Clean beauty trend: does it have a future?

By Lucy Whitehouse

- Last updated on GMT

Clean beauty trend: does it have a future?
A backlash against the trend of ‘clean eating’ has begun. Does this mean the end for the clean beauty trend?

With a host of major food bloggers said to be ‘distancing’ themselves from the the - until now - hugely dominant trend of clean eating, we take a look at how this might impact on its sister trend of clean beauty.

What exactly is clean beauty?

Clean beauty is a generic term for a broad trend that is built on the popularity of ‘free from’ claims, responding to a rise in consumer interest in health, safety and wellness.

It ties together several major beauty consumer demands - such as naturals and organics, personalisation and niche beauty.

Last year, CosmeticsDesign spoke to the organiser of a clean beauty industry event in London, Clean Cult, who explained that the rise of clean beauty has followed on from the enthusiasm for clean eating, driven by food bloggers like Deliciously Ella.

If you're being conscious of what you’re eating - eating clean and making sure you’re not consuming anything processed - it’s a paradox not then to follow that through with what you’re putting on your skin​,” explained Dominika, co-founder of Clean Beauty Co.

clean beauty
Clean Beauty Co. Instagram

What’s gone wrong for clean eating?

In recent weeks, the backlash against clean eating has risen to prominence, with many public figures, including several directly engaged with food blogging, coming forward to criticise the movement.

Food journalist Ruby Tandoh, who rose to national prominence in the UK as a contestant on the popular Great British Bake Off television show, described clean eating as a ‘bad fad’ in a recent Guardian article.

We have an obsession with diets. With fad diets. There is no miracle cure, but there is a way to push back: call them as you see them. Wellness is a fad diet. Clean eating is a fad diet,​” she wrote.

A documentary by the country’s national broadcaster, the BBC, dubbed ‘Clean Eating - The Dirty Truth’,​ appears to have fuelled the string of food bloggers keen to distance themselves from the trend.

Indeed, one of the poster people for the movement and the woman picked out by Dominika of Clean Beauty Co. as an inspiration for clean beauty, Deliciously Ella, has even asserted that she never branded herself in this way. “I’ve never described myself as ‘clean’,” she said on a national morning radio show during January.  

Will it impact on clean beauty?

We caught up with Jamie Mills, a market analyst with research firm GlobalData (formerly Canadean), who explained it probably is time for beauty brands to drop the ‘clean’ label.

In light of the recent backlash towards clean eating, implying that some foods are “dirty” and potentially a driver of unhealthy or extreme diets in the quest to eat completely “clean”, there is a risk that “clean” could become a negative buzzword,​” she explains.

While it’s too early to say whether the clean eating trend will come to an abrupt end due to this, beauty brands should throw caution to the wind and focus on the unique aspects of their products offerings rather than explicating using the term ‘clean’.”

It doesn’t mean beauty plays need to ditch the potential of the wellness and naturals trend completely, however, and indeed, it may just be a case of rebranding.

“Given that clean beauty is essentially an extension of the move towards natural, formulatory cues such as “raw”, “fresh”, and “cold-pressed” can assist in strengthening a natural positioning in a novel way which aligns with many of the diets health-conscious consumers are following today, while not being explicitly associated with the “clean” terminology,​” Mills suggests.

Whether consumers really are done with clean claims remains to be seen, and certainly, it seems unlikely that the enormous global momentum behind naturals will let up anytime soon.

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