From The Straits Times    |

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Clean beauty has been used as an all-encompassing term in beauty for the longest time. A brand that doesn’t test on animals? Clean beauty. A product that has all-natural and/or organic ingredients? Clean beauty. Gluten-free or vegan-friendly products? Yes, you got it – clean beauty, again.

But is clean beauty really better beauty? While some consumers may not want to put synthetically produced ingredients on their skin, researchers argue that “nasties” like preservatives don’t have a harmful effect on skin – take parabens, for example, which have a bad rep because a small handful of limited and selective studies say that they can disrupt the functions of the endocrine system, yet are certified safe to be used in cosmetics by many safety panels across the board, including the US FDA. They also work to help keep the skincare or makeup product in good condition and make it last longer. And if a product lasts longer, you won’t need to replace it as frequently – so by reducing our consumption, we’re actually being more environmentally friendly.

Plus, with so many people jumping on the bandwagon, it’s only natural that the label has become a little misleading and that “clean beauty” may not be the best term to use moving forward, since savvier consumers would want to differentiate the products that really work for them and the environment, versus those that are just greenwashed, or being green for green’s sake.

Thus enters “considered beauty”, a term coined by Net-a-Porter and conveyed by their global beauty director Newby Hands at their annual beauty trend presentation. It refers to beauty brands that are careful with the ingredients they use – and leave out – in their formulations, such as essential oils, alcohol, parabens and sulphates; and brands that focus on the behind-the-scenes stories such as how they advocate for fair-trade ingredients or work to protect the oceans or reduce their carbon footprint.

Yes, it does sound similar to its predecessor “clean beauty”, but this is actually much less misleading – because we all know what is natural might not necessarily be the best. For instance, flying in natural ingredients from a farm from the other end of the planet to a factory will likely generate more carbon footprint and be more harmful to the environment than using a synthetically produced ingredient (that works just as well, if we may add) that’s created in a laboratory in the factory itself.

So here are five well-known brands that we’re re-classifying as “considered beauty” brands:

1. Aesop


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The 32-year-old brand uses a mix of plant-based and laboratory-made ingredients that have a proven record of safety and efficacy in their products. It doesn’t use the all-natural label because the brand believes in using what works for the skin.

Plus, it doesn’t avoid alcohol in some of its product formulations (it’s an ingredient that many clean beauty brands avoid, touting its ability to cause skin irritation) because it’s used in products that are targeted at oilier skin types to curb sebum. But it does use sustainable packaging and constantly reviews its supply chain to be more environmentally friendly.

2. Jurlique


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This Australian brand places a lot of emphasis on reducing its carbon footprint. As much as possible, its ingredients are derived from its biodynamic farm – those that it doesn’t grow on its own are sourced from sustainable, fair-trade suppliers.

It irrigates its crops with recycled water, it composts and it even built its new farm from recycled, locally made, or low maintenance materials. But it does use preservatives and stabilisers such as phenoxyethanol in its products, which some may feel are not “clean” ingredients in skincare.

3. Drunk Elephant


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This new cult favourite beauty brand from the US doesn’t use all-natural or all-organic ingredients. But it does have a list of ingredients that it avoids, which it calls the suspicious six – essential oils, alcohols, silicones, chemical sunscreens, fragrances/dyes and sodium lauryl sulfate.

It is one of many brands that had stepped up to say that what’s natural isn’t necessarily good for the skin. The brand still uses plastic packaging and doesn’t talk about sustainability in this aspect, but it’s not its focus, and at least it doesn’t greenwash its products – something we respect.

4. Caudalie


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There’s nothing to not love about this French skincare and makeup brand founded in 1995 by husband-and-wife duo Bertrand and Mathilde Thomas. The brand uses sustainable ingredients and packaging, and focuses on using as high a percentage of natural ingredients in its products as possible. But its formulations include essential oils, which some people (and brands like Drunk Elephant) avoid because they say it can cause skin irritation. And it has physical stores in China, which means, yes, the products have to undergo animal testing.

But the reason we’ve pulled Caudalie into this new considered beauty category is because it’s part of the “1% for the Planet” movement, which means it donates 1 per cent of its global sales to nonprofit organisations that work to protect the environment, is aiming to plant six million trees around the world by 2020 (it’s at 4.37m now), and is more recently, working with organisations to protect and restore coral reefs into the oceans.

5. Kora Organics


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Developed by supermodel Miranda Kerr, this Australian brand uses natural and certified-organic ingredients as much as possible. But while it avoids questionable ingredients such as sulfates, phthalates, parabens, synthetic fragrances, synthetic colours, mineral oils, silicones and more, it uses essential oils in many of its products, like its face mists and masks, which makes them a no-go for consumers who are finicky about essential oils in skincare products.

Still, the brand is big on its no animal testing stance, and most of its products (except for three) are vegan-friendly too.