The Beauty Conversation That Needs to Be Had

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The Beauty Conversation That Needs to Be Had

The Beauty Conversation
That Needs to Be Had

As skirmishes debating the legitimacy of the entire clean beauty movement erupt around the internet, companies like goop and Beautycounter welcome the chance to address them with facts—on the steps they take in formulating without thousands of potentially harmful ingredients, communicating the science around their decisions, and advocating for change in the country’s laws. While a lemon-yellow bottle of hydrating vitamin C serum, a featherlight berry lip balm meets gloss, or a supercream for skin with flat-out-amazing results are enchanting whether you care about clean or not, the science that backs them up is powerful.


Two forms of vitamin C combine with turmeric in this ultrahydrating, brightening, skin-smoothing, sunny-looking daily serum.

With high-impact shine and beautiful pigment, this creamy gloss conditions your lips, too.

This luxuriously rich supercream significantly improves firmness, elasticity, glow, the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, and brightness after just four weeks. A single application leaves skin nourished, firmer-looking, and moisturized for forty-eight hours.

“Hopefully this backlash is leading us to a healthy discussion of an issue that’s really worth talking about,” says Beautycounter founder Gregg Renfrew. “It’s about our health, it’s about transparency, and it’s about making something science-backed and beautiful.”

Toward those ends, clean beauty companies like goop and Beautycounter are doing everything from employing PhDs to help develop both formulas and policies to advocating for change on Capitol Hill.

Editors’ Picks for Amazing-Looking Skin

Start with eye cream that delivers results as it smooths skin and plumps lines, smooth on a bestselling skin tint with SPF, and dab concealer on dark spots or blemishes—the result is no-makeup makeup that flatters every skin tone.

This clinically tested eye cream helps firm and smooth the appearance of crow’s-feet, fine lines, puffiness, and dark circles for a fresh, visibly well-rested look.

Glowy, translucent, and skin-perfecting, this tinted SPF 20 cream is the ultimate no-makeup makeup. (People will ask you why your skin looks so good.)

The concealer that fixes everything swiftly and nearly invisibly. It’s equally fantastic for breakouts and undereye circles.

“The root of the problem is in Washington, DC,” says Beautycounter’s senior vice president of mission, Lindsay Dahl. “Some of the criticism around clean beauty involves the fact that there’s no legal definition of ‘clean’—and we think that there should be, so we spend a lot of time trying to encourage members of congress to help create the systemic change that’s needed. What many critics don’t realize is that many marketing terms like ‘clinically tested,’ ‘pharmaceutical-grade,’ ‘dermatologist tested,’ ‘organic,’ and ‘natural’ also don’t have legal definitions. We think ‘clean’ should have a clear, real meaning—and in the absence of the government determining that, we’re transparent about what it means for us.” Note: At goop, we use many of these kinds of terms to describe products we sell. We use the word “organic” to describe products with the USDA organic seal on them, we use “clinically tested” to describe products that have undergone third-party clinical testing (here, for example, are the clinical results on our GOOPGENES face oil), and we use “dermatologist-tested” to describe products that have been tried and approved by an independent dermatologist.

Transparency around what’s in, say, a skin-transforming once-a-week overnight peel or a serum that feels like silk and delivers results like firming, smoothing, and decreasing lines and wrinkles seems simple enough, but even that leaves the consumer to navigate every ingredient on every label, rather than tasking the government with protecting that consumer.

The Serum We Can’t
Get Enough Of

Made with bakuchiol for retinol-like results, along with powerful peptides to increase skin’s firmness and elasticity, this also reduces the look of lines and wrinkles.

The Peel Pads That Changed Our Skin

An intense exfoliating overnight glycolic acid glow peel that refines, retexturizes, and brightens skin while you sleep.

The Everyday-Delight Cleanser

With phytic acid to gently exfoliate and squalane for a boost of moisture, this foamy cleanser leaves your skin soft and fresh.

Making decisions around which ingredients to avoid is only a small part of addressing what clean beauty can and should be; at goop, where we maintain some of the strictest clean standards in the industry, what works and what doesn’t evolves as new science emerges. How different clean ingredients can work together to make each other more powerful—for example, physical exfoliants in our Microderm exfoliant help the chemical ingredients penetrate and polish to an even greater degree—is important, as is understanding that the old beauty-industry argument that “the dose makes the poison” doesn’t hold true when you’re talking about endocrine disruptors (for some of them, there is no known safe dose). Even the way ingredients are processed can affect their safety.

The Bestselling Face Polish

This clinically proven microdermabrasion exfoliator delivers the benefits of both physical and chemical exfoliation, instantly polishing away roughness, smoothing uneven texture, and revealing a healthy-looking, glowing complexion.

“Our ‘never’ list is important to us,” says Dahl. “These are ingredients we don’t feel are safe to use. We start with ingredients other governments have banned for safety reasons, and then we look at studies—and more studies—and we check the science behind those studies. Meaning just because there’s one study that flags an ingredient as a problem, we don’t automatically ban that ingredient. An example would be the ingredient phenoxyethanol. There were two studies people were citing around it, and the first study wasn’t even on phenoxyethanol, and in the second, the science just wasn’t strong. So we don’t ban that ingredient. On the other hand, carbon black, an ingredient in mascaras and eyeliners, is something we feel strongly about leaving out of our formulas based on the science. And part of being science-backed, with our own scientists and in partnership with some at Tufts University, is staying open to new information as it comes along.”

The Eyeliner That Wakes Up Your Whole Face

This brilliantly easy-to-use, inky-black liquid eyeliner subtly defines eyes for natural drama or creates a gorgeous, bold cat-eye in seconds.

Equally important to the clean mission, Dahl says, is the focus on sustainability (the new pink glass packaging of the blockbuster Countertime collection is not just chic but much more easily recyclable than plastic) and on responsible sourcing. “We’ve physically visited every mica factory we use,” she says (much of the mica in cosmetics comes from sources that employ child labor). “Clean for us means safe for the people in the supply chain and making sure our packaging is doing right by the earth.”

For critics who accuse the clean beauty movement of fearmongering, Dahl doesn’t miss a beat. “Fear?” she says. “The beauty industry was built on fear—fear of looking old, or not old enough, or tired, or just not like everyone else. Being concerned about your own health, the health of others, and the health of the planet is something different altogether.”

Top Categories to Go Clean With First

Daily Hair Essentials

This unique whipped shampoo feels absolutely incredible in your hair and on your scalp; it leaves your hair soft, bouncy, and shiny.

Add gorgeous smoothness and shine with this hydrating mix of vitamins and fatty acids—it’s brilliant no matter what your hair type.

This chic pistachio-colored box contains four hair essentials: a classic boar-bristle brush, a detangling wide-tooth comb, a silkifying hair serum, and a generous, quick-drying microfiber hair towel.

This ultra-moisturizing mask works on dry, damaged, colored, or heat-treated hair to leave it nourished and noticeably gleamy.

Wondering where to add these into your routine? Have any other skin care questions? Message us at for personal assistance. 

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