Earlier this month, Space NK released a collaboration with Caroline Hirons – a campaign called Clean Decoded. Space NK describe themselves as the ‘ultimate destination for beauty discovery’, with over 60 stores across the UK and 29 in the US and they pride themselves on delivering a personal service to beauty consumers. We attended their Clean Decoded event in Edinburgh a few weeks ago and wanted to dive a little deeper into the campaign and find out what you thought.
WHAT IS CLEAN DECODED?
Over the years, terms used to describe cosmetics brands and their products have become confused and misused, in particular natural, organic and green. ‘Clean’ is the up and coming descriptor for brands in this category. With their Clean Decoded campaign, Space NKs’ intention is to help decode what this term really means as well as bring consumers a shoppable edit of brands and products that they consider to fit the term ‘clean’.
Space NK chose Caroline Hirons, a skincare expert and charismatic figure in the skincare industry, as the face of the campaign. This was a choice that was quite interesting to us as Caroline is known to have voiced some quite controversial opinions regarding the toxicity of parabens. You can read more about her personal opinion here.
So what does Space NK believe the term ‘clean beauty’ means? To be honest, we’re not sure. On their website, Space NK give the following definition;
Clean beauty to us refers to any formulation that is free from a list of potentially harmful and irritating ingredients, and instead uses a combination of plants, vitamins, minerals and botanical extracts to help restore skin to its optimum health and vitality.
However, when we asked them what ingredients are on the list of ‘potentially harmful and irritating ingredients’ that they refer to here, they were not able to give any specifics. They merely state that “We don’t believe any of the ingredients used in the products we sell are in anyway dangerous”. Caroline describes the campaign as “an opportunity to give you, the consumer as much info and as many facts as you can digest”, but the facts of what ingredients must be omitted for a product or brand to be considered clean are not available.
What Space NK do well, is to break down some familiar categories and terms that cosmetics brands may use in their marketing, including; natural, organic, free-from, vegan, sustainability and conscious living. However, it is important to note that if a brands products or values sit in one of these categories alone, does not mean that that brand is ‘clean’. A brand’s products can be entirely vegan, but that fact does not necessarily mean it is also a clean brand. Clean beauty brands will incorporate all of these categories in their values and products.
WHATS IN THE BOX, AND IS IT CLEAN?
Along with ‘decoding clean beauty’ Space Nk x Caroline Hirons have release a beauty box which includes skincare and makeup products from some of Carolines favourite ‘clean’ brands. The box is priced at £95, with a value of over £200. Heres a quick run down of what the box contains;
Whilst we love most of the brands stocked in the Clean Decoded box (a notable favourite being Ren who are not only a clean skincare brand, but who also commit to the goal of being zero waste by 2021 and have partnered with Surfrider to clean up oceans and beaches all over the world), we cross checked the ingredients the products contained with Credo Beautys’ Dirty List. We use Credos’ list because they hold the highest safety and sustainability standard in retail and are consistently up to date with changing standards and new research in the cosmetics industry. Even though many ingredients are permitted by the FDA, we know that the FDA and similar organisations are slow moving and ‘clean beauty’ is a standard that goes far beyond what is legally required of cosmetics brands.
So what did we find? The Soleil Toujours 100% Mineral Sunscreen Glow SPF30 contained 2 ingredients on the Dirty List; Disodium EDTA and PEG 100 Stearate. Firstly, Disodium EDTA. While this ingredient (and other forms of EDTA) are not know to be harmful to consumers, they do not break down in the environment and have been found in waterways, therefore being problematic for aquatic life. PEG 100 Stearate on the other hand, is listed as a Ethoxylated compound, to be avoided because it is synthetically produced using Ethylene Oxide, a know carcinogen.
Note: We only cross checked the products sold in the Clean Decoded box with Credo Beautys Dirty List and therefore cannot speak for the other products that these brands sell.
Whilst we completely understand that Space NK is leaving customers to make their own decisions about the products they use and they ingredients that they contain, we find that this campaign provided confusing information about ‘clean beauty’. When we asked for further information, their responses were vague and didn’t particularly address the concerns we had, particularly regarding the specific ingredients products should be free from to be regarded as clean.
What are your thoughts on the Space NK x Caroline Hirons Clean Decoded collaboration? Do you think Space NK have provided consumers with a true decoding of ‘clean’, or has the campaign merely contributed to the ongoing confusion and greenwashing in the industry? Please let us know in the comments, we would love to hear form you!