In honor of National Clean Beauty Day, we’re shedding light on what “clean” really means, the potential risks associated with this buzzword, and why we prefer to use “safe” instead.
April 13, 2022
01What does “clean” really mean?
The word “clean” was originally designed to imply the absence of potentially toxic, harmful ingredients. Since its inception, however, ”clean” has evolved to take on additional meaning across the beauty industry, often being used to imply broader characteristics, such as natural, organic, and “green”. 
So how did a well-intended term turn into marketing craftiness? As with most buzzwords, the term “clean” was never clearly defined, making it vulnerable to misuse. Most importantly, there is no legal accountability tied to this term. The FDA does not have a definition for the word “clean,” and there isn’t a widely accepted list of banned ingredients that would deem a product not “clean".
This has allowed brands to market products as “clean” based on their own agenda. Hence, placing trust in this term can be risky when your skin’s health depends on it.
02“Safe” is better, and verifiable.
For this reason, we prefer to use the term ”safe” instead, since it more directly addresses the fact that your skin won't be harmed from the ingredients contained in our products, and by default, signifies that the ingredients are non-toxic and non-irritating. It’s also a product characteristic that can be tested in the lab, making it an obvious preference for our team of scientists! (Read more to find out how.)
03What can you do to ensure your products are non-toxic?
It’s usually a safe bet that “clean” products will exclude well-known harmful ingredients such as parabens and sulfates, which can irritate the skin and deteriorate skin health, but how do you know your products don’t contain other lesser known irritants and potential toxins?
One way is through databases that have been developed by health advocacy groups, such as the EWG’s Skin Deep Database or the Think Dirty App, both of which provide consumers with hazard scores for beauty products.
Additionally, many beauty retailers, such as Sephora, Target, Walmart, and Amazon have developed their own list of forbidden ingredients in order to be deemed “clean” under their purview. However, the burden of due diligence is still placed on the consumer, as the lists are not guided by a governing body and can evolve over time and without notice.
Though they’re not perfect, organizations like the EWG, which is overseen by scientists and developed as a non profit, offer one of the most accessible ways to assess a wide range of products for their harmfulness.
04How does OneSkin measure up?
First off, OneSkin’s products are, and always will be, free from:
- Palm oil
- Baking soda
- Retinyl Palmitate
- Mineral Oil
These are known irritants that deteriorate skin health.
As a best practice, we also assess our products based on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database guidelines, which rates skin care ingredients on a scale of 1 - 10, 1 being the safest and healthiest and 10 being, well, toxic. 
Based on these scoring guidelines, OS-01 FACE received an average score of 1.02 and a weighted average of 1.04. OS-01 BODY received an average score of 1.12 and a weighted average of 1.03. And PREP received an average score of 1.23 and a weighted average of 1.01.
This means that our formulas are widely accepted as non-toxic. But, as a company who believes science should be in service to helping humans live longer, healthier lives, we go a few steps further to ensure our products are completely safe and not harmful to human skin.
05 How we determine whether a product is safe
To truly know whether a product is harmful to human skin, not surprisingly, you must evaluate that product’s effects on human skin! Luckily, this is something our scientists do every day.
As an integral part of our R&D platform, we grow human 3D skin models in the lab and expose those skins to ingredients and products, then evaluate various genetic and morphological health markers to understand how the skin’s health is impacted. This allows us to assess the safety, or toxicity, of products on the cellular level, going many levels deeper than most other skin care companies, literally.
Using histology to evaluate skin health.
The structural integrity of the various skin layers – the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis – is a reliable indicator of skin health.  The epidermis in particular is a very powerful indicator of skin health, as it serves skin’s barrier function, protecting the rest of the skin and body from external aggressors.  A thicker skin barrier generally means younger, healthier skin. (Read more about the importance of the skin barrier here!)
To analyze a product’s impact on the skin’s barrier and health, our scientists treat human 3D skin models with products of interest, then utilize a microscopic imaging technique, called histology, to view the morphological and cellular changes that occur in each layer.
This is one of the primary tools that OneSkin uses to assess a product’s safety, and not just our own. We’re able to test other products on the market for their safety or toxicity as well! See a prime example below.
Our scientists treated human 3D skin models with nothing (no treatment), the OS-01 peptide, and two other products – Product A and Product B – both of which are popular on the market, then viewed those skins under the microscope.
As a baseline, skin with no treatment was evaluated to be healthy. Skin treated with OS-01 increased the thickness of the epidermis, indicating that it improved skin’s barrier and skin’s health. Similarly,“Product A”, containing glycolic acid, also improved the thickness of the epidermis, though not as much as the OS-01 peptide. Skin treated with “Product B” significantly diminished the thickness of the epidermis, indicating that the product is toxic towards skin and impairs skin’s health.
By assessing our formulas beyond a theoretical database and evaluating the cellular changes that occur with exposure to products on real human skin, we’re leaving guesswork out of the ever important claim “safe”.
06 RIPT to Test for Human Sensitization
Finally, to ensure repeat exposure doesn’t induce irritation over time, all of OneSkin’s products are tested for human sensitization: a phenomenon of reverse-tolerance where skin becomes increasingly sensitive to a product with continued use. This is done via a technique called Repeat Insult Patch Tests, or RIPT, which is a clinical evaluation of the level of skin irritation with continued usage of a substance. Through RIPT, all of OneSkin’s products have been deemed non-irritating .
At OneSkin, we believe the best way to cut through clever marketing buzzwords is by relying on science. That’s why although our products are considered “clean” by most measures, they’re also scientifically proven to be “safe”, a term which carries far more weight when it comes to ensuring your long-term skin health.
- The word “clean” was originally designed to imply the absence of potentially toxic, harmful ingredients, but is vague and undefined, leaving it vulnerable to misuse.
- For this reason, we prefer to use the term ”safe” instead, since it more directly addresses the fact that your skin won't be harmed from the ingredients contained in our products, and by default, signifies that the ingredients are non-toxic and non-irritating.
- All of OneSkin’s products are considered among the healthiest and safest based on the EWG’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database scoring guidelines.
- OneSkin analyzes product safety utilizing a rigorous scientific process involving testing on human skin models.
- Through RIPT, a clinical evaluation of the level of skin irritation with continued usage of a substance, all of OneSkin’s products have also been deemed non-irritating.
By Kiran Kumar: Kiran is studying Biotechnology Engineering at UC San Diego. She is highly enthusiastic about longevity sciences, specifically reproductive aging! You can find more on her at thisiskirank.com.