Since the start of the pandemic, more ecologically and socially responsible brands have emerged. Dr Gladys Teo, head of R&D at Est.lab, says: “Covid-19 has affected the way consumers purchase. They are more aware of their health and environmental issues, and are subconsciously showing their support for these causes by choosing clean, eco-friendly and sustainable products.”
Armed with more information, mindful consumers are demanding eco-friendly products. In response, companies are developing clean products that are free from harmful ingredients such as fragrances, parabens, alcohols and sulphates (SLS and SLES). They are also creating products using biotech ingredients that are sustainably produced, with lesser impact on the earth’s resources.
Take Chanel’s latest essential N°1 de Chanel range for example. The range contains 97 per cent ingredients of natural origin, and its main ingredient, the red camellia is efficiently used in every part of the product, even the lids of its jars. The brand also reduced its packaging by volume, and removed its cellophane coverings and printed instructions.
The N°1 de Chanel range by Chanel contains 97 per cent ingredients of natural origin.
Newly launched in Singapore at Freia Aesthetics, Italian-based Pietro Simone Skincare runs in the same vein, with strict laboratory tests performed on skincare that is made without silicones, phthalates, parabens or synthetic fragrances. The brand is constantly reformulating its existing products to meet these requirements when novel solutions are discovered.
Founder Pietro Simone explains: “Clean beauty is a process of respecting the product formulation. It is an awareness of active ingredients and the process of removing chemicals which are not necessary at all.”
Brands like Bioeffect have gone further, bioengineering products with effective ingredients harvested from barley to recreate epidermal growth factors (EGF), a collagen-boosting protein that naturally occurs in human skin.
RISE OF ‘CLEANICAL’ PRODUCTS
Doctor-backed brands have also formulated products that meet these clean standards. They take the extra step to ensure that their products are clinically tested and support scientific claims.
Dr Georgia Lee, whose DrGL range is clean and cruelty-free, says: “Our skincare line is created without the 1,400 products that are banned in the EU. We also take the next step of being mindful of raw ingredients and their sources.” The brand’s Cosmos Scrub is free from microbeads that harm the ocean and, instead, uses milled cellulose, argan seed and luffa with French rose petals to exfoliate and refine dull skin. Even its paper packaging is biodegradable.
Dermatologist Dr Teo Wan Lin of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre is also the founder of her own range of skincare under Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals. She is fusing her dermatology background and knowledge of botany with her skin pharmacy. “We focus on functional dermatology, replacing prescription drugs with pharmaceutically active botanicals.”
A caveat from skincare experts: Natural ingredients do not always mean better.
The plus? Quality and control. “As we manufacture cosmeceuticals in bulk for our main brand Dr.TWL Dermaceuticals, we have direct access to reliable suppliers of raw materials. This enables quality and understanding of where our ingredients really come from.” Her practice allows her to create small batches in-house, and this reduces overall waste from packaging that comes with bulk production.
Dr Teo’s sustainable product is her Berberine Acne Treatment. Using an organic berberine extract with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, the treatment is applied over a reusable polysaccharide mask, and helps reduce acne scarring and control sebum production. The eco-friendly vegetal mask is made without chemical additives, and is reusable for seven days and fully biodegradable.
THE FUTURE OF BEING SUSTAINABLE
Currently, there are limits to sustainability in manufacturing processes, supply chain, sourcing, and even with logistics.
Many people think that all natural is better – that’s not necessarily true. Dr Lee is sceptical adding: “It depends on what yardstick we are comparing these products against.”
Dr Lee says that mindset and education are huge barriers. To her, being clean is a given, and using natural ingredients is great, but the buck stops when it comes to ensuring that products are tamper-free and have hygienic packaging. “We can be as sustainable as far as possible, but from a medical perspective, efficacy and safety are of utmost importance.”
Dr Gladys Teo concurs: “Quite often, consumers view natural products as clean and sustainable, and use them as interchangeable terms. But in fact, these terms can be mutually exclusive, and natural ingredients do not always mean better.”
She strongly believes in the use of lab-cultured ingredients via biotechnology to minimise impact on the natural ecosystem. “Sustainable alternatives that meet the demands of our consumers, while minimising the negative impact on our environment, are the key.”
Finally, beauty innovators also need accountability. Pietro observes: “People are demanding clarity in a saturated beauty market that promises ‘miracles’. The only way forward for skincare brands is to provide customers with the transparency that they want.”
In the meantime, scroll on to get acquainted with the labels often thrown around when one talks about “clean beauty”.