The “natural” beauty industry is on the rise because we’re scared of chemicals

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When Gwyneth Paltrow launched Goop by Juice Beauty in 2016, she told Vogue how vital it was that her line of beauty products — including a face cleanser, eye cream, and moisturizer — was all-natural. “The idea that you’re exercising and trying to eat well and then slathering yourself with chemicals, parabens, and silicones — it’s not great.” A few months later, she went on The Tonight Show to promote the line. She and host Jimmy Fallon dipped McDonald’s french fries into a pot of her moisturizer and ate it, presumably to show how pure it was.

Paltrow often peddles questionable science and theories. But she’s far from alone in her skepticism toward conventional makeup and skin care. Over the past few years, a parallel beauty industry has exploded alongside the traditional one. “Natural” beauty; “clean” beauty. Many new brands and retailers are basically saying, “Your regular beauty products contain all sorts of dangerous stuff. Use these safer ones instead.” It’s a complicated claim and pretty hard to prove conclusively, but it’s a message that has caused radical upheaval in the cosmetics industry.

These companies are responding to legitimate concerns about certain chemicals, like BPA and phthalates. Then there have been some high-profile lawsuits like the Johnson & Johnson ovarian cancer talc cases, in which juries have awarded multimillion-dollar settlements to people who claimed using baby powder for years caused their cancer. Then the hair care company Wen settled a $26 million class-action case because one of its products was allegedly making people’s hair fall out. Consumers have become afraid of chemicals and started looking for products they think would be “natural” or “safer.”

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