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World Beauty Preview: How to Rock the Clean Cosmetics Trend

Beauty trendcasters are looking at glitter, saturated colors and a return to romance for 2020 and beyond. But around the world, nothing is getting more attention than clean beauty. 

Products in some places are, by default, cleaner than others. For example, there are only 11 ingredients banned from cosmetics in the US, but in Canada, there are 500, and in the EU, 1,300.

What is clean beauty? It might be easier to answer this question by saying what it’s not. Clean beauty products don’t contain

  • Artificial fragrances from potentially toxic chemicals; instead, products are scented with natural oils, botanicals, and even grass and wood.
  • Chemical sulfates, which make soaps, shampoos, toothpaste and cleansers foamy, help to remove oils—but they also can be drying when they do their de-greasing job a little too well. They’re meant for brief use on the body, and they contain a questionable toxin that is still allowed under EPA regulations. 
  • Petrochemicals that come in many forms, such as mineral oil, toluene, benzene, ingredients with “butyl” and “propyl” prefixes, PEG, DEA, and MEA. These substances contain contaminants and possible endocrine disruptors that can enter the skin.
  • Microbeads contain tiny plastic particles that can’t be destroyed and cause untold amounts of pollution in the ocean and elsewhere. They’ve been banned from cosmetics in the United States.
  • Silicones come from chemicals that add shine and sleekness to hair, but they close off the shaft and don’t let conditioner or moisture penetrate. Silicones on the skin don’t allow the skin to breathe, so moisture doesn’t penetrate and toxins don’t come out.

Another reason to cuddle up to clean beauty products is that they’re more sustainable and less harmful for the earth and for the people who are making them.

Here’s what we’re seeing around the world from the global leaders on the clean beauty scene.


Koreans are legendary when it comes to taking care of the skin, and a couple of years ago, the 10-step beauty regimen became popular in the west, setting off a facemask frenzy. Adding to the urgency of embracing a clean beauty routine is the presence of microdust pollution, which requires extra vigilance to make sure the skin is clean and toxin-free.

Sephora has a whole section dedicated to Korean beauty and skincare products. We’re especially thrilled by the Innisfree Best Seller Discovery Kit, a super handy introduction to K-beauty for the uninitiated. This trio contains a Pore Clearing Clay Mask with Super Volcanic Clusters to help clean out pollutants, an Intensive Hydrating Serum that contains Jeju green tea and green tea seed oil for maximum hydration and the Youth-Enriched Cream with Orchid that fights aging with moisture-enhancing hyaluronic acid. You should also take a long look at the Amorepacific Treatment Enzyme Peel Cleansing Powder, which exfoliates with green tea and papaya enzymes.


For 2020, “eco-minded minimalism” rules in France, where women already look effortlessly chic no matter what they’re doing. Eyebrows, especially, will be large and in charge, and more care will be taken to include darker skin tones in cosmetic lines. BlackUp, especially, is a Paris-based line with foundations and lip colors dedicated to people of color. First, in on the dry shampoo craze, Klorane also has you covered with anti-pollution purifying mist, shampoo, conditioner and detangler. Caudalie is this year’s sweetheart brand on the French skincare scene. Try the Micellar Cleansing Water to clean and purify and the all-vegan Vinoperfect Natural Brightening Stars kit. (Bonus! A tree is planted for every box sold.) And of course, the full red lip remains classic.


German natural cosmetics and skincare are the sleeper hits of the clean-beauty scene. Companies such as Dr. Haushka and Weleda have been around forever, but they’re happy to be rediscovered, generation by generation. G-beauty involves rigorous science, quality ingredients and transparency, so you’ll know what’s in any product. Check out the product line from Dr. Barbara Sturm, which has a loyal and fierce following. She has hyaluronic serums for light and darker-toned skin to combat fine lines and wrinkles, dryness and loss of firmness and elasticity. German cosmetics might be hard to find in your local drugstore, but you can shop Lavera online, which also has helpful tutorials so you can finally master that dramatic eye.

Clean beauty, no matter where you come from, isn’t just an ingredient list. It’s also a state of mind as you emphasize your favorite features, go easy on the earth and keep up a good skincare routine so that you’ll glow with or without makeup.  


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