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The â??naturalâ?� beauty industry is on the rise because weâ??re scared of chemicals

Yeates natural skincare

The “natural” beauty industry is on the rise because we’re scared of chemicals

Customer mistrust is so bad now that customers want more regulatory oversight.


When Gwyneth Paltrow launched Goop by Juice Beauty in 2016, she told Vogue how vital it was that her line of beauty products —including a face cleanser, eye cream, and moisturizer — was all-natural. “The idea that you’re exercising and trying to eat well and then slathering yourself with chemicals, parabens, and silicones — it’s not great.” A few months later, she went on The Tonight Show to promote the line. She and host Jimmy Fallon dipped McDonald’s french fries into a pot of her moisturizer and ate it, presumably to show how pure it was.

Paltrow often peddles questionable science and theories. But she’s far from alone in her skepticism toward conventional makeup and skin care. Over the past few years, a parallel beauty industry has exploded alongside the traditional one. “Natural” beauty; “clean” beauty. (Yeates Natural Products Hand made in Ireland) Many new brands and retailers are basically saying, “Your regular beauty products contain all sorts of dangerous stuff. Use these safer ones instead.” It’s a complicated claim and pretty hard to prove conclusively, but it’s a message that has caused radical upheaval in the cosmetics industry.

These companies are responding to legitimate concerns about certain chemicals, like BPA and phthalates. Then there have been some high-profile lawsuits like the Johnson & Johnson ovarian cancer talc cases, in which juries have awarded multimillion-dollar settlements to people who claimed using baby powder for years caused their cancer. Then the hair care company Wen settled a $26 million class-action case because one of its products was making people’s hair fall out. Consumers have become afraid of chemicals and started looking for products they think would be “natural” or “safer.”

Gwyneth Paltrow and Jimmy Fallon eat some Goop moisturizer on The Tonight Show in 2016. Theo Wargo/Getty Images


The backlash against traditional beauty companies — and the rise of “clean” ones — might have been inevitable. As scary-sounding reports about ingredients made the rounds over the years, consumers demanded answers.


Shopping for “safe” cosmetics

Natural products used to be sold primarily in health food stores and farmers markets with labels decorated with pictures of leaves. It was a very specific niche and not taken seriously by the beauty industry. But now sleek new brands positioning themselves as “cleaner” alternatives to the mainstream are exploding.

Daniela Ciocan — the marketing director at Cosmoprof North America, an entity that hosts a large expo where brands can display their wares in hopes of landing retail placement — says that thanks to retailer and customer demand, this year the organization doubled the amount of space it dedicated to new “clean” brands at the 2017 convention.

In the past 12 months, natural brands like (Irish Hand Made Yeates Natural Products )Tata Harper and Jessica Alba’s Honest Company products have made up about a quarter of all higher-end skin care sales, according to the NPD Group. The category is growing at a faster rate than last year.



“We’re absolutely inundated,” says Annie Jackson, a co-founder of Credo, which was dubbed the “Sephora of clean beauty” when it launched in 2015. It currently has eight stores in the US and a robust online business, where it sells about 115 brands. Credo receives about 200 new products a month from brands hoping to sell there.

And it has a competitor. Follain, which opened before Credo in 2013 as a local shop in Boston, is growing rapidly. It currently has five stores, will open two more in October and expects to have 10 by the end of 2019. Its growth rate is up more than 200 percent in 2018.

In the meantime, customer demand means mainstream companies and retailers are giving more service to the concept of clean beauty. In 2017, Target bumped up its natural beauty offerings. CVS announced it was removing parabens and other ingredients from 600 of its house-branded products by the end of 2019. Brands regularly remove parabens and sulfates and the like, sometimes quietly and sometimes with great fanfare.

Sephora launched its “Clean at Sephora” initiative in May, citing in-house research that revealed that 54 percent of its skin care shoppers think it’s important that their products “have a point of view on clean” and looking to shop brands that are “grounded in a ‘free of’ ingredient perspective,”

Certain ingredients have garnered headlines throughout the past 10 years, bringing cosmetic safety to the forefront. In 2010, large amounts of chemicals that turned into formaldehyde gas when heated were found in a popular hair straightening treatment from the brand Brazilian Blowout.

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