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clean beauty hero

Skin care goes back to basics

The beauty category, most notably the skin care space, has seen a massive resurgence in the demand for environmentally friendly, clean, vegan and cruelty-free products.

The beauty category, most notably the skin care space, has seen a massive resurgence in the demand for environmentally friendly, clean, vegan and cruelty-free products.

Consumers are demanding transparency regarding what ingredients are going into their daily skin care and sun protection products — among other beauty essentials —and calling for harmful chemicals, including phthalates, to be removed. Noticing a shift in this demand, retailers have found ways for consumers to easily find the clean products they desire in brick-and-mortar stores. Clean at Sephora, Conscious Beauty at Ulta Beauty and Target Zero are three such brands.

Sustainable, clean and eco-friendly are no longer buzzwords. Rather, they are key in meeting the growing demand for beauty products that are free of harmful chemicals, friendly to the environment and kind to animals.

[Read More: La Roche-Posay adds moisturizer formulated for oily, sensitive skin]

This trend ties into the surge in brands obtaining Leaping Bunny and PETA Cruelty-Free certification. Several popular skin, makeup and hair care brands, including Alaffia, af94, Briogeo, CoverGirl, Madison Reed and Versed, among others, have obtained either certification and are proudly informing consumers of the recognition. Overall, this has signaled how brands are noticing the demand from consumers.

e.l.f. skin pure skin

E.l.f. Beauty is one of the most notable brands that has approached beauty and skin care in a clean and sustainable way — specifically with the launch of its e.l.f. Skin collection, which features three collections that target an array of skin care concerns that range from acne and blemishes to hydration and sensitive skin.

“Skin care can be intimidating, complicated and expensive,” said Robin Shandler, vice president of innovation at E.l.f. Beauty. “With e.l.f. Skin, we are redefining what’s possible with clean, ingredient-driven skin care for every skin concern. We also know that it’s important to our community to be clean, vegan and cruelty free.”

In its “Finding the Future: Beauty and Cosmetics” trends report, Kantar found that environmentally friendly, reusable and sustainable are the top three global concerns showing positive momentum over the last 24 months. Consumers are pushing for brands to go back to the basics when it comes to product formulations, but also incorporate science-backed ingredients into their products as individual skin care systems are rebuilt post-pandemic.

The push for science-based ingredients includes such ever-so-popular and trending ingredients as AHAs and BHAs to clarify and peel the skin; niacinamides to repair the skin barrier; vitamin Q10 to even skin tone, repair sun damage and help improve skin hydration; and pantothenic acid or vitamin B5 to offer anti-inflammatory, moisturizing, restorative and wound-healing benefits for the skin, according to the report.

[Read More: Eucerin Sun works to protect, support skin health]

e.l.f. skin holy hydration!

“There is a resurgence of products that go back to basics, where it’s all about marrying science with nature. The focus once again is on the ingredient story and how it can be married to deliver on both fronts,” Kantar’s report stated.

Despite the surge in the popularity of a particular set of ingredients, a rise in demand for vitamin B, squalane, retinoid, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, hyaluronic acid and azelaic acid also exists.

“Hyaluronic acid, squalene and niacinamide are skin-loving ingredients that are in many of our e.l.f. Skin formulations,” Shandler said. “Hyaluronic acid locks in moisture for a plump complexion. Squalane moisturizes skin, and niacinamide minimizes pores and evens out skin tone.”

All About Sustainability
Kantar’s DX search data in the last 24 months indicated that “reusable” was searched approximately 30% of the time, “sustainable” saw a 28% search result, and “cruelty free” came in at 11% and “vegan” 6%. These results signal that consumers are becoming active in the search for products that meet this set of criteria.

“We recently redesigned the packaging of our primers,” Shandler said. “The same primers that our community loves on the inside became better for the planet on the outside, removing the faux metal finish and matter varnish, which also helps us in our journey to reduce waste and establish more sustainable processes.”

[Read More: Wɘll People unveils clean, accessible skin care products]

Versed Doctor’s Visit Instant Resurfacing Mask

Established brands such as E.l.f. Beauty are taking pride in the strides they have made in the clean, sustainable and cruelty-free beauty products category, but emerging brands are carrying the torch, too.

