Your Guide to Clean Korean Beauty
Now you have probably heard of the term ‘Clean Beauty’ being tossed around in the realm of beauty recently. When we think of this word, we would assume that the first things to come to mind can be cruelty-free, vegan-friendly, environmentally sustainable, non-toxic, paraben-free, products with no addition of fragrances, natural beauty ingredients, you name it! Sometimes, we can also start imagining recyclable, green bottles with minimalist lettering and so on- the list goes on. But what does clean beauty actually mean? Is it just a new term that divides our beloved beauty products into good and bad, toxic and non-toxic? Is it really crucial for us to have a clean beauty routine and essentially purge out everything else that isn’t?
To answer all your burning questions, today we will break down clean beauty and tell you all the basics of what it is, examples of commonly found ingredients to avoid and some of our top picks to build or include in your clean beauty routine!
What is Clean Beauty?
Clean beauty can be defined as any product that has been created without the addition of any proven or suspected ingredients that can be toxic or harmful to our bodies. It includes products that have been ethically sourced, generally they consist of plant-based ingredients that are safe for long-term usage and environmentally friendly. The easiest analogy is to think of using clean beauty like how we are nourishing our bodies by consuming healthy diets rich in vitamins, as opposed to heavily processed food.
Contrary to popular belief that clean beauty is being 100% perfect- all natural, organic, chemical-free and so on, it is actually a lot simpler than it seems. Did you know that even the effort to list out every ingredient, transparency and using proper labels is a step towards the right path of clean beauty? Apart from that, incorporating clean beauty products into your routine can significantly reduce your risk of getting skin irritations, exposure to potentially carcinogen ingredients and hormone disruptors which can pose harmful effects in the long run.
What is Vegan Beauty?
Vegan beauty, just as its name goes, is any skin care or makeup products that do not include the use of any animal products, animal by-products or its derivatives. Vegan beauty is generally cruelty-free and uses purely plant-based or scientifically-engineered ingredients to deliver different beauty products. Because they exclude animal-derived ingredients, a large majority of vegan beauty products are safe to use on all skin types, including sensitive skin.
If vegan beauty uses skin friendly and safe ingredients, does that mean they are the same as clean beauty? While there is some overlap between them in the sense that vegan beauty is generally perceived as being ‘cleaner’, hypoallergenic, skin-friendly and gentle; however, not all vegan beauty brands exclude additional ingredients such as parabens, preservatives or artificial fragrances and colouring. Clean beauty is not always 100% vegan either due to the presence of micro organisms that grow during the making of skin care or makeup products such as through fermentation process, or using ingredients such as collagen, glycerin, and so on.
Some Ingredients to Avoid
We know that our skin and ultimately our bodies absorb whatever we apply topically or consume, this means that by constantly exposing your skin to known irritants in the long term your skin can develop sensitivity as its barrier is weakened, leading to skin conditions such as dermatitis, flakiness and troubled skin. The good news is, this can all be prevented simply by incorporating a range of skin-friendly, non-toxic skincare, body care and makeup products that are free from harmful additives! But how, and where do I start?
The first step to build a great clean beauty routine is to start by checking the labels if your beauty products to ensure that they do not contain any of these so-called ‘toxic’ ingredients. These ingredients are labeled as ‘toxic’ because they can pose adverse effects to our overall health and well-being when used in the long term. Here, we will touch on each of these commonly found ingredients, what they are used for and why they are harmful. You might be surprised to see that some seemingly harmless ingredients can potentially wreak havoc on your skin, but fret not! It’s better to know sooner than later, right?
A commonly found preservative and antimicrobial chemical to prevent the formation mould and bacteria in your beauty products, keep it fresh and prolong its shelf life. When absorbed by our bodies, parabens can mimic the female hormone estrogen and long-term use may cause harm to reproductive organs, thyroid and even cause certain cancers.
Artificial Fragrances and Phthalates
When we think of fragrances, the first thing that would probably pop in our minds would be perfumes or anything that makes beauty products smell pleasant. However, the ‘bad’ type of fragrance here which often goes hand in hand with phthalates. In cosmetics, phthalates are primarily used in perfumes, nail polish, hair spray, shampoo and moisturizers. The problem with these is that they can trigger allergies and asthma attacks especially in those who are hypersensitive.
Sulfates are cleansing agents that we can find in shampoo, soap or other cleansers. They work by forming lather to quickly remove impurities and sebum from the skin. Sulfates can either be naturally derived from coconut or plant oils, or synthetically made. Apart from stripping away moisture, some studies have shown that sulfates can irritate the eyes and skin.
While this word may not pop out too often, you may know formalin, which is a preservative formed when formaldehyde is dissolved in water. Formaldehyde is commonly used for hair smoothing treatments or in keratin treatments. While this ingredient may pose a risk to you by irritating your eyes, nose and throat, the group of people with the highest risk of health issues from formaldehyde inhalation is beauticians, salon technicians or stylists who work in enclosed spaces.
