What does clean skincare actually mean?

What does clean skincare actually mean?

The notion of clean skincare is, frankly, a minefield. What does it even mean? Does it mean organic? Non-toxic? Vegan? Ethical? All of the above? Only some? The answer is that there is no clear answer and no regulated definition of so-called clean skincare. It is a term bandied about without much thought or consideration, sometimes even irresponsibly so.  Regardless, it’s inclined to make us panic about what may or may not be in our skincare products.


The biggest problem with this lack of clarity is the spreading of myths and misinformation. In the UK we are fortunate that the cosmetics industry is well-regulated. Around 1,300 cosmetic ingredients are currently banned for use (compared to only 11 in the US). There are of course ingredients that, while legal, most people would prefer not to have in their moisturiser (preservatives, we’re looking at you). But that’s not to say that the formulations comprising almost exclusively organically-derived ingredients are best for our skin either. While these will do no harm, they shouldn’t overshadow the host of innovative science-led skincare formulas out there that are not only harmless to our complexions but can also seriously improve skin health. 


“With regard to the clean credentials of science-heavy skincare, brands now have to put their formulations through regular testing, as well as using any technology they can to make them as environmentally friendly as possible without having any toxic waste products as a result,” explains Dr Ross Perry, cosmetic doctor and founder of Cosmedics Skin Clinics.  


So what can we learn? Clean doesn’t need to mean organic; cutting-edge ingredients don’t need to mean toxic; medical-grade doesn’t need to translate to grubby and questionable ethics. And with this in mind, we’ve rounded up three of our favourite scientist- and medic-developed skincare brands. They fuse cutting-edge technology with excellent quality ingredients, a transparent ethos, and where possible sustainable values. Oh, and amazing results. We are very much having our (clean) cake and eating it right now…  



The Noble in this brand’s name refers to the fact that it was literally developed from the research of a Nobel-Prize-winning chemistry whizz. It eschews all smoke and mirrors and is pleasingly clear and simple. Its offering? Two lines, one cutting-edge delivery system. The Absolute Line is all about repairing and regenerating the skin, while the Brilliant collection focuses on preventing damage and protecting the complexion. Yes, the prices are somewhat eye-watering, but this is partly because of Noble Panacea’s unique delivery system — each precisely metered-out dose of product is individually packaged to maintain and maximise its efficacy. This is particularly interesting in three of the four Absolute products as they contain retinol. It’s arguably the most vital and scientifically substantiated active anti-ageing ingredient on the market, but notoriously quick to degrade. And if this makes your sustainability alarm bells ring, fear not — all the packaging is recyclable, with streamlined refills readily available. The cruelty-free brand is generally committed to ethics, having, what it calls, ingredient integrity (no parabens, silicones, mineral oil, phthalates, nitrates… the list goes on and is pretty exhaustive). 



Anyone with chronic skin issues will know that most dermatological brands which offer pharmaceutical-grade ingredients often struggle to guarantee that their products have not been tested on animals. Not so with Dermatica who, in their own words, champion “quality, transparency and efficacy”. This brand offers a very straightforward subscription prescription service. For a monthly fee, you get access to a collective of dermatologists, GPs and pharmacists who prescribe a skincare protocol tailored to you. And despite theirs being medical-grade scientific skincare solutions (whereby prescription ingredients are added to base creams), said ingredients are tested in state-of-the-art lab conditions rather than on animals, and are regularly subjected to systematic reviews by Dermatica’s research team.



Frequently topping lists of beauty editors’ favourite science-led skincare is 111Skin, founded in the Harley Street offices of facial plastic surgeon Dr Yannis Alexandrides. After noticing the healing benefits that glutathione — the body’s most powerful antioxidant — was having on his post-surgery patients, Dr Yannis developed a groundbreaking complex (channelled into a serum) called NAC Y2. He combined glutathione with other ingredients to ultimately improve the skin’s collagen and elastin production. Today, this ethos of taking the healing ingredients that are already in our bodies and clinically developing them with state-of-the-art technology to improve the complexion remains at the heart of 111Skin. What’s more, ingredients are transparently listed on its website. The brand is also recognised by Positive Luxury. They awarded 111Skin the Butterfly Mark of Brands to Trust for its commitment to conscious consumerism, ethical trading, sustainability, anti-animal testing, and philanthropy. 

How to pretend you’re in… New Zealand How to pretend you’re in… New Zealand  How to pretend you’re in… New Zealand 
How to pretend you’re in… New Zealand