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Beauty Editor Sara Niven Talks 'Clean Beauty'

Beauty Editor Sara Niven Talks 'Clean Beauty'

Around 20 years ago I returned from interviewing one of the first skincare companies to focus on entirely natural products but found it hard to get interest in my feature. The magazine editors I approached seemed to feel readers weren’t too concerned about what went into beauty products; what they did and how they made you look took priority.

Times have changed. Now paraben and SLS free are common terms in 'clean beauty' and we expect a product with a natural formulation to perform just as well, if not better than a chemically based one.


It isn’t always easy to tell what we’re buying however. One lady who approached me for haircare advice, proudly stated she always made a point of using organic shampoo. When she revealed the range, I realised it was far from organic or even remotely natural.

This kind of confusion is understandable. There is currently no legislation governing the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ in the beauty industry. A product can contain a small amount of an organic ingredient alongside a high percentage of chemicals and still use the word organic on the label.

It is an issue The Soil Association have raised awareness of with their 'Come Clean About Beauty' Campaign. Their research found 76% of those surveyed felt misled in this way and the organisation cites a number of products they particularly see as ‘Greenwashing’ consumers. They have also drawn up a list of ten ingredients to avoid.


Natural health campaigner and author of Toxic World, Toxic People, Anna Rodgers claims that through every-day life each of us comes into contact with approximately 80,000 untested toxic chemicals every year. She believes these contribute to a wide range of ills from eczema to cancer.

Of course, it could be debated that many chemicals are tested, deemed entirely safe, used in tiny amounts to stop products going off or perform some other essential function. I don’t claim to be a scientist with in-depth knowledge on every used or the potential effect of combinations of them. My thinking is simply that if I can find and use more natural products without breaking the bank, it makes sense, particularly as a mother with a young daughter who is increasingly borrowing them! I look on the labels of the foods we eat so look on the labels of toiletries similarly.


I gravitate towards products that don’t contain parabens, Sodium Laureth Sulfate or synthetic fragrances as a basic (and will now be studying The Soil Association’s list in addition). Sometimes that means buying certified organic products but not always. It could just as easily be a £3.99 body wash stocked in a well-known chemist or a hand cream from a local farmer’s market.

I’m also a fan of the SenSpa range of bath and body products which I see as representing budget friendly luxury. They have formulations I am happy using and provide the chance to recreate a little of the SenSpa experience at home (I’m also a sucker for lovely smells!)


Where possible in my line of work, I try to speak directly to the person or company behind product formulations. My trust in what I’m using or being asked to write about can be affected by their transparency in addition to what’s on the label. I’ve known SenSpa Director, Lina Lotto, more than a decade and when the SenSpa collection first launched she explained the personal importance to her of the products being as natural as possible, in addition to being free from many of the artificial and synthetic ingredients commonly found in similarly priced ranges. 

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