my dirty secrets about the clean beauty industry

Sydney Lapine

The best part about an internship at a skincare and beauty company? Free products.


I didn’t do it just for the free products, though. I learned a lot about the clean beauty industry as a whole from their marketing department, and when the makeup is wiped away, it becomes apparent that many companies’ “natural looks” are not as pretty as you might hope. But I’m not writing this as an investigative journalist. I’m simply providing unsolicited advice for navigating the clean beauty industry as a consumer. 

My top 10 tips: 


1. Most skincare products are seriously overpriced. Don’t waste your savings on moisturizer. There are SO many companies that are making very similar, if not identical, products in different packaging. Look at the ingredients in the name brand products and shop around a little. For example, many eyelash boost serums are $100-$200, but I can vouch that the serums under $50 achieve the same results. Don’t settle. You can have it all. You just have to look! 


2. Never checkout without a discount code. Most of you probably already know this, but influencers have discount codes and they post them on their public instagram accounts. Especially if you’re buying from a smaller company, visit their instagram page, look at photos they have been tagged in and take advantage of those codes (usually 20%). Employees also likely have even better discount codes they can share with family and friends (hint: make friends with people who have jobs at companies you love). 


3. Besides using a discount code, keep in mind that most companies run big sales at least four times a year. If you are thinking about making a big purchase, it might be worth waiting for the next holiday sale. A lot of skincare or beauty websites will also offer products in bundles. Buying individual products when you could have bought them in a discounted bundle is an unfortunate way to lose money. Sometimes certain bundles will also randomly go on sale, so pay attention to the marketing emails that often end up in your trash folder (unopened). They contain the codes to happiness! 


4. When it comes to skincare products, more does not mean better. Using too many products is a recipe for a breakout disaster and an inability to discern which ones are helping and which ones are causing problems. Companies will try to convince you that your skin needs twenty different products to glow, even though many of the products are similarly formulated. When simplifying your routine, keep in mind that the basics are a cleanser, toner, moisturizer, hyaluronic acid serum, and a vitamin C serum.  ALSO, never ever forget an SPF product! Hot girls protect their skin. 

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5. If you have serious skincare concerns, trust a dermatologist over your favorite insta influencer. Most companies, especially smaller ones, are consulting a chemist, not a dermatologist when formulating products. It may take up to six weeks to start seeing any results from your products, but if you notice your skin is getting worse, not better, don’t be afraid to toss the products and make an appointment with a doctor instead.


6. Customer service people who respond to your emails and answer your phone calls are (usually) real people with feelings, and they are completely separate from the people producing, packaging and shipping your order. In other words, they don’t deserve the blame for your package arriving late or broken. 


7. If you aren’t seeing any bad reviews on the website, it is likely that the company is choosing not to publish the bad ones. The bad ones still exist, but they are being filtered out. Remember, there are always two sides to every story. 


8. Clean beauty companies may use “clean” ingredients but they often still generate absurd amounts of waste from their packaging. Pay attention to what your product is shipped in and question claims of green practices. There are a lot of advantages to claiming to be green from a marketing perspective but not that many reasons to actually be green from a financial standpoint. Be skeptical and do your research. 


9. A lot of skincare companies have generous return policies or satisfaction guarantee policies. You just have to know they exist to take advantage of them. If a product isn’t meeting your expectations, it is worth calling to see if there is anything they can do to remedy the situation. The customer service team is also trained to know what products to recommend as alternatives if something isn’t working for you. 


10. Men still dominate the skincare and beauty industry. Certain skincare and beauty companies advertise as if they are run by females but a google search reveals the founders and company leaders are male. If you can, support small businesses that are truly female-owned or led. Valuing transparency as a consumer will help ensure that you invest in companies that actually care about protecting the environment, providing you with affordable, effective products and creating an inclusive workplace.