‘Clean’ skin care is trending — here’s why less is suddenly more

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As a cosmetic chemist and brand consultant specializing in “clean” skin care, Krupa Koestline’s phone has been blowing up in the past year. A native of India who grew up surrounded by the holistic ethos of Ayurveda, Koestline grew increasingly uncomfortable with some of the chemicals she was using in her previous gigs as a product formulator for legacy beauty companies such as Estée Lauder and Neutrogena. After shifting her focus to natural and organic ingredients and opening her consultancy in 2019, she has witnessed a huge upswing in the clean category. 

There’s just one teensy problem: No one can actually say what “clean” even means. “There is no official definition,” says Koestline, who has worked with Kopari, Chantecaille, John Masters Organics and the cult-fave line May Lindstrom Skin. “Most brands take it upon themselves to define their ‘clean.’ ”

And define it they are. While clean was once ruled by straightforward OG brands like Weleda, Naturopathica and Tata Harper, new entries tend to embrace diverse points of view and backstories. 

Keys Soulcare, created by singer Alicia Keys, leans heavily into self-care, with products sold individually or in bundles dubbed “rituals.” The new Nourishment Ritual, for example, was designed to help you “give yourself the energy and attention you need to thrive” and contains five products (Sage + Oat Milk Candle, Golden Cleanser, Skin Transformation Cream, Obsidian Facial Roller and Reviving Aura Mist) for $135.  

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