With this extensive period of time I’ve spent at home I’ve found myself – like everyone – with the unwelcome necessity to take my skin and hair care needs into my own hands, with salons shut and no trusted beauticians to consult or hand over to. But also with more time, energy and passion for finding clean brands that are dedicated to caring for both their customers’ wellbeing and the planet. Natural and ethical beauty. It’s become my aim to find companies with sustainability at their core (no green-washing here) and source natural products made locally in the UK that also, essentially, truly work. This guide rounds up some Clean Beauty brands: 100% organic, all-natural, zero chemical, vegan and cruelty-free beauty brands and products to update our skin, oral and hair care routines.
Over this past year of lockdown living, there are elements that used to affect my everyday skin and hair that are no longer. I don’t take rush-hour transport or cycle through a polluted capital. I shop for and prepare most of my food, controlling the quality and nutrition going into my body. I have a helluva lot more time to sit and stare at, notice and worry about my complexion, hair and teeth. I am worried about my local community after a tumultuous year that’s affected everyone. But most of all I am truly concerned about the environment and my footprint upon it.
With this down time I’ve tried to educate myself better on my impact on the Earth, from travel to food to beauty and fashion, from big issues to small contributions I can make. Here, I’ve researched new and and small clean beauty brands with ethical values that are honest and open about the ingredients and sources, and put them to the test. These are those that I’ll be switching to as I change up my routine and methods when it comes to my physical well being – that’s bodycare, haircare, oral care (for now).
Clockface Beauty was founded by a mother-daughter team in Yorkshire, where all products are made. It is a completely organic, all-natural, vegan, cruelty free brand. Plus, all products are entirely waterless, so you won’t be paying for a jar half made up of H2O. A novel feature of the Clockface Beauty site is that you can send in a short video of yourself highlighting any skincare concerns so that you can be advised on the best treatments for you. Rather like going in for a consultation (back in the day…). “We believe nature provides all the power and potency we need to look and feel our best,” says founder Sarah Thomas. “Treatments are 100% plant and nature-derived, sourced ethically and responsibly, and clearly labelled to help you make a better, more informed choice for your skin.” You won’t find any synthetic chemicals, parabens, silicone, sulphates or artificial fragrances here, nor artificial preservatives. It’s all about clean beauty the way nature intended.
I tried out three products to swap into my regular morning and evening routine. First, the facial cleansing balm – a purifying treatment for all skin types and possibly my new favourite elixir. The balm is massaged onto dry skin, buttery in consistency and packed with antioxidants and cleansing oils to draw out impurities whilst smoothing, calming and conditioning skin. I’m also glad to see how it looks to be fading the red scars I have on my face from a recent bout of acne. Clockface uses natural alternatives to retinol and salicylic acid, so without using any synthetic ingredients, I can experience increased cellular turnover and reduced scarring. The cleanser includes coconut oil, avocado butter, rosehip oil, watermelon oil, among a handful of other natural, plant-based ingredients. Something I especially love about the melting cleansing balm is it’s silky texture and easy application straight from the pot. Massaging it onto skin stimulates circulation, and the calming smells of eucalyptus and chamomile (when I use in the evening before bed) help induce a sweet sleep.
After cleansing I use the face serum, a 30ml bottle packed with 12 active ingredients intended to tone, lift, tighten, protect and hydrate. Nutrient-rich and water-less, the serum is a high-performance tonic that is incredibly light and absorbed by the skin very quickly. A look at some of the ingredients and what they do: Frankincense fights the signs of ageing, smoothing out wrinkles, producing plump, fresh skin cells. Argan Oil and Grapeseed Oil soften and hydrate the skin and protect against future damage. Myrrh and Bergamot (FCF) help to address dark circles and balance oil production, while clarifying Clary Sage (a natural alternative to Salicylic acid) works as an anti-acne solution and can reduce hyperpigmentation. Visit the site for a full list of ingredients and benefits.
The third product I tried I wasn’t prepared to like this much – the green clay and rosewood mask. I have to admit, however, that I am now a facemask convert. What has previously put me off clay masks is the tight, stripped feeling I’m left with after use. I tend to keep to a very simple skincare regime and once, maybe twice a year throw it out to a professional when my skin is suffering (always in winter). That’s obviously not an option at the moment and, really, I’ve no excuse these days not to give new products a go. Plus, I’m tempted by the promise of dead skin cell removal and encouraged cellular turnover for vibrant skin. The green clay best-seller has a beautifully simple, short list of ingredients: clay, several oils, Vitamin E and tea tree. I recognise all of these and have used topically before and trust their effects. The mask, green-brown in colour, is silky smooth and easy to apply – I’m not stretching my skin as I spread it on. It cleans, exfoliates, but balances hydration and oils so as not to leave your face dehydrated. While the Green Clay gently pulls out excess sebum from the pores, a coconut oil reduces redness and inflammation, with Rosewood oil for my scars. And it really works – my face doesn’t feel like paper after use, in fact it feels soft and glowing (I even had a comment saying so!). This is something I’ll certainly be adding into the process weekly. Packaging for all products is brown glass, I imagine to somewhat protect from direct sunlight, being 100% natural and so without preservatives), but also adding to the general apothecary feel of the botanical Clockface brand.
