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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Naturally Boston: When Clean Doesn’t Mean Clean - Local Experts Weigh in on Clean Beauty

Jan 31, 2020 12:13PM ● By Julie Starr

Back when we were kids and our parents asked us if our face was clean, it meant did we wash the dirt off of our face; nowadays, the word clean is used to categorize what we are using to wash and maintain our skin. With words like clean, natural and plant-based being thrown around like confetti, it’s hard to decipher which products are actually good for us and which ones should be tossed. 

The clean beauty industry is growing exponentially, with thousands of products claiming to belong to this enigmatic category, and based on consumer reports, people are buying them up. But what is it that makes a clean product different from any other one? Clean beauty doesn’t have a standardized definition, and in the U.S. especially, the beauty industry has been slow to change since its creation in the 1930s, despite evidence that some ingredients in beauty products may not be safe. With increased awareness over the last 10 years to how some ingredients can trigger negative skin reactions, and with more individuals experiencing sensitive skin, in addition to the long-time concern of aging, people are now more than ever looking for products that bring about positive results without any associated health risks.


Local holistic aesthetician and practicing herbalist, Shannon Curtis, of Noel Herbal Skincare, in Somerville, defines clean beauty products as ones that omit harmful ingredients that could irritate our natural state. She stresses the importance of educating ourselves and reading labels. With that same philosophy in mind, local wellness entrepreneur Kristina Tsipoiras, founder of Moroccan Magic Clean Beauty, adds that a clean product should not include ingredients that have been banned in countries that have more diligent regulations, like the EU standards. Simply stated by Paula Hoss of CLN&DRTY Natural Skincare, in Kingston, Massachusetts, who has made it her mission since 2016 to create clean products that are not only natural but effective, “Clean beauty should include the use of products that have been mindfully and intentionally formulated with the safest ingredients possible.”

After surveying more than a dozen Boston influencers in clean beauty, the top five ingredients that should be avoided are: parabens, phthalates, fragrance (parfum), aluminum and formaldehyde. Although there is a good deal of controversy about the harmful effects of these ingredients when applied in low, cosmetic doses, some studies from the American Cancer Society suggest that they may be carcinogenic and include reproductive toxins and hormone disruptors, along with skin irritants. Advocacy groups such as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics take the perspective that any evidence that a substance may be linked to cancer, regardless of the dose or route of exposure, should cause it to be banned from use, if possible, and groups that may be especially vulnerable to ill effects, such as infants, pregnant women and the elderly should think twice before using. 


Agreeing that it can seem overwhelming, all the local clean beauty experts advise that we resist the urge to throw away all our current products at once. Instead, take it slow, finding a couple of new products that we like, and then adding one or two others, perhaps from that same line. Khaki Paquette, owner of Face Food Natural Skincare, in Newburyport, suggests that we start by switching out our deodorant, but warns that it may take a few tries to find the right one. Gayatri Pradhan, owner of Poethique, in Wellesley, reminds us that when trying a new product, our skin may rebel, so give it a couple of weeks. 

One of Boston’s most talked about wellness influencers, Gianne Doherty, founder of Organic Bath Co., has a slew of hand-crafted clean beauty products, from body scrubs to lotions that can be purchased online or at several stores, including the clean beauty boutique Follain. Andrea Starr, founder of STARR Beauty and EYESTARR, has been a beauty influencer in Boston for years, and was inspired to create her own line of clean products when she began to develop allergies to her favorite (but toxic) products. She has since developed several products, including clean lash boosters and a face wash especially formulated for tweens. 

Another Boston-based clean beauty leader, Marie Aspling, has created a literal organic oasis in the middle of Boston at her spa Balans. Her background in biomedical science, combined with her passion for clean beauty products and services, shows through her carefully curated products and educated team members. 

When it comes to what we put on our bodies, the choice is ours and is based on how we feel. It is important we educate ourselves and are mindful with our choices, defining clean beauty for ourselves with guidance from plenty of experts right here in Boston. 

Julie Starr, MS, CNS, is a credentialed nutritionist, successful yoga and barre teacher and studio owner, and associate publisher of Natural Awakenings Boston. For more information, visit and connect at @StarrNutrition.