Green Skin Care or Clean Skin Care, What’s the Difference?

Clean Beauty

Simply put, clean beauty means, “free of things that can harm you.” It’s been stated that 60% of what you apply to the skin makes its way into the blood stream and may even be filtered by the liver! This may give you pause and make you question the products you apply daily. Some of the skin care ingredients eliminated from clean beauty product may include:

  • Parabens
  • Synthetic fragrances
  • Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS)
  • Phthalates
  • Artificial colors
  • Formaldehyde
  • Aluminum compounds
  • Hydroquinone
  • Oxybenzone
  • Triclosan
  • Refined petroleum
  • Talc
  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)

Many of the skin care ingredients listed here have been known to cause rashes, blemishes, and other forms of irritation. Ingredients such as sodium lauryl sulphate can also be very drying to the skin. Synthetic fragrances can lead to headaches, coughing, wheezing, and skin irritation. Aluminum compounds are a common allergen and can cause redness and peeling of the skin.

Unfortunately, there is not much regulation in the United States when it comes to the cosmetics industry. There are only about 30 toxic ingredients banned in the United States, compared to 1,500 in Europe and 500 in Canada!1

You Are What You Eat

Clean beauty comes from the diet movement of clean eating and the concept that you are what you eat. When you consume natural whole foods instead of processed and synthetic foods, your skin will radiate. There are many diets on the market today that promote eating for beauty.

The eating for beauty movement has transcended what you put in your body, taking this concept a step further to include what you put on your body.

Green Sprouted from Cleanwoman surrounded by palm leaves

The word green is synonymous with natural, organic, or healthy and is often associated with a product or company made with sustainable resources. The green beauty movement often incorporates the use of renewable plant-based products and include natural oils and agricultural plans that are used to produce oils, emulsifiers, and alcohols. Some common skin care ingredients that are produced sustainably include:2

  • Fatty acids
  • Castor oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Some skin care ingredients that are not sustainable include:
  • BHA and BHT
  • Coal tars
  • Aluminum
  • DBP
  • Formaldehyde-releasing preservatives

Where Green and Sustainable Clash

Green beauty is amazing for the body and skin, but it is not always sustainable for the planet. Palm oil, essential oils, and other preferred skin care ingredients are natural resources that, when stripped from the landscape, can have a lasting impact on the environment. This is where the decision to use synthetic alternatives is made—and that’s not always a bad decision. A good example of this is fragrance. Producing a single pound of lavender essential oil can take roughly 250 pounds of lavender, while producing the same amount of rose can take roughly 10,000 pounds of rose petals. The effort and impact involved to get those raw materials compared to making a synthetic version of the fragrance shows that natural fragrances are not always more sustainable.3

About ASCP

For more than a decade, Associated Skin Care Professionals has been the ONLY all-inclusive source for comprehensive professional liability insurance, education, and community for estheticians who want to thrive in their career. ASCP membership comes with countless benefits for skin care professionals, students, business owners, and everyone in between.


1. Tara Foley, “Clean Beauty 101: Why It's Important and How to Get Started” accessed March 2022,

2., "Green Cosmetics: The Push for Sustainable Beauty," accessed March 2022,

3. M. Mcintyre, "The Hard Truth: Natural Ingredients Aren't Always the Most Sustainable," accessed March 2022,

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