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The Making of a Clean Beauty Line Series

Launching a clean beauty line has led me on a journey of meeting a range of smaller boutiques to the biggest manufacturers, natural fragrance houses, chemists, formulators, packaging consultants, ingredient suppliers and producers from around the world.

I am taking these natural beauty and clean beauty topics to a more authentic level by uncovering many years of research sharing a roundup of the perspectives from my interviews and consultations with global leaders in product development behind the scenes. This information reveals the truth and a more accurate definition of clean beauty and natural beauty. 

Whether you are interested in learning more about what clean beauty really is or planning to launch your very own clean beauty product line, this article will be very helpful.

There are many articles defining these topics, so it was important to me to provide much more insight and value that goes far beyond the marketing messages to consumers or the beauty writer’s definition. My opinion stems both from my own authentic professional perspective and my investigative diary on how to create a nontoxic, natural, clean beauty hair and skin care product line.

Dreaming of my own natural beauty brand

My dream of launching a beauty brand has been in the making for a very long time. For over 20 years I have been developing and testing ingredients in formulas on my celebrity and supermodel clients behind the scenes on magazine photoshoots and during glam appointments for red carpet jobs as a professional hair stylist, men’s groomer and licensed cosmetologist (the study of hair, skin and nails).

2016 became the year that the wheels set in motion to develop a clean beauty product brand and the wisdom acquired along the way has been incredibly valuable, inspiring and eye opening.

I am excited to share with you all the juicy and noteworthy details on my wild adventure in this series called The Making of a Clean Beauty Line.

Uncompromisable Values

My vision related to brand values is uncompromisable! In my product development conversations I have experienced countless lectures with attempts to sway me away from my core values and not pursue a clean beauty product concept because its ingredients are more expensive and limited. Also because natural preservatives are more complicated for testing the stability of formulations. Another big reason is because there still is a very large market of consumers who do not buy clean products.

Though these concerns are very true, I am proud to say that I stand strong with my values, so the line I develop will be clean or there will be no line at all of what I will call my own. The idea of being passionate about recommending products that are not in alignment with an ingredient list that I would be excited and trust to use on my own skin and hair every single day doesn’t make any sense to me. 

I personally have been a consumer of natural and nontoxic beauty products before “clean beauty” became buzzworthy. As an authentic consumer myself I know what we clean beauty enthusiasts really want. 

Yes, more profits are possible by not going the clean beauty route… but at my core I’m not interested only in profits. 

I envision being surrounded by a community of forward thinking muses who are co-creating a culture of a more mindful world for themselves, their loved ones and the collective. A line that is chic on the vanity shelf and feels like a dream with every ritualistic immersion. A line that celebrates and honors our truest sense of inner beauty.

What is clean beauty? | The most truthful definition based on world leading professional perspectives from manufacturers to ingredient producers 

I am going to give you one of the most honest and well researched definitions of what is clean beauty based on my decades of experience as an industry professional and interviewing world leaders in all aspects of ingredient and product formulations from chemists to ingredient suppliers. This is important as there is a lot of misinformation on this topic.

Here is the bottom line after investigating the meaning of clean beauty.

Every beauty brand, manufacturer, ingredient supplier and consumer has their own unique definition of clean beauty or natural beauty. While definitions vary, most agree that clean beauty encompasses safe ingredients, sustainability, transparency and ethics. Most brands that market their products as clean beauty are not 100% clean, 100% nontoxic, nor 100% natural. Since clean beauty is also about transparency, it is important to note that I had manufacturers explain to me that not all ingredients in a bottle are always listed on the ingredient list. Also depending on the ingredient processing protocols, some clean or natural ingredients are considered toxic, but you wouldn’t know from the label.

Let’s dive into more details.

How to tell if a product is clean? The ultimate research checklist.

  • Ingredients list 
  • “Fragrance” type
  • Brand trust
  • Raw ingredient processing protocols 
  • Preservative system
  • Product and ingredient packaging
  • Reverse engineer composition or stability testing

Research the ingredients list

Start with analyzing the ingredients list as they will be more truthful than the marketing messages on the packaging. A quick online search of any questionable ingredients will help clarify what some of those mystery ingredients are. Use websites or apps that educate about product and ingredient safety, like EWG’s Skin Deep.

“Fragrance” of “Parfum” Type

No legal requirement is in place to disclose the ingredients that make up the word “fragrance” or “parfum” on ingredient labels found in beauty products and household products. Approximately 95-100% of the ingredients hidden behind the word fragrance are synthetic (manmade). 

