In 2003, just as I was starting my beauty career, a new perfume shook up the market. In a year laden with heavy orientals and complex signatures, it was inspired by the freshness that’s inherent in a bar of soap – simple, unpretentious and evocative of the most comforting things in life, like freshly showered skin and crisp white cotton sheets hung out to dry on a summer afternoon.
Simply called Clean, it was the answer for anyone who had asked the perfume gods for a fragrance that did not overwhelm the senses while still making them smell good. I remember wearing it almost 24×7.
Today, as I sit across from Greg Black – President of the Clean Beauty Collective, which had first given birth to this novel idea – I realise this first venture was but the tip of an iceberg.
16 years later, Clean has segued into an entire movement that can be summed up in three terms: Simple. Trusted. Conscious.
Why is this important? Since the FDA doesn’t ask brands to disclose exactly what materials go into a fragrance, many of our perfumes are a toxic soup of ingredients like petrochemicals and phthalates, which have been linked to hormone disruption, allergic reactions, and much more.
Plus, they are not good for the planet.
This is where Greg wants to make a change. And I would say he is succeeding brilliantly.
Under his stewardship, the Clean Beauty Collective (formerly Fusion Brands) has built up a multi-layered portfolio of clean perfumes that are underlined with safe and sustainable manufacturing processes, combined with eco-conscious packaging. All while maintaining its luxe, premium signature.
Greg himself comes from the world of Big Beauty, having worked with brands like Revlon and Coty. He has, however, always been an advocate of the clean beauty movement, urging greater transparency in ingredients and labels. Part of his inspiration comes from the time he spent in Spain and Italy, where the farm-to-table culture makes sustainability an essential part of living itself.
In fact, Greg moves beyond beauty to an entire lifestyle. The Clean Beauty Collective has even transformed its New York headquarters to a more environmentally responsible working environment, complete with sustainable office furniture, energy-conserving lights and completely eliminating the use of plastic water bottles or straws.
Truly someone who walks the talk.
So, it’s no surprise that Greg Black has more knowledge about clean beauty than most other people I have ever met. And when I got the chance to pick his brain, here is what was learnt.
What’s your definition of ‘clean’ beauty?
Clean beauty products are simple, worry-free and ethically sourced. They are quality products, mindfully created with the people and the planet in mind.
What’s the biggest myth about clean beauty?
Too many people believe that products formulated with clean ingredients are not as effective. Our fragrances are clean, simple, non-toxic and formulated with the finest ingredients. We always vet every single ingredient – both natural and synthetic – for safety, without sacrificing the fragrance’s complexity.
Why is it important to move to a clean fragrance?
It is important to know what you are putting on your skin. So many fragrances are filled with harmful chemicals and toxic ingredients. We are transparent with all the ingredients we put into our fragrances and we continue to add to our “no-to” list. We strive to be good for the consumer and the environment.
How do you build a clean perfume and yet make it long wearing?
Base notes are the ingredients that stay the longest. Since all our ingredients are ton-toxic, making the base note heavy doesn’t mean adding chemicals like phthalates to make the scent last longer. Our fragrances are linear, which means they are consistent with little to no movement throughout the day. This makes them uniquely suited for layering and this can make the scent last even longer!
What are the three ingredients you would never use?
We have a long list of ingredients on our “no-to” list. Some that we never use are phthalates, parabens, and oxybenzone – which have all been linked to many hazardous health conditions. Unfortunately, they are commonly used in many fragrances and beauty products.
Why is it important to rethink conventional beauty packaging?
It is especially important for fragrance and beauty brands to be aware of packaging and sustainability as our industries generate excessive waste in a world that’s already saturated with landfills. Our recyclable packaging has incorporated both green materials and green manufacturing processes to help minimize any negative impact on the planet. The entire bottle and box are 100% recyclable. The cap is made of sustainable wood from Spain, the cellophane is compostable and derived from corn, the paper is FSC certified, the ink is water-based and non-toxic, and our manufacturer uses solar-powered facilities.
Where does sustainability come into the equation?
To us, sustainability means responsibly sourcing ingredients that do not deplete the planet’s natural resources. Just like we ensure that our manufactures employ green manufacturing practices, it’s also important that our farmers harvest ingredients with minimal impact on the planet.
It is also very important for us to give back to the farmers and their communities. For example, the vetiver we source from Haiti helps support education programs and health care for the farmers and their families. The vanilla we get from Madagascar aids partnerships that provide drinking water and medical facilities for the farming communities, as well as reforestation programs. The continued use of Bushman’s Candle from Namibia helps support the nomadic Himba tribe’s economic development in Africa, allowing them to preserve their traditional way of life.
We are planning a rollout of luxury home products around the end of 2019, while a hair and body range will launch in 2020. All new products will embrace their namesake, with packaging and formulas that are non-toxic and free of unwanted chemicals.