The Dirt on Clean Beauty

Currently, the European Union bans more than 1,300 ingredients from use in cosmetics (though many would rarely be found in personal care items). In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration bans 11 cosmetic ingredients. Last fall, Congress introduced the Safer Beauty Bill Package, which, if passed, will codify legal definitions for terms like “natural” and “naturally derived” and ban ingredients like parabens and formaldehyde. Japan, another major beauty market, has different regulatory standards,.

This means that “many brands are taking it upon themselves to define clean beauty according to their ideals and agendas,” said Akshay Talati, the vice president for product development in the Goop beauty and wellness division.

Then again, there are brands that don’t want to be tarnished by the “clean” association.

“I think ‘clean’ skin care is all a load of bollocks,” Ms. McCartney told Elle UK magazine last year when she introduced Stella, her skin-care line. She said she understood why people use the word, “because it conjures up wonderful images of purity, but I would never use it.”

Tata Harper is widely considered a godmother of the clean beauty movement, with a cult brand of the same name. She grew up in Colombia, where she watched her grandmother make body scrubs and hair masks from ingredients sourced at her local market, and later trained as an industrial engineer.

Ms. Harper started her brand in 2007, and her products use ingredients like antioxidant-rich witch hazel, hydrating jasmine and plumping alfalfa extract. A 30 milliliter bottle of her elixir vitae serum, with barley juice, borage leaf and sea buckthorn, costs about $490.

“At the time, natural skin care was not really made for a serious skin-care client like myself,” Ms. Harper said. “That’s when I realized I had to create my own line because there were no options.”