Clean vs Green vs Natural Beauty: What it Really Means

You’ll find a lot of words thrown around in the beauty world, these days such as ‘clean beauty’, ‘green beauty’, ‘organic’ and ‘natural beauty’. From brands to consumers to beauty editors, these are the buzzwords on literally everyone’s tongues. 

Now while they seem to be the same thing, they’re very different. So, let’s clear the air and find out what is what!


Clean Beauty

First up, ‘clean beauty’. To keep it simple, when a brand claims to be ‘clean’ it means that they use non-toxic ingredients and their products are, as a result, non-toxic as well. You’ll often find that products that are ‘clean’ don’t use controversial ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, SLS among others. Clean ingredients are not necessarily natural – they could be lab made too.

It’s important to realise that there isn’t a proper definition for what comes in clean beauty. Just because a product or brand is clean does not mean it is sustainable or vegan or cruelty free. It just means that the products most probably won’t react with your skin or break you out. 

Ingredients such as essential oils, silicones, drying alcohols, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), chemical sunscreens, and fragrances and dyes are considered controversial for a variety of reasons. While parabens, sulfates and phthalates are generally not found in ‘clean’ products, the others may or may not be present.

Using ‘clean’ products have their benefits. By staying clear of possibly toxic ingredients, you’re avoiding causing redness, irritation and damage to the skin. 

Natural Beauty

Next up, ‘natural beauty’. The term ‘natural’ in the beauty industry refers to the purity of the ingredients uses. You won’t find a lot of synthetic or lab-made ingredients and chemicals in natural beauty. Here the focus and emphasis are on using ingredients found in nature. ‘Natural beauty’ favours nature-derived ingredients. This doesn’t mean its vegan! Lanolin is a very good example of a natural product found in sheep wool. 

‘Natural beauty’ tends to feature botanical oils, essential oils, butters such as shea butter and beeswax among others. Now just because a product is ‘natural’ doesn’t always mean it is safe to use. Certain naturally derived ingredients are well-known irritants. Essential oils, for example, can cause some aggressive reactions. Poison Ivy is a great example of a naturally occurring plant that you would most definitely would not want to rub onto your skin! So, ‘natural’ does not mean ‘clean’. Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean that ‘natural beauty’ is harmful or bad in any way. It’s just not meant for everyone and you should always patch test products and see what works for your skin and what doesn’t!

‘Natural beauty’ may or may not be cruelty-free or vegan. Most brands do tend to be cruelty-free but it is not necessary. 

Green Beauty

Last but not the least, ‘green beauty’. ‘Green beauty’ emphasizes sustainability and environmentally responsible practices. Green beauty and sustainable beauty are terms that can be used interchangeably. For more information about green and sustainable beauty, check out our article on the same!

The push for green, natural and clean beauty is a result of increasing environmental awareness and because consumers today are more conscious about their health and social responsibilities. To tap into the frenzy, many brands often spend more time advertising themselves as ‘green’, ‘clean’ or ‘natural’ when they really aren’t so. This is called greenwashing. A sound understanding of these buzzwords should hopefully help you see through the marketing!