Exclusive: Sephora Just Updated Their Clean Beauty Standards in a Big Way

Clean Beauty


The word 'clean' doesn't have a set definition when it applies to beauty. After researching regulations, ingredients, and formulations like it's our job (because it actually is our job), we've come to this understanding: 'clean' is yet another word in the beauty industry's vast vocabulary of murky messaging. The word itself is not well-regulated, and its definition isn't even specifically agreed upon by industry experts. That's why we took it into our own hands to take a stance on the subject, defining 'clean beauty' in our own way in order to clear some things up for ourselves and our readers.

Since then, we've been keeping a close eye on the beauty industry, testing various clean products, learning more about natural brands, and expanding our knowledge on the topic as a whole. There are others who are doing the same thing. We, as a beauty community, are becoming more and more aware and inquisitive about our product's ingredients.

It only makes sense, then, that giant beauty retailers would also take steps in a cleaner direction (you know, in order to appeal and provide for customers like us). Sephora is one of those giant beauty retailers. Recently, the brand created a special category, the Clean at Sephora seal, which lets customers know whether a particular product adheres to Sephora's set of criteria on regarding formulation and sourcing (the label is green and features a leaf check mark graphic; it's placed on the right side of every compliant product on the brand's website). Initially, Sephora's "formulated without" list include 13 potentially harmful ingredients, which means a product could only receive the clean label if it was formulated without all 13 of those ingredients.

Well, we're happy to report that as of today, Sephora has updated its clean beauty standards to include over 50 ingredients to its "formulated without list" That's up from the original 13 ingredients it vetted before. Keep scrolling to all the cosmetic ingredients (like all 50 plus) that are now blacklisted under the Clean at Sephora label.

Clean at Sephora
  • Sulfates – SLS + SLES
  • Parabens
  • Formaldehydes
  • Formaldehyde-releasing agents
  • Phthalates
  • Mineral Oil
  • Retinyl Palmitate
  • Oxybenzone
  • Coal Tar
  •  Hydroquinone
  • Triclosan
  • Triclocarban
  • Undisclosed Synthetic Fragrances (synthetic fragrances allowed providing they meet all of the above criteria AND certify they comply with the brand's Clean Fragrance criteria, which is "In skincare, makeup, and hair products only, synthetic fragrances allowable at concentrations below 1% of total formula," and "clean fragrance brands must also be cruelty-free and without the following: PTFE/PFOA, Styrene, Polyacrylamide / acrylamide, Acetaldehyde, Acetonitrile, Methylene chloride, Animal fats, oils, and musks, Benzalkonium chloride, Toluene, Resorcinol, Acetone, Butoxyethanol, Ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid, Methyl cellosolve, Methylisothiazolinone / methylchloroisothiazolinone, Mercury and mercury compounds (thimerosal), and Bisphenol A (BPA)."
  • Acrylates (specific to ethyl acrylate, ethyl methacrylate, methyl methacrylate, butyl methacrylate, hydroxypropyl methacrylate, tetrahydrofurfuryl methacrylate, trimethylolpropane trimethacrylate)
  •  Aluminum Salts
  • Animal Oils/Musks/Fats
  • Benzophenone + Related Compounds
  • Butoxyethanol
  • Carbon Black
  • Lead/Lead Acetate
  • Methyl Cellosolve + Methoxyethanol
  • Methylchloroisothiazolinone & Methylisothiazolinone
  • Mercury + Mercury Compounds (Thimerisol)
  • Insoluble Plastic Microbeads (which applies to rinse off products only)
  • Resorcinol
  • Talc (asbestos free talc is ok. Brands need to conduct testing to ensure no contamination)
  • Toluene
  • BHA/BHT (BHT threshold is 0.1%)
  • Ethanolamines DEA/TEA/MEA/ETA
  • Nanoparticles as defined by EU
  • Petrolatum & Parrafin (All USP grade is ok)
  • Phenoxyethanol (under 1% is ok)
  • Polyacrylamide & Acrylamide
  • Styrene (specific to Bromostyrene, Deastyrene/acrylates/dvbcopolymer, sodium styrene/divinylbenzene copolymer, styrene oxide, styrene
  • 1, 4 Dioxane (brands required to test final formulas and need to comply with specific thresholds)

Not only do these new standards go into effect this month, but Sephora is also expanding its clean beauty offerings with the addition of new brands and products. Prepare to see Byrdie favorite brands like Kosas, Flora + Blast, and Primera soon. Sephora Collection skincare, which is all priced under $20, makes the clean beauty cut, as does Sephora's fragrance brand, By Rosie Jane, which now has a fully transparent ingredient list.

Next, read up on the beauty products that should (and should not) be bought organic.

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