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You May Want to Read the Label

Published on April 15, 2020, at 8:34 p.m.
by Allie Rose.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Skin. It is the largest organ in the human body. We wash it. We put makeup on it. We try to make it look its best. Shouldn’t we also do our best to take care of its health?

Products that are designed to make you smell better, look better or feel better might be doing the exact opposite — and they’re doing it without you knowing. As the awareness of this issue has grown, the “clean beauty” trend has emerged. Beauty industry brands are supporting sustainability initiatives that advocate for clean products with ethical labeling.

Part of our job as public relations practitioners is to evaluate trends and how to be proactive on them for our clients. Trends do not necessarily mean action must be taken, but in this case for the beauty industry, they are worth being educated on.


According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), many everyday products contain fragrance. These products can range from haircare, skincare, laundry cleaners, air fresheners and even ointments used for therapeutic needs and first aid.

Cosmetics in the retail market must include a list of ingredients on their labels under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act. “In most cases, each ingredient must be listed individually. But under U.S. regulations, fragrance and flavor ingredients can be listed simply as ‘fragrance,’” said the FDA.

These fragrance combinations can be a mixture of any number of things. The ingredients can be natural, but they can also be full of synthetics and chemicals. Manufacturers are not required to list what a “fragrance” encompasses because that is considered to be a trade secret — a trade secret that could be chock-full of harmful toxins.

The Clean Beauty Movement
“This trend is more of a movement that focuses on finding beauty products made with organic ingredients and seeking transparency from brands,” said Megan Foster, writer for the “Today” show.

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

As information spreads about the potential harm in products’ ingredients, consumers are beginning to turn to their tried-and-true brands for answers, transparency and alleviation of their health anxieties. Additionally, new brands are blazing the trail ahead, leading the way in making products that are cruelty-free and toxin-free from the start.

Defining “clean skincare” can be different across the board. The most common definitions require that products are cruelty-free, vegan and contain only organic ingredients.

Cruelty-free defines products whose ingredients have not been tested on animals. Vegan refers to products that do not contain any animal ingredients. Organic and natural products claim that their ingredients are not genetically modified (GMO) and do not contain preservatives, artificial coloring, chemicals, manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilizers.

You might be a little overwhelmed at this point by all the big words that could be in your favorite lotion or shampoo. Luckily for us, brands and businesses are beginning to embrace sustainable and ethical business practices.

While there are still many products that contain these chemicals on the shelves, brands are beginning to listen to what their consumers want: to be healthier and more informed about the everyday products they use.

There is even an app, called Think Dirty, available for users to scan products throughout stores to see how they rank on its cleanliness scale. The products receive a score out of 10 based on the ingredients they contain. You can scan household, beauty and personal care items to make yourself aware of the potential toxins items might contain.

Public relations professionals must always have their eyes and ears tuned in to consumer and business trends. Consumers are now asking for more transparency from brands about how their products are having an impact on their overall health.

Thus, we must listen to consumers and be quick to respond in order to address their concerns. While this may just be one of many trends, a central lesson can be learned for PR practitioners: Be authentic, be honest and be for the betterment of the consumer.

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