Clean beauty: what is it?

For once, this post won’t talk about essential oils. Going back to more natural skincare is a whole process and although I make my skin and body care myself, I don’t create my own make-up. As such, I am constantly looking for natural make-up which is not easy in Hong Kong and because I was struggling for a while, I have decided to put together a list of products that you can find either in-store or online. 

I will focus only on make-up in this article, but bear in mind that there are wonderful Hong Kong-based brands creating clean skincare products! 

1. Cruelty-free and vegan 🐰🌿

But first, let’s agree on the terminology:

With some of these brands, it might seem easy, but believe me, it’s not:

  • some vegan and/or cruelty-free brands are part of a bigger group that’s not vegan and/or cruelty-free and it can be quite confusing. Also, a vegan product might be tested on animals; a cruelty-free product might contain animal-based ingredients.

If you wish to know more about this, here’s a link to an excellent article from Ethical Elephant. 

  • a cruelty-free brand or even vegan doesn’t imply that it is chemical-free. If you are looking for a cruelty free brand, you can use the app Bunny free: just enter the name of the brand and it will instantly let you know if it’s cruelty-free or not. You can also tick the box “vegan”when searching if that matters to you. 

2. Clean beauty

clean beauty: this term is probably the most confusing term, as it can include a lot of different concepts: chemical-free, toxic-free, free from… There are plenty of articles on the web trying to define what ‘clean beauty’ is. Basically, there are some products you don’t want to put on your face, such as

  • hormonal disruptors
  • carcinogens
  • irritants
  • allergens.

The term is not clear because scientists can’t agree – is clean beauty a new trend to make us buy more products or is it a real issue? The answer might be that there are chemicals in everything, but the small quantity isn’t harmful. However, lots of small quantities can add up over the course of a week.

In short, clean beauty is all up to you, what you want for yourself and your beliefs. If you have acne issues, you might want to avoid any product containing allergens or irritants, if you are really looking for something 100% organic and natural, then you might struggle, like me, to find a brand suiting your needs. But, there is hope!


Because I am no chemist, I use an app to scan barcodes to see if they are toxic-free or not. The app I use is called Cosmethics, however these apps are just in their infancy so unfortunately not all products are represented. During my research for this article, I found a fairly comprehensive website: The good face project

Here is a screenshot of their listing’s system:

If your product falls into the last two categories, you can click on the fully detailed list of ingredients and have a clean alternative offered. I used it to clean out my makeup bag from all the toxic products I had. 

I like how The Good Face project works: you can search by brand, or by product. For example, if you are looking for an eye-liner, the first ones will be toxic-free and then the others are at the bottom of the list. 

For the moment, my priority is to stop putting toxic makeup on my face; I have decided that from now on, each time I have to replace a product, I will buy one that, on top of being clean, will also be cruelty free and vegan.  

Only a few brands tick all these boxes nowadays, but I am pretty sure it’s a growing trend and it will become easier soon.

Writing this article, I found out the website Calista : their mission is to bring safe makeup and skincare to Asia’clients. For example, they offer the brand Zao, which is 100% safe and also selling refill for all their products to avoid waste. Calista also display Lily Lolo UK: most of their products are safe, but double-check on the Good Face Project’s website as some are not.

Also, the brand ILIA can be found in Hong Kong: same here: double-check.

Further reading and sources:

If you live in Hong Kong, have a look at the amazing Green Queen’s website: they work very hard to let you know where to find clean beauty across Hong Kong. I’ve linked the beauty tab but if you have some time, it’s worth it to explore the website! 

Here is a link to an article explaining clean beauty quite well. 

Also, a quick read of The Guardian’s article might be helpful. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *