How the Biggest US Beauty Retailers are Adopting Clean Beauty Standards

June 19, 2023

How is clean beauty defined by retailers? The term is yet to have a succinct definition, but as a result of the ongoing clean beauty movement, it can be defined as a standardization of safe ingredients and transparent labeling that aims to guarantee the safety of both consumers and the environment. While there is a massive efflux of information on the internet regarding clean beauty that may be overwhelming for many consumers, a simple key point to understand is a deeper understanding of ingredients can lead to better purchasing decisions for your health. 

So then, what makes clean beauty products safer? We, at ConsiderBeyond, found ourselves asking the same questions and decided to investigate how third-party sources were defining the toxicity of a chemical ingredient. How are these ingredients being regulated, and what actions are driving the clean beauty movement to date? 

The European Union is leading the movement towards clean beauty, widely known across the beauty industry for its highly strict regulations for beauty products, prohibiting 2490 ingredients for cosmetic use as of 2022. Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009, amended by Regulation (EU) 2022/1531 offers a comprehensive list of ingredients that are allowed a threshold of 0% in any cosmetic products marketed for sale of use in the EU, where each pre-market product must provide a safety report for manufacturers and mandatory registration of cosmetic products. Animal testing is also prohibited across the industry. 

Compared to the EU regulations or Canada, which also prohibits about 900 ingredients, the United States FDA, while founded in 1938, has only banned around 30 ingredients. This includes 11 ingredients in all cosmetics, 19 ingredients prohibited in antibacterial soaps (including triclosan and triclocarban), and microbeads under the Microbead-Free Waters Act of 2015. The FDA, unfortunately, does not require cosmetic products to have their ingredients approved before going to market by law with the exception of the 11 banned ingredients and color additives. At the moment, regulations are focused on adulteration and misbranding of product labeling under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA)

This is why, in an effort to drive more sustainable practices that protect not only the environment but also the consumer and fill in regulations gaps, many beauty brands and retailers are taking up the imperative task of implementing their own banned lists that align with EU regulations- the highest one banning more than 2800 ingredients. 

These four biggest beauty retailers, Detox Market, Credo, Sephora, and Ulta Beauty in the US are taking steps to set their own clean ingredient standards as retailers, acknowledging their role and responsibility to select and curate better products for consumers. 

The Detox Market: The Detox Market introduces its own banned ingredients list, an up-to-date index, and a guide on the ingredients that the retailer deems as not suitable to be in beauty products. The retailer shares that the pure ingredients, exceptional performance, and cruelty-free formulas are integral aspects of their standards and categorizes the ingredients on the banned list with an explanation of why the ingredients are banned for health safety and environmental reasons like carcinogen, reproductive harm, environmental harm, neurotoxicity, organ toxicity/irritation, DNA/cell damage, allergen, and endocrine disruption. 

Credo: Credo was born in 2014 with a mission to push forward the highest standards of clean beauty within the beauty industry by setting forth a strict prohibition list, labeled its Dirty List®, which contains over 2,700 specific ingredients commonly found in conventional beauty products that Credo recognizes as not meeting safety or sustainability standards. Compared with EU’s 2490 banned ingredients list and the US’s mere 30 ingredient list, Credo does offer the strongest standards amongst the US beauty retailers. 

Clean at Sephora: Clean at Sephora was introduced in 2018 to offer products that meet the criteria set forth, focusing on transparency, sourcing, and exclusion of ingredients that are scientifically proven to be potentially harmful to consumers and/or the environment. In 2022, Clean at Sephora added sustainability metrics called Clean + Planet Positive, the seal given to brands satisfying the criteria of climate commitment, sustainable sourcing, responsible packaging, and environmental giving. 

Ulta Beauty Conscious Beauty: Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty was introduced in 2020 with five categories, including, sustainability, vegan, cruelty-free, social impact, and clean ingredients. Ulta Beauty’s “Made Without List” ingredients compromises 37 which started with 29 ingredients and are listed based on the potential to have adverse health and/or environmental impacts. 

Ingredients in beauty products and other personal care products can be daunting for many as many of them are labeled with unrecognizable names to the common consumer. Because of this, we may not be aware of which ingredients may have adverse effects on our health and/or the environment. In many cases, we may expect as consumers that government bodies would take on the responsibility of ensuring that such ingredients are prohibited from use; however, for example, in the case of the US FDA, many ingredients remain allowed to be used in formulating most cosmetics and beauty products. As a result, consumers and the environment may be harmed by this oversight. That is why, many beauty brand retailers have made the impactful decision to implement their own banned ingredients lists with explanations, using the EU’s ingredient regulations as a guideline, and some even going above and beyond. These banned lists are empowering conscious consumers to choose from sustainable brands that care not only about the environment but also about the well-being of the consumer! Becoming educated about potentially harmful ingredients is now simpler thanks to these retailers who have done the research for you! 

CB Magazine

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