Why Are Clean Beauty Products More Expensive?

Right now you have to pay a premium to find safer products, especially clean beauty products. But after years of working in the field of consumer safety, I will be the first to explain why clean beauty products cost more and perhaps most important, why that won’t always be the case.

Plain and simple you shouldn’t have to have money in order to buy safe products for your family. That is why passing legislation to create a level playing field for companies is of the utmost importance. For those of us who can afford clean beauty products, all of the reasons I’ve outlined below should make you feel good about your investment, well beyond protecting your health by reducing your exposure to harmful chemicals.


Why clean beauty products cost more:

1 – Overhead to adequately screen ingredients

In order to understand this concept I’m going to pull back the curtain on how the industry typically works. The majority of the beauty and personal care industry takes “the path of least resistance”. If you’re a personal care company that wants to make a foundation, or face wash, you typically find something in the market you already like and hand it over to the team who manufacturers your product and ask them to make something similar. They may change the fragrance and put it in a different bottle, and voila, product development complete!

That simple approach to development doesn’t work for clean beauty brands, many of which are creating products for the first time without using hundreds of ingredients that formulators have been able to use in their “toolbox” for decades. You have to start from scratch, and since the industry is new, once a formula is developed maintaining quality control over the longterm requires resources. Maintaining consistency, product stability, etc. is a process that is honed over the years.

2 – Sustainable packaging costs significantly more

It goes without saying, but may consumers who want safer ingredients, also want sustainable packaging. If a company chooses to use glass bottles, the cost goes up not only to purchase the product, but it also costs the company significantly more money to ship those heavier products. The same goes for refillables, investing in new materials, bamboo, take back programs, and pretty much anything not made in plastic.

3 – Sourcing responsible ingredients comes at a premium

Whether the ingredient is organic or responsibly sourced mica, all of these ingredients cost significantly more than their traditional counterparts. In many instances a conventional brand can bring their products to market for less money than the cost of raw materials required to manufacture a clean beauty product. Let that sink in for a moment!

4 – You’re investing in companies with a mission, and that requires resources

I can speak from experience, running the mission department for a clean beauty company. Your support for brands doing the right thing means you are supporting careers and departments that will shape the future of what it means to be a business in the 21st century. Sustainability experts are needed to assess packaging, scientists are needed to research ingredient toxicology and advocacy leaders are needed to run effective legislative campaigns. This should make you