There is medical research that the word “fragrance” on an ingredient label is worth reconsidering

Author of ‘Get a Whiff of This: Perfumes (Fragrances) – The Invisible Chemical Poisons’ Connie Pitts explained, “Perfumes, colognes, and many other scented products contain an abundance of harmful chemicals, many of which are listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List. They also include numerous carcinogenic chemicals, neurotoxins, respiratory irritants, solvents, aldehydes, hundreds of untested and unregulated petro-chemicals, phthalates (which can act as hormone disruptors), narcotics, and much more.”

Brand Trust

Ask yourself, do I trust this brand and the examination they have for making sure their values are in sync with their partnerships including their manufacturers and their ingredient suppliers? Could there be hidden ingredients in this product that are not listed on the packaging? Ask questions to their customer support teams for more clarity.

Ingredient processing protocols

Do the ingredients have questionably toxic processing protocols like a hexane chemical extraction or harsh chemical pesticides on the raw ingredients? 

Oil Extraction

One time I bought a rose hip seed oil from Wholefoods and the first time I used it I knew something wasn’t right. So I examined the bottle and realized that the packaging did not mention it was cold pressed. I knew instantly what was the problem. A product that seemed so harmless because it was simply just 100% rose hip seed oil was actually processed in a toxic oil extraction process called Hexane. My sensitive skin knew the product wasn’t safe and communicated this to me by leaving behind a minor rash.

Organic vs Non-organic

Another thing to consider is whether or not the raw ingredients in the formula were grown as organic or have the ingredients been treated with harsh pesticides and fungicides? I would love to think that organic ingredients are the best choice even though sometimes the term organic can also be misleading and misused as well.

Natural ingredients vs naturally derived

Ingredients that are naturally derived have a starting point dependent on natural ingredients (plants; seeds, roots, herbs, flowers, minerals or animal by-products); however, they are altered by a chemical reaction.

​​Preservative System

Consider whether this product has a great natural preservative system that actually works or do I need to refrigerate the bottle to help the preservation. Some products like oils do not have preservatives, in this case we do not want to have our fingers in contact with the ingredients inside the bottle to prevent the formula from getting in contact with germs.

Many clean beauty products will utilize a synthetic chemical preservation system to prevent unwanted decay of the product for better assurance.

Product and raw ingredient packaging containers

Simply put, packaging can have toxic chemicals which leach into your formula. Some glass could have lead; while some plastic could contain BPA.

In my product formulation adventure at my home artisanal lab I have ordered glass vials for creating samples that were recommended by a trustworthy source for lab formulators. To my surprise when the package arrived the box had a warning label from the manufacturer that disclosed that the glass contained lead. The product was advertised to be used for formulating beauty products and nowhere on the product listing online did it indicate that the glass contained lead or any other toxic materials.

This horrifying experience has changed my game plan for choosing my own product line packaging and lab equipment. I have purchased lead testing kits and now always swab the glass before deciding to implement any glass into my business.

Consider testing packaging or formulas with a very affordable lead testing kit or a not so cheap Phthalates and BPA test kit or look for packaging labeled BPA free.

Chemical composition analysis and testing

The best way to get the most accurate analysis to know the true composition and impurities that are in a formula or ingredient, involves chemical composition testing and analysis utilizing a sample of the product.

Obtaining a reliable impurity profile can also assist with product development and help resolve manufacturing issues.

Clean beauty vs cleaner beauty?

There are many reasons why brands would want to have marketing claims of clean beauty who are not 100% clean. Many brands are trying to clean up their formulas because they see the growing demands of this market. 

I see that some brands utilize clean ingredients to replace some of the old school ingredients which have had a bad reputation but still use a couple of questionable ingredients in the formula. 

For example, a harsh preservative may be used to ensure the stability of a product from growing mold as some industry opinions believe that the very small amount of preservative is safer than the risk of rubbing mold into our skin. Another good reason is for instant gratification as a synthetic toxic ingredient may give a desired result. One more great reason why formulators opt for not so healthy ingredients is because these ingredients are drastically cheaper. Non-toxic ingredients come at a premium price.

I walked into the Beautycounter store in SoHo, Manhattan recently and spoke with the lovely salesperson there and she mentioned that everything in the store is clean. I did what I always do with beauty products and looked at their ingredients on the packaging. I noticed some questionable ingredients and asked the salesperson about them. Her reply told a different story. She replied well, we are “cleaner” than most products. 

With a little investigation it is revealed that most marketing messages labeled “clean” really should be called “cleaner” as most brands really are just “cleaner”. 

Why choose clean beauty?

There are an overwhelming amount of toxic chemicals in beauty products and finally consumers are becoming aware and mindful with their purchasing power. Consumers have the power to change the industry by investing our money into safer product formulations which then helps to hike the demand for brands to adapt to our cleaner desires.

I personally choose clean beauty with even more of a focus on organic natural ingredients because I know that the ingredients are safer and healthier for our bodies and the planet. 

Though not every single product that I use is considered clean, I do make a special effort to make my daily products as safe as possible.

What are the requirements for clean beauty?

There is not a clean beauty claim regulation that sets the standards. Brands have their own definition of what they consider clean. 

The notion is that clean beauty should be non-toxic and free from questionable ingredients including sulfates, phthalates, parabens and synthetic fragrances.

There are organizations that have their own requirements to receive their certifications that strive for nontoxic beauty standards which include EWG’s Skin Deep and ECOCERT. Both are worth checking out.

I do recall that when I inquired about how to get a product EWG Skin Deep Verified, it was brought to my attention from their staff that they just look at the ingredient list and there is not an actual audit of how much of each ingredient is used in the product, also a test is not required proving there are not any impurities. So this is a great certification if you trust the label and the brand.

A great resource for keeping up with new requirements and regulations for the cosmetic industry is Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The high demand for clean beauty products

I recently attended the New York Society of Cosmetic Chemists Suppliers’ Day trade show which is now my new favorite industry trade show. I met with hundreds of cosmetic ingredients suppliers from around the world and discovered some ingredients that I am beyond excited to test out in formulations. 

The interesting point to note is that almost every single supplier booth had a marketing message promoting their clean and natural beauty ingredients and some of the salespeople spoke about how clean beauty ingredients are very much in demand now and the industry is adapting.

How great to imagine this industry making drastic changes to be safer! 

What is natural beauty vs clean beauty?

I jumped on a plane to meet a manufacturer on the West Coast who is well known for being one of the biggest natural beauty manufacturers in the world. I had the pleasure of sitting at the owner’s desk and speaking with him for almost 2 hours devouring his advice on how to start a natural beauty brand and note taking so much my hand was sore by the end.

I will never forget our conversation regarding the word natural after he heard all of my dreams about starting a natural line. He said, “Well, what is your definition of natural? Everyone has a different definition of natural. You know of course a lot of products contain mostly water and water technically isn’t natural as it goes through chemical processing”. 

– Words from a leading natural beauty manufacturer owner

He also mentioned there are many natural elements that are considered highly toxic. So in that case of course natural doesn’t alway mean better or healthy.

This was a moment where I really had to sit with his perspective and thought that I too need to formulate my own personal definition of natural as it pertains to natural beauty. Even the type of water counts. 

The term clean beauty is much more in alignment with the nontoxic concept while natural beauty doesn’t necessarily strive for nontoxic final formulations as a whole.

Go clean beauty founders and enthusiasts! Go!

My love and respect goes out to all the clean beauty creators and enthusiasts as they are making a shift for the entire industry to become “cleaner”. Close your eyes and imagine a world where consumers didn’t have to worry about whether or not our beauty rituals are harmonious to our health? Let’s visualize this shift and help the world evolve to a healthier place where beauty can shine inside and out.

Want more Inner Beauty Wellness stories? Read next: How to Manifest Your Dreams to Come True Inspired by a Beauty Artist Manifestation Story

Are you a clean beauty enthusiast or clean beauty product founder? Let us know in the comments what more you would love us to write about on Documentary Beauty in the comments below. We have some really cool stories dropping soon. Sign up for our newsletter to be the first to know when they drop!




get in, you’re invited… 


Issue 01

Street Style Beauty

Shockcore or main character energy? From creative hair color to interesting makeup,…

You’re the muse of my dreams! Sending some love and good vibes your way! Thank you for being an important part of this beautiful community! Learn all the ways to support DB to help make the dream thrive! We hope you are enjoying our beauty expert curated advice and learning about the recommended products that we truly love! We value transparency and want to let you know that some of the links in this post may be affiliate links. This means that DB will collect a small share of the sale from any purchase you make from the products at no cost to you. Your support is valued!

Disclaimer:  This article may share links to various symptoms reported by millions of people; however, we do not make any claims as to the cause-and-effect relationship between ingredients and disease nor product ingredient regulations, etc. Information on this website is not intended to be used as legal or medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a legal or medical professional for advice.

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Kayla MiChele
Kayla MiChele

Kayla MiChele is a celebrity and fashion beauty artist who is interviewed in the pages of Vogue Italia featuring her as top talent in the world. Her work is in prestigious editorials from Harper’s Bazaar to W to Vogue with clients for fashion brands ranging from Tom Ford to Chanel. Kayla's beauty expert collaborations include indie clean beauty brands to leading cosmetic brands Estée Lauder to L'Oréal. She began her career assisting hair stylist Guido Palau backstage at fashion shows from Louis Vuitton to Marc Jacobs. Since then, she has worked with top models and iconic artists including Vanessa Hudgens, A$AP Rocky, Jared Leto, Joan Smalls, Hailey Bieber, and Gigi Hadid.

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