In 2019, Versed became the first digitally incubated, drug store, clean skin care brand to debut in mass retail in its first year. The company has said its mission is “to make skin care easy and affordable for all through its clean products, personalized regimens and uncomplicated results.” Bonus: The company’s 19-product lineup of high-performance treatments, cleansers and moisturizers retails for under $20 and is available at Target stores nationwide and on

“Because of our editorial roots, our team has tested thousands of skin products over the last 12 years and scoured even more questions, comments and reviews to understand what’s most effective and what’s missing from the market,” said Katherine Power, CEO and founder of Versed and CEO and co-founder of Who What Wear, a digital fashion community and product line. “We were constantly hearing from our community about their confusion and discouragement when it came to their skin care routines, including too much guesswork about what will work for them, too-high price points and not enough clean options that are easily accessible to them. With that foresight, Versed begins and ends with our community, listening and working with them in lockstep over the past 18 months and pairing our data with product development to solve that problem.”

Using a process of data-driven development, Versed leverages eight types of proprietary insights to shape products that will work better for everyone’s skin, the brand said. The approach brings together mass digital data from’s audience of more than 16 million people and rich insights from a group of more than 9,000 highly engaged participants. Each product is vetted by the community via feedback on everything from formula performance to packaging and prices.

The company said its products are formulated in accordance with the European Union’s standard of “clean,” which prohibits more than 1,350 questionable chemicals from use in cosmetics, a far stricter standard than the U.S. FDA’s prohibited list of 11, the company said. In response to requests from its community, the brand also has gone above and beyond the EU standard to formulate without silicones, added fragrances and colors, or animal-derived ingredients. Versed is certified by Leaping Bunny as an animal cruelty-free brand.

[Read More: Sky Organics debuts Blemish Control collection]

“We’re incredibly proud of the caliber of formulation we’ve been able to achieve, which could retail for up to $80 if we followed other brands’ markups,” said Melanie Bender, general manager of Versed. “Many consumers have had to choose between effective, clean and affordable when it comes to their skin care, but we believe in making good skin and clean products accessible for all.”

The clean beauty trend is likely to continue, especially if consumers are able to see results from products that are sustainable, better for the planet and free of harsh chemicals.

“Beauty consumers desire a stronger emotional connection to products specifically anchored to reassurance and comfort,” Kantar’s report said. “It’s all about showing a little love focused on fostering a dialogue through new emotional territories. Lastly, there is a sense of empowerment with control and ownership at the heart of the trend. Beauty helps them create something magical through products that serve multiple needs while also enabling transformations.”

Product Picks

Skinfix Resurface+ AHA Renewing Cream
SRP: $48
A vegan, all-over body cream that is allergy tested, pH balanced, 94% naturally derived and cruelty free. It smooths and softens rough and crepey skin, and is clinically proven to help reduce the appearance of bumps caused by keratosis pilaris. The body cream contains AHAs and willow bark extract to help exfoliate the skin. It also features nutrient-dense emollients including shea butter, coconut and jojoba oils to feed and hydrate the skin barrier. 

Fleur & Bee A’ Game Retinol Serum
SRP: $38
With the power of retinol, this serum helps users obtain smoother and younger- looking skin by working to help firm the skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and dark spots. Packed with ingredients influenced by nature and science, including green tea, jojoba oil and dandelion, the retinol serum is gentle and less likely to cause irritation. This vegan and cruelty-free product, which is free of parabens, sulfates and artificial fragrances, is made with 100% renewable wind energy.

Ahava Dead Sea Osmoter Concentrate Supreme Hydration Cream Blue Light Defender
SRP: $75
Ahava is a light cream that helps moisturize skin and prevent aging. Driven by the brand’s exclusive DSOC technology, based on 3X Osmoter concentration, it boosts skin’s hydration and vitality. Additionally, it has EnergiNius, organic plant-based technology from Indian ginseng roots that protects the skin against harmful effects emitted from blue light.

Versed Moisture Maker Hydrating Hyaluronic Serum
SRP: $19.99
A lightweight, nonsticky serum that contains a blend of hyaluronic acid, peptides and antioxidants, the product provides instant dryness relief while boosting the skin’s own barrier function. Featuring polyglutamic acid and snow mushroom extract, the serum aims to provide skin with soothing and plumping hydration.

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