As a dermatologist, a mom and a skincare lover, I am making a conscious effort to transition towards products that are not only safe for the skin, but also better for our bodies and to the environment.
I want to share my deep dive into clean beauty with you guys, as I educate myself on all things “clean.” One of the biggest issues I’ve been noticing in the clean space is that there is so much “greenwashing” and misinformation out there. I’m incredibly evidence-based and have always taken pride in making recommendations that are backed by sound science. My clean skincare journey is no exception, so I wanted to connect with the pioneers in this space and share their insight and knowledge with you!
My first Q & A on clean had to be with my friend and colleague, Mia Davis. Mia is not only one of the pioneers of “clean”, but her approach to her work is so innovative and thoughtful, it is just incredibly impressive. I know you guys will be as blown away by Mia as I am. I’m so thrilled to share this interview with you.
WB: Mia, your passion for clean began in 4th grade and you have been moving the needle ever since. You were the first hire at Beautycounter, you’ve consulted for goop, Honest Company, type A . . . and the list goes on. Now, at Credo Beauty, you’ve created the Credo Clean Standard and you lead the Credo “brand’s consortium,” which addresses key challenges in this industry, from fragrance disclosure to more sustainable packaging. I think it’s safe to say that you live and breathe all things clean beauty. How do you define the term clean?
Mia Davis: Clean is an evolution of natural, green, or eco—those are elements of clean, but it goes much further. To me, clean is nexus of these important elements: safety, sourcing, sustainability, ethics and transparency. A little more about these:
- Safety is about the ingredient’s potential impact on health.
- Sourcing is where it comes from—is it a synthetic chemical? A natural compound? Or naturally-derived?
- Sustainability comes back to the ingredient’s impact on the environment.
- For Ethics, questions include “were people paid a living wage to mine or harvest this ingredient?” or if the ingredient it comes from animals, “how were the animals treated?”
- And transparency is really the web that holds these other terms together. If we don’t have transparency about the ingredients or the supply chain, how can we know it is “clean?” We cannot make an informed decision without information.
Check out this “Clean Beauty” infographic I made with Credo Beauty that illustrates all of this!
WB: I love the way that you share all of this information in a way that is accessible, clear, and beautifully stated. I absolutely agree that any brand that calls itself “clean” should consider those factors very carefully. When it comes to sourcing: can you elaborate on how you feel about ingredients that are natural vs naturally-derived vs synthetic? I personally have seen numerous patients develop skin reactions when switching from synthetic to natural products. Do you agree that when it comes to skin health, natural is not always better?
Mia Davis: Thanks—I know my definition of clean is complex—there is a lot to consider. But it is also the most honest approach! Your question about natural vs. synthetic really gets right to the point. If we only talk about an ingredient’s “natural-ness” but not about its safety or sustainability, then we’re missing the point of “clean.” Natural ingredients can be irritating, for sure. They can even be unsustainability, or unethical. Some ingredients can be perfectly safe and natural for one person, and not for another person who might have sensitivities to it. So, I embrace the complexity—otherwise, it is just marketing.
WB: I have been searching and testing a variety of clean products over the last year, and trying to transition my own skincare to clean products. Since “clean” is not an FDA regulated term (and in fact, the entire beauty industry is pretty under-regulated), different brands and different retailers are adopting different definitions. For example, Sephora Clean is different from Target Clean is different from Credo Clean. I know you’ve been a trailblazer in this area, and many experts consider Credo’s standards to be among the most discerning — the “highest standards” of clean, if you will! Can you elaborate a bit on the standards that Credo has adopted and how they differ from other brands and retailers that use the term clean?
Mia Davis: Credo, the largest clean beauty retailer, has a Clean Standard that operationalizes “clean,” so you know that the brands Credo carries have accountability. Outside of some system of accountabilty, “clean” can mean something or nothing. People have to look into the brand’s commitments. For example, are they formulating without ingredients of concern, like parabens, phthalates and more? Are they disclosing their “fragrance” ingredients? Do they talk about the source and safety of ingredients? Ask the brand what “clean” means to them. If the answer is wishy-washy, that is a red flag.
WB: Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge on this topic! I know we’ll go deeper into all of the clean elements—safety, sustainability and more—in the near future. I always value our discussions so much.
Mia Davis: Thank you so much for having me, and for sharing your clean skincare journey with your patients and community. What we put on our bodies and rinse down the drain matters, and how we make these ingredients in the first place really matters too.