Interview: How ‘clean’ is Clean Beauty?

It is yet another term in beauty land that suggests something. Is it pure marketing or does it really cover it? What exactly clean beauty means, we explore in this article. Speaking Dr. Francis P.K. Wu and Marlijn van Straaten, CEO of the dr. Hauschka brand.
Clean beauty sounds good! Especially at a time when sustainability seems more important than ever and we are increasingly aware of what we put on our skin.

We don’t want any ‘junk’ in our cosmetics and in our environment, so if a brand profiles itself with the term Clean Beauty, we want to know more about it! It is certainly interesting for beauticians to understand what that term exactly means and how they can explain it to their customers as well as possible. It’s a hot topic.

Thanks in part to the beauty bloggers and influencers who are using this relatively new term en masse. No one is averse to cleanliness. And so it catches on. But just how clean is clean beauty? Doesn’t every product in the end consist of chemicals? Because “well considered, even water is a chemical,” says Dr. Jetske Ultee in a blog. Any supplier that claims to be clean uses sustainable packaging? Can you then just deploy the term without control? You can read all about it in this article!

What is Clean Beauty

Just to clarify the term Clean Beauty right away, what does it say to do? So it turns out that there is not an easy answer to that. The term is not well defined anywhere. Dr. Wu, who specializes in dermatology, says: “It is true that it is still quite unclear. Clean Beauty means to me: pure ingredients with a certain effect. By this I mean ingredients with a biological effect on the skin, for example vitamin E: the natural vitamin E has a better effect on the skin than the synthetic variant. Also ingredients that are not controversial, hormone disruptive or harmful, such as BPA, phthalate, triclosan.

Clean beauty skin care could be described as: sustainable ingredients that have a bio-identical skin function that improve, hydrate and protect the skin without harmful consequences for the body. ” The dermatologist has his own Clean Beauty skincare line, Iconic Elements. In a US report by Apprinova – Future of Clean Report 2021 – Formative Industry Trends & Expert Insights on Clean Beauty- define Clean Beauty as follows: “It goes beyond minimum safety considerations and embodies four principles that consumers demand: sustainability, safety, transparency and performance.” The report shows that the beauty industry has the potential to have a greater positive impact globally than any other industry.

The industry is a major cause of CO2 emissions and plastic waste, as can be found in the piece. But technology and formulation improvements mean we no longer care about the planet, the performance or
risking costs, but can strive for a more environmentally friendly future.” To achieve this, the report argues, the
to the cosmetic chemists, supply chain managers, marketers and industry analysts to deliver on this promise.

One of the cosmetic brands that contributed to this before it became a trend is Dr. Hauschka. CEO Van Straaten explains that Clean Beauty is about the impact of ingredients on people and the environment. We have been committed to this since 1967. Clean Beauty is at Dr. Hauschka for a confidential product with a transparent ingredient list.

But our clean list actually goes one step further

For example, the ingredients are one hundred percent natural, they are free of synthetic colors and fragrances and do not contain preservatives, mineral oils, parabens and silicones. Also, we have never tested on animals. So we don’t just want to have an effect on a better society, on people and the environment, but Dr. Hauschka also care about the purity and effectiveness of the ingredients. The production process plays an important role in this. We follow the rhythm of nature and everything is composed with love and by hand. The components in this are: dark and light, heat and cold
and movement and rest. That’s what makes it so unique.


All around you, you are confronted with environmental problems. Recycling and sustainability are even more relevant now than they have been. Clean Beauty fits in nicely with the zeitgeist that currently prevails. Dr. Wu agrees: “It is an evolution in the various trends. It started with ‘natural’, ‘organic’ and ‘green’, then came ‘sustainability’ and ‘vegan’ and now it is even broader: it must be good for the environment and body and the feeling must be right, the holistic approach. This also fits with retailtainment – the use of atmosphere, emotion and activity to get customers interested in a product and create a mood to encourage a purchase. Clean beauty is a term that actually does this and itself for this
lends perfectly.

I also see more and more Clean Beauty in cosmetics commercials. The beauty consumer is now more than ever looking for products that are good for his/her health and good for the planet. As a result, they look for products that satisfy this need.’ Van Straaten adds: ‘People have also started to live much more consciously in recent times. In such a pandemic, people realize what the effects of nature can be and also that things become scarcer. They ask themselves how they can reduce this. We are happy that it is now such a trend. Because this way we can only better explain that you have to take good care of yourself and that we at Dr. Hauschka.”


Unfortunately, in the beauty industry we often have to deal with non-transparency, which can easily mislead a consumer. For example, brands may falsely label their products with buzzwords such as “natural” and “eco” in order to attract the attention of the conscious consumer. This is called “greenwashing. And, as explained earlier, if a term is not clearly defined, greenwashing can easily take place.

However, the intention of Clean Beauty, as we now understand, is that the products do not contain any mysterious ingredients, and it certainly does not claim to be something it is not. That does not mean that Clean Beauty is one hundred percent perfect and that it is completely natural, but it does mean that it is non-toxic and that it makes consumers more aware of what they are putting on.

Greenwashing occurs when a company advertises false beliefs about products and packaging that are said to be good for the body and the environment. Especially during this time when so many people are consciously concerned with their health and wellbeing.
This is how they attract attention, but in reality do not keep their promises. Since there is little or no regulation, a great responsibility lies with the beautician and the consumer themselves. Why is there little or no control over this? This is due to the fact that RIVM has not formulated standard definitions for most claims that are used on beauty products.

The claims are, for example: organic, one hundred percent natural, hypoallergenic, animal testing free and without harmful chemicals. So there are many companies that get away with using marketing terms that mislead the consumer. They have full creative control over what they consider organic, ecological, natural, etc.

That is difficult for manufacturers and suppliers who actually want to do what they promise. Van Straaten says: “Many companies do indeed pretend to be greener than they are. For dr. Hauschka is natural and clean, not a fashionable marketing term, but a tradition. And that goes quite far.

In this way we strive for rhythm and balance in every respect and follow the natural cycle in its entirety. For example, we do not use artificial fertilizers or pesticides. We grow a large part in our biodynamic gardens and charge a fair price to our farmers. Our goal is to use this anthroposophical approach to make both people and the earth better and to contribute something positive to society.’

Not clean = toxisch?

It is a great development that we are all becoming increasingly aware of what we rub and eat. The disadvantage is that everything that is not natural suddenly gets a very negative stamp and the question is whether this is realistic. Dr. Wu thinks this is a valid point. “The danger is that you get a dichotomy, because it is not well defined. But if the terms are well defined and regulated, that would be a huge improvement in the future. For some time now, the packaging of skin care creams has not been allowed to contain terms such as: ‘contains no parabens, silicones and/or sulphates’.

This suggests that these ingredients are toxic. For example, parabens can mainly cause skin allergy and for the body the relationship with breast cancer is still uncertain. We can prevent this kind of practice by better describing terms such as Clean Beauty. A checklist, compiled by various independent specialists, could also help with this.’ According to the dermatologist, a product should be allowed to use the term Clean Beauty if it does not cause any unintended side effects in the body. ‘You can see and notice a skin allergy through redness, itching and flakes, but that is not visible with effects in the body.’

Natural versus synthetic

In cosmetics products it is still very common to process synthetic raw materials. Not all natural substances are good and not by definition all synthetics are bad by definition. Some synthetic fabrics even have a natural origin, but have been treated for the benefit of the shelf life or purity and then it can no longer be labeled as natural. Dr. Wu continues: ‘A funny example is coenzyme Q10. The natural version of this works better on young skin, while a synthetic version is more suitable for mature skin. At our skincare brand Iconic Elements, we used natural ingredients even before it became a hype.

In general, we experience that it is more difficult to make a product with natural ingredients, but we have nevertheless chosen this because we believe that these are the best. We are not opposed to synthetic fabrics, because they also have advantages. This makes them more stable, reproducible and cheaper. However, the quality can differ, because various techniques are required to make a synthetic ingredient. A natural ingredient is less stable and decays faster than a synthetic substance. With the right packaging, an airless dispenser, you can absorb that.

Another disadvantage is when extracting a natural ingredient, sometimes unintentional ‘hidden allergens’ are released, which can cause a rash. I rarely see this in practice.’ Van Straaten also admits that they have to try harder to use purely natural ingredients. Formulating the right substances to make a good and sustainable product is a very delicate process. But it’s worth it all. Synthetic raw materials can unbalance the skin. If you can’t eat it, why would you want to put it on your face, is the thinking behind it.

In addition, everything is biodegradable. Anyway, a large commercial company that does not opt ​​for Clean Beauty does not necessarily have to put harmful products on the market. It is a different belief, a different process and a different positioning. At Dr. Hauschka, we do not pay any dividends to shareholders, but invest everything we earn back into our organization to do product development again, for example.”


According to trend watchers, this green trend will continue for a while. Dr. Wu hopes that people, especially with skin irritations, will use a less aggressive keep a skin care ritual and be kind to their skin. ‘A fun app is: microbeads in skincare. This screens cosmetic ingredients in a product for microplastics. I expect more initiatives like this to emerge in the near future.’

The aforementioned American report shows that Clean does not even have to be on the label. It must ‘just’ comply with the principles of Clean Beauty. Sticking to those principles takes time for companies, because you have to make strategic decisions, you have to be able to provide transparency and must meet packaging and ingredient standards.

Moreover, they argue in the report, Clean Beauty doesn’t have to be a marketing term or trigger a scare tactic among brands that don’t carry the label: it should be based on science and transparency. The following applies to beauticians and their customers: remain critical. You could say that a product is so clean as the worst ingredient. Marketing term or not: it is not wrong to question terms such as ‘green’ and ‘natural’, because the truth is always in the ingredients list. An honest company and a good product prove themselves!

Green Beauty Iconic Elements Interview Dermatologist Fpk Wu Francis Sustainable Microplastic Clean Beauty

In conclusion

Dr. Wu about Iconic Elements: ‘Several people in my consultation hours could no longer see the wood for the trees. I got questions like: ‘Are parabens dangerous, should I avoid Vaseline and I don’t use sunscreen, because they contain carcinogenic substances? These are critical questions and it prompted me to ask one skin care trial to start.

We made a sample with a collaborating pharmacist based on natural ingredients and antioxidants. The response rate was better than expected and that was the beginning of Iconic Elements. We let dermatological experts in a certain niche think along and develop with us, and in this way we strive for a high-quality skin care line in which the focus is on keeping skin healthy instead of curing a diseased skin. Our philosophy includes: dermatological knowledge, safety, innovation.

We believe in a highly balanced product with a few active ingredients that work well together, such as vitamins C and E. The raw materials are completely natural and we take into account zero plastic in cosmetic ingredients. We do not use mineral oils, because they are extracted from the less sustainable petroleum. In order to be ‘clean’, we also avoid hormone-disrupting substances and the most common skin allergens.’

source: edition 7, the Beauty Professional

Did you know that?

All Iconic Elements ingrediënten are microplastic free! We are therefore very proud of our new international recognition ZERO PLASTIC INSIDE. All our ingredients that we use in our skin care line are microplastic free. To qualify, all ingredients must be screened and only then will you receive this certificate. Read more about Iconic Elements microplastic free

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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