The Centred range is all about healthy hair, naturally. Products are gluten, dairy and soya free, so suitable for vegetarians and vegans. Sustainability and transparency are embedded in the brand’s DNA and it was founded with a grassroots approach so each component of the business is carefully considered to minimise environmental impact. The Centred story started when founder Laura Tudior switched from her high-stress role in the fashion industry that was causing her hair to fall out. In starting Centred, she wanted to undo the physical effects brought on by stress and fatigue by creating natural hair care treatments to not only stop hair loss but stimulate growth for nourished, healthy locks. The products are made up of at least 90% plant-based ingredients, containing nutrients, vitamins, minerals, herbs and amino acids.
I’m reasonably lazy when it comes to my hair. I rarely do treatments. I dye it blonde. I spend a lot of time in the sun and in saltwater, usually with only coconut oil as a protector. Once a year I throw money at the problem at a salon, or cut it short, after treating it pretty harshly. I worry about how dry it gets and how it breaks when I brush it. I worry that I moult, more and more… But I also know that I’ll always keep it simple when it comes to my hair. So I’m keen to find something sustainable, something that’ll health of my hair, without me changing the process or having to commit too much – like finding a truly good shampoo, conditioner and treatment I can do at home (or at the beach without having to worry about contaminating the wildlife with chemicals) that I can actually keep up.
Daily Calma Shampoo & Conditioner: Sulphate free never foamed so good! Sulphates in products (shampoo, toothpaste) is the ingredient that makes it lather, which I’ve heard, dries out your hair. Not what I need. Some shampoos I’ve tried with no sulphates have meant that I had to use an awful lot – not so beneficial, economically. Not with Centred; I actually went overboard using it first (and second) time, not realising how little I needed. First tick. The shampoo works to replenish lost moisture caused by wear and tear, heat damage and pollution. Aloe vera and chamomile are natural healers that reduce inflammation, soothe the scalp and smooth the hair. It’s packed full of proteins (amino acids) to strengthen the inner core of the hair structure and protect the scalps natural lipid layer. The smell is gorgeous, citrusy and fresh – unsurprising when you realise it’s 91.3% plant-based. When you visit the website, every ingredient of each product is outlined in a chart, telling you exactly what it is (without the scientific name) and what it’s actually for (Tocopherol – Vitamin E – Protects from sun damage).
The Daily Calma Conditioner is for dry and damaged hair. That’s me. Deeply nourishing for restoring strength and moisture. A blend of jojoba oil, hydrolysed wheat protein and squalane hydrate the hair leaving it soft and protected. I usually only brush my hair when it has conditioner in, otherwise it breaks. Usually the more silicone in the conditioner, the better (for me personally) to allow the hairbrush to slide through and detangle. But it’s not necessarily good for the hair and can build up on the scalp, blocking it from breathing and causing hair to look limp and lifeless. Plus, it’s not a natural ingredient – it’s essentially a plastic. So you won’t find it in a Centred bottle. Instead they contain castor oil, that helps promote growth, jojoba that strengthens and a whole host of other natural ingredients with softening, strengthening, smoothing, detangling, moisturising jobs. And, best of all, I could Tangle Teaser my hair through with the Daily Calma Conditioner as good as any other.
Strong, healthy hair starts from the scalp. The En-Root scalp treatment formula soothes and invigorates with a blend of essential oils and salicylic acid. The latter is a common ingredient often found in skincare that sounds more aggressive than it is. Salicylic acid is an exfoliant that’ll in turn stimulate follicles and hair growth. More jojoba, castor and coconut oils nourish and replenish whilst antioxidant-rich argan and olive oil help moisturise. Peppermint, rosemary and castor oils stimulate blood flow and circulation to the hair follicles (promoting growth) while tea tree oil adds its anti bacterial, anti microbial and anti inflammatory properties. Yes, the number of oils packed into this bottle is impressive and we’re seeing effective favourites crop up over and again, tea tree to detox, peppermint for blood flow, cedarwood oil to cleanse, chamomile to soothe, lavender to heal (targeting scalp, follicles and pores). Something I was worried about with the amount of oil, however healing they might be, is that my hair would be left feeling oily and looking lank or greasy. But when it comes to washing it out, the product I’d massaged into a dry scalp an hour before, section by section, turned to a soft milky consistency when I added water and it rinsed right out. I follow with the shampoo and conditioner for good measure and am an easy convert to the Centred range.
A small essential. And something I can’t believe I’ve only just thought about going fully natural with. I certainly want something that goes directly into my mouth to be chemical free, especially one that I use twice daily for a lifetime. Our mouth and gums are, after all, incredibly absorbent. We should know exactly what we’re putting in there when we brush. I hadn’t given it much, if any, thought before now. Many toothpastes contain antibacterials, artificial sweeteners, petrochemicals and unnecessary colours. Happier toothpaste is made using four different types of (100% natural) mint for flavour, along with essential minerals to strengthen enamel, vitamin E for healthy gums and papaya enzymes for gentle, natural whitening. You won’t find SLS (the foaming agent that can irritate gums), parabens (a preservative that many are wary of), petrochemicals or, in fact, anything artificial in Happier. What’s more, the packaging is designed to have minimum impact on the planet. Every year 1.5 billion single-use plastic toothpaste tubes are thrown away. Happier tubes are traditional aluminium and come with a key, so you’ll get the very last squeeze out of each tube, and are efficient to recycle. Lids are also recyclable or you can send them back to ‘Happier Towers’ (for free) to be washed, sterilised and reused. It’s dentist approved, certified vegan and suitable for sensitive teeth. Subscribe to Happier for £10 tubes (75ml). One-off purchases for £12.