Knowledge Hub

Clean and sustainable beauty

Just fads, or set to last?

From Gwyneth Paltrow to the Kardashians, it seems that everyone’s talking about clean, green beauty.

But what do these terms mean, how are consumers responding, and are these trends here to stay? Let’s take a look at the sometimes murky world of clean and sustainable beauty.

Wooden cosmetic bottles laid on top of leaves on a white background

Clean beauty

Clean beauty refers to products free from chemicals considered harmful to health – but there’s currently no official definition.

NielsenIQ defines clean beauty as products that do not contain parabens, sulfates, phthalates, artificial colours and fragrances, and 600 other ingredients. In the US, sales now total over $400 million and are growing at a rate of 8.1% (versus 2% for beauty products in general).

Meanwhile, Statista valued the UK natural and organic cosmetics market at £221 million in 2020, and forecast it will reach £339 million by 2025.

But just where is this consumer demand coming from? Victoria Buchanan of The Future Laboratory told Vogue there are two drivers.

Firstly, there is “an obsession with wellness and detoxification, both in terms of diet and products”. Consumers have long checked ingredients lists on their food – now they are doing so for their beauty items.

Secondly: “Dermatologists are reporting a growing phenomenon of sensitised skin caused by increased exposure to pollution, stress and digital aggressors.” People are increasingly aware of the harmful chemicals in their environments, and want their beauty products to be pure.

Sustainable beauty

The clean beauty movement overlaps with a shift towards sustainability.

Again, this is a loose term. It encompasses refillable items; recycled or plastic-free packaging; locally-sourced or vegan ingredients; cruelty-free practices; water-saving formulas; carbon-neutral supply chains; and biodegradable products, among many others.

With 61% of UK consumers saying they have limited their purchases of single-use plastics in the past year, and 34% choosing brands with environmentally sustainable practices, there is clearly a sizeable market for such goods.

In the US, NielsenIQ says that the sustainable beauty market is growing even faster than the clean category. Its research found that sales of cruelty-free products are growing at a rate of 27.4%, vegan-certified at 33.3%, and biodegradable at 22.2%.

In the UK, the Soil Association values the certified organic beauty market at £120m. It’s grown for ten consecutive years, with 13% growth in 2020.

Cosmetic bottles standing on a marble slab in a bathroom

Authenticity and transparency

However, while sustainable beauty is on the up, it seems ‘clean beauty’ might be stagnating. Influencers continue to promote it on social media, but engagements from consumers are down 7%.

This could be due to growing scepticism about how clean products really are, or whether vague words like ‘natural’ or ‘non-toxic’ are merely marketing terms. Just as brands are accused of ‘greenwashing’, they could now be indulging in ‘cleanwashing’.

So for brands looking to expand in the clean, green beauty sector, the watchwords have to be transparency and authenticity. One survey of UK and US consumers found that 34% want clear lists of ingredients in their beauty products, and 56% want brands to be authentic.

Already, there are calls for clarity across the beauty industry. Randi Shinder of SBLA Beauty told Beauty Independent: “We need an industry standard for how products are tested and defined as ‘clean beauty’ […] The consumers should have a level of confidence that the brand hasn’t just placed ‘clean beauty’ on its label and that, as with all the other claims that are made in beauty and skincare, there is a mandatory review of the formulation to validate the label.”

Contact Linney today

Until a set sustainability standard is set across the industry, it’s up to individual brands to ensure their clean, green values and practices are communicated to customers in an authentic and transparent way.

That’s where Linney can help. We are a carbon-neutral business, committed to environmental, social and financial sustainability, and are eager to partner with brands that share our values.

Contact us today to find out about how our creative marketing services can help your business grow – sustainably.