, and plumps up your skin.
My favorite clean brightener
Dr. Barbara Sturm is someone whose brand I’ve been hearing rave reviews about for years. But her products cost a lot, so I put off trying them for a long time. Now that I have, I must say: Her glow drops are truly out of this world. A lot of primers and moisturizers that promise a healthy glow are actually shimmery, and often make me break out. I first saw this product on Katie Jane Hughes’s Instagram and couldn’t resist it after seeing how beautiful her skin looked after applying it on a naked face. My skin, too, looks bright and beautiful after I apply these drops. I use this right after I’ve finished my skin-care routine as a pre-makeup priming step.
My favorite clean moisturizer
I really love this brand in general, but this moisturizer is a standout favorite. It has vitamin E, rose hip, and macadamia oil, and is just super hydrating without making you look greasy at all.
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