What Brands Should I be Looking for?
Now comes the part you have been waiting for. With a list of all the ‘bad ingredients’ stated above, then what should I be using? For starters, look for honest brands that promote transparency of ingredients. Some of our favourites include (but not limited to) the following:
Simple, minimalistic Korean beauty is the way to go and ONE THING is here to help! All of ONE THING's products are made with one star ingredient to heal common skin ailments ranging from dehydration, oiliness, redness, acne, wrinkles and so on. Using natural ingredients like Artemisia, Centella asiatica, Houttuynia cordata, Honey; or even scientifical ingredients like Hyaluronic Acid, Niacinamide this clean, skin-friendly Korean beauty brand is one that you should try! Also, did we mention that the bottles are oh-so-Instagrammable?
A K-Beauty must have for oily, troubled, sensitive skin – COSRX! Yes, this cult-favourite brand is also a clean beauty brand. COSRX products are formulated with simple, effective and safe active ingredients that target skin troubles. They incorporate scientifical ingredients like hyaluronic acid with natural ingredients such as fruit acids, centella asiatica, mugwort, and propolis. On top of that, this dermatologically-tested brand has various new product lines to suit your skin’s needs, ranging from AC Collection, Hydrium, Propolis, and Pure Fit Cica.
Raise your hands if you have heard of DEAR KLAIRS or KLAIRS! This globally adored brand is probably one of the most popular clean beauty brands out there. With a strong commitment to deliver skin-friendly, safe and highly functional ingredients, KLAIRS has proven that harnessing the power of simple, mild ingredients can produce pretty great products! Now, with a mission to become a fully vegan brand, KLAIRS has gained trust from their users for their effective beauty products without the addition of harmful chemicals, parabens, artificial fragrances or colouring.
If you are a fan of everything natural, you should try I’M FROM! Like KLAIRS, I’M FROM is a brand under Wishcompany as well with a promise to provide customers with ingredient transparency in all their products. Inspired by traditional Korean remedies, I’M FROM brings the best ingredients from nature such as mugwort, honey, ginseng, rice, fig and sea buckthorn to solve any skin concerns! This natural brand also free from harmful additives, parabens and artificial colouring; giving it a safe, non-irritating formula that can be used on all skin types.
Has it ever occurred to you that much like the idea of clean eating and healthy diet, clean beauty also means using mainly plant-based ingredients? ISNTREE believes in the use of clean, pure, honest, plant-based ingredients in skincare, leaving out everything else that could potentially irritate or wreak havoc on our skin. Using ingredients derived from pristine islands of Korea, ISNTREE pursues natural, clean beauty with reliable beauty ingredients and using eco-friendly, minimal packaging which benefits you and the environment too! All ingredients in ISNTREE products have gone through rigorous heavy metal test, dermatological test with strict quality control, all for safer, better and effective skincare.
Launched by Pyunkang Yul Oriental Medicine Clinic in South Korea, PYUNKANG YUL is a brand that believes in the power of minimalism. By using only the most essential ingredients, they are able to omit everything else like colouring, fragrances, harsh preservatives and harmful chemical additives. Aside from that, these products have hypoallergenic, non-irritating formula that can also be used on those with very sensitive skin, even children and babies.
MAKE P:REM – just the right amount of everything your skin needs! With simple, pure natural ingredients such as Arctic raspberry, birch sap and peat water, this beauty brand has a core focus of delivering effective solutions through the use of minimal ingredients. MAKE P:REM’s ingredients have been certified by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), meaning it has met the high health standards set by the EWG, free from any harmful chemicals and are fully transparent in terms of their ingredient list! With this in mind, it means that you won’t have to stress about the safety of what you are putting on your skin. With a belief in the power of plant-based ingredients to transform your skin, MAKE P:REM is well on its way to becoming a fully vegan-friendly brand!
Who says having a clean body and hair care routine has to be difficult? If you feel overwhelmed by the sheer number of brands and range of products in the market, and find yourself getting really confused with the different scientifical ingredient names and so on, you are not alone! AROMATICA is our top choice for clean body and hair care product, with their promise of delivering clean, eco-friendly, vegan and environmentally sustainable beauty products. These products are good not just for you, but also for the planet!
Clean beauty is not so hard after all isn’t it? By staying informed and up to date with current developments as well as being able to identify the various ingredients in your beauty products, you are off to a great start in building a clean beauty routine for your skin! Feel free to mix and match products from different brands, try different ingredients and step out of the comfort of conventional beauty. We hope you now have a better understanding of what ‘clean beauty’ is all about and an idea of which brands to look for when shopping for your skincare and makeup essentials next time!