“Clean At Sephora” What is it and is it worth your money?

If you’re like me, you stalk Sephora’s page on “Just Arrived” because you want to know what the scoop is on the newest products.

No? Just me?


Well as of recently I noticed this little icon on the pictures of certain items.


That big green sticker is new…. and in the description box you’ll find the following statement:

“Clean at Sephora
When you spot our Clean seal, you can be sure we’ve checked that this brand’s product is made without the ingredients you told us you’d most like to avoid.

Clean at Sephora™ is formulated without:
Sulfates SLS and SLES, parabens, formaldehydes, formaldehyde-releasing agents, phthalates, mineral oil, retinyl palmitate, oxybenzone, coal tar, hydroquinone, Triclosan, Triclocarban. All skincare, hair, and makeup brands with the Clean Seal have less than one percent of synthetic fragrances.”

Which is great news for someone with sensitive skin like myself…. but what exactly does this mean for those people who aren’t accustomed to reading ingredient labels?

  • Sulfates (SLS and SLES): This is a cleansing agent. Often given a bad rep due to the new cleansing movement and wanting to avoid a “squeaky” clean feel because that means you’re essentially removing all your skin’s oils.
    • My personal opinion: I don’t care! I’ve never had an issue with Sulfates in my skincare (it does dry my hair/scalp a little too much) But also I have oily skin, and I use a lot of serums, oils, moisturizers and toners to balance my skin after washing my face… so I don’t really notice when my cleansers have or do not have sulfate.
  • Perservatives (Parabens, formaldehydes): This is what keeps a lot of your make up and skin care lasting longer. Most of these chemicals are regulated by the FDA, as large quantities have been linked to hormonal and other cancers.
    • Parabens specifically have been shown to mimic estrogen, and in high (unregulated quantities) lead to breast cancer.
    • My personal opinion: Should avoid this ingredient… I feel that having some preservatives in my make up is okay… because I have a lot of it and I want it to last! When we start talking skin care and some lipsticks that I re-apply then I start to get worried. Regulations by the FDA are usually whether the amount in that specific product can harm you… but if you are re-applying or using multiple products (like my multistep skin care) you might be getting more than you bargained for)
  • Phthalates: Often found in hair sprays and nail polishes (listed as dibutyl, or diethylhexyl.. and sometimes even as “fragrance”). This ingredient makes things feel more “flexible” and less prone to cracking. High concentrations can cause birth defects and reproductive issues… but studies have shown that even though these chemicals are found pretty much in anything that’s plastic (toys, kitchenware, etc), that exposure levels are relatively low overall.
    • My personal opinion: I’m much less concerned about this because I’m not trying to have children right now, and I don’t really use hairspray or nailpolish frequently enough for this to effect me. If I ever was pregnant or thinking about it I would probably avoid this like the plague.
  • Mineral oil: It gets a bad rep because it’s derived from petroleum. It’s cheap, and therefore present in a lot of different products to provide moisture. Unrefined mineral oil has been linked with cancer, but most experts say that higher quality that is required of cosmetic grade is not of high risk.
    • My personal opinion: I’m not concerned that it’s present as an ingredient more than any other oil. As an oily skinned gal I’m careful about what oils are in my products. I would prefer less comedogenic oils or none at all!
  • Retinyl palmitate: A derivative of retinol (that expensive vitamin A), and an antioxidant. Often found in sunscreens and was given a bad rep as a carcinogen ~20 years ago in a study that looked at sunscreens. (Maybe it was the sun exposure in your experiment that caused skin cancer, bro?) This is a compound naturally found on your skin.
    • My personal opinion: My skin loves most vitamin A/retinol derivatives. It’s great for acne and pigmentation. I think that this was given a bad name with false info.
  • Oxybenzone: A chemical active ingredient in sunscreen that is pretty common, known for its effective broad spectrum protection. It is thought to disturb endocrine function, and causes concern as it penetrates the skin (as opposed to just sitting ontop of the skin to protect from the sun)
    • My personal opinion: I try to stay away from all chemical sunscreens… Because 95% of them break me out. There are a few exceptions but being someone with hormonal acne, I get GIANT CYSTIC breakouts when I use the wrong sunscreen. In general because of my personal problems when a product is rumored to mess with endocrine function… I turn and run.
  • Coal tar: That just… sounds offensive. But apparently it’s mostly used for dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis treatment… External use in small doses did not cause major complications but in higher concentrations it is a known carcinogen, with neurotoxic effects.
    • My personal opinion: Please don’t put coal tar in my skincare and make up… Maybe in hair stuff if I’m having really bad dandruff and I’m desperate?
  • Hydroquinone: Hey I know this ingredient! I’ve used this ingredient on purpose to try to lighten acne scars. This is one of the best and well known ingredients to deal with pigmentation! Unfortunately it didn’t work as well on acne scars, but works better on my mom’s sun spots (which makes sense after doing some research because it works against melanin) This makes you super sensitive to the sun, and was given a bad rep due to high concentrations of impurities (such as lead) which were found in products containing this as an active ingredient. Alone, it is not though to be of major risk and is approved by (some) dermatologists and the FDA.
    • My personal opinion: It’s fine for lightening dark spots if you are religious about your sunscreen!
  • Triclosan & Triclocarban: These are antibacterials often put in soaps… they were banned from commercial soaps in 2016 due to the concern that they have contributed to the rise in resistant strains of bacterial. Though all that sounds scary, that doesn’t mean that using these chemicals have a negative effect on your personally… just humanity over time. Triclosan specifically was found to decrease thyroid hormones, as well as cause inflammation and gut issues when used in toothpastes.
    • My personal opinion: Stay away! I think I’m going to be more conscious of looking for this ingredient from now on. Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem in the medical community! And my gut can use all the help it can get! Thanks Sephora!

Whew! Hope you stuck with me there… so here’s the breakdown on what I think about the “Clean at Sephora” Label. Out of the Nine groups of chemicals/ingredients that are required to be absent for this label…

(In my opinion)

4 Ingredients are harmful 

2 Ingredients are not harmful in the concentrations/methods used

3 Ingredients have a distinct function and are not harmful

I’m not a make up scientist or a dermatologist but I do have a background in biology and biochemistry… and I’m an avid makeup enthusiast with sensitive skin!


Now to answer the question… are these products worth it?

So I took a look at the kinds of brands/products

Clean products.png

The price tag for a lot of these products are UP THERE… I know it may cost more to not use the cheap ingredients… but I feel that everyone should use cleaner make up (or at least know what ingredients are used in their products). It shouldn’t just be a luxury for the rich!

I already have my Silicone Free Lists since I personally am sensitive to silicones:

Going Silicone Free 101 (Foundations, moisturizers, etc) 

Silicone Free Powders

If you would like lists for things free of some of these nasty ingredients… (That also won’t break the bank) Comment down below!


Sources: Scientificamerican.com, Paulaschoice.com, fda.org, birthdefects.org, pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, http://www.cosmeticsinfo.org


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