As the makers of beautifully scented clean body washes and body lotions, we get asked this a lot. Yes, it’s great that our products bear the same stunning scents as our award-winning fine fragrances. And yes, those fragrances are considered “clean,” and there’s something of a general understanding of what that means and why it’s important. (TL;dr: Clean fragrance is made without preservatives or certain types of musks, and generally produced and packaged in a way that minimizes harm to the environment.) 

But when we say our body care products are clean, what are we really saying? We spoke with Mary Berry, the founder and CEO of The Goodkind Co—the Austin-based company that collaborated with us on our washes and lotions—to find out. Here’s what she told us.

P: What is clean body care, and why does it matter?

Mary: So clean body care to me is anything where we’re using clean ingredients—meaning non-toxic, they don’t take away from the environment, they’re good for you, they cause less skin irritation. Clean ingredients also don’t go through extra chemical processes to be what they are.

I always like to use the example of cocamidopropyl betaine. That ingredient comes from coconuts. But it’s not like you’re on a desert island and open up a coconut and say “OMG, that’s cocamidopropyl betaine!” It goes through a lot of processes. And it’s in a lot of washes and baby care. It turns out it’s not as clean as we thought it was. It was a coconut a long, long, long time ago. But it’s not like you open a coconut and it’s sudsy. 

P: And that’s why we use a different coconut-based foam booster in our washes, right?

M: The PHLUR one, cocamidopropyl hydroxysultaine, has fewer chemical processes to get where it is. 

P: Ok. And how do you verify that?

M: We use the EWG ratings, and those guys do a lot of research on the chemical processes and what materials go through what to be what they are. We lean heavily on those ratings.

P: For those who don’t know: What is EWG?

M: The Environmental Working Group, which produces a database called Skin Deep. You can go on there, search anything, and they will tell you the hazards [to your health], the environmental hazards. They’re getting them from SDS-es [safety data sheets] and MSDS-es [material safety data sheets] and putting them all in one place. The general consumer has access to that. If you wanted to know what cocamidopropyl betaine is, you could go on there and vet it.

P: Sounds important.

M: The EWG is seen by the public as an authority in this space. It’s the only place that has it all together, and it rates them.

P: That’s awesome. And powerful.

M: The other interesting thing is they’ll change their ratings. I know of one company that had an ingredient that was rated poorly on EWG. So their chemist came to them with documentation and they changed the rating. They’re very science-based and trusted in the world.

P: What’s the risk of using something a wash or lotion that’s not considered clean?

M: They can contribute to cancer. The worst things. If you look at aluminum in deodorants, that’s been linked to breast cancer, to Alzheimers. Skin is the largest organ in your body. We think a lot about what we put in it, but we should think about what’s on it. You wouldn’t eat aluminum foil.

The importance of clean beauty is here to stay.

Mary Berry, founder and CEO of The Goodkind Co

P: True.

M: And then some impact marine life, or the environment in a terrible way. 

P: Makes sense. One thing I don’t want to lose sight of: People primarily use body wash and lotion to feel good. Do clean washes and lotions affect the experience itself in any way?

M: What’s interesting about that question is it’s actually the opposite. We have to fight to get that same feeling that you get from a chemical product. 

P: That makes sense. I suppose if you don’t hold yourself to that clean standard, you can cheat a little bit.

M: Those companies can use all kinds of things that are not clean that lend themselves to a better sensory experience. One client we worked with, we worked on facial care for three years because three years ago they didn’t have the emulsifiers and solubilizers. But now the chemical companies understand clean isn’t going anywhere, and they need to get on the bus. Every time we meet w/ a chemical manufacturer they have more and more clean ingredients.

P: What other challenges come with making things clean? I’d imagine some of these undesirable ingredients were used because it was cheaper, easier, etc. Is it harder or more expensive to do things the clean way?

M: It’s definitely more expensive. A thousand percent. Well, not literally.

P: Ha.

M: When our clients come to us, they know they’re not gonna get a product for a dollar. We’re fast and honest but we’re not cheap. Clean and green raw materials are just more expensive, so that’s fine and expected. We do struggle if someone’s using high-end skin care that is not clean, because they like the feel of it. These are all things that we struggle with in clean beauty and have to work a lot harder at. We have to go back to the drawing board to refine that feel and also be stable, still be able to pass preservative testing. So yeah, it is a lot more challenging. 

P: You alluded to that old saw about fast, good and cheap. You’ve already said you’re not cheap. But between fast and good, how do you handle competing priorities?

M: They’re both important. There’s a wood oil, we used to use it as an essential oil, because 10 years ago it wasn’t scarce. Now it’s scarce. People really like the profile, but we don’t use it because it’s on a threatened or endangered list. If it’s in either of those categories, we won’t use it. 

P: Is there a good resource for people reading this and interested in learning more? In addition to EWG?

M: Made Safe is also one. They’re a good resource for someone who is very serious about it. EWG is more accessible for the average person.

P: What’s next?

M: The next eye we have toward the future is on sustainable packaging because everything comes in a plastic bottle. But right now we can’t do better. There’s a sugar cane plastic that is starting to become more popular. They’re trying to use ocean plastics but that hasn’t scaled up yet. We’re just not there, but it’s the same thing [as clean ingredients].

P: Makes sense. Anything else?

M: Not that I can think of. The importance of clean beauty is here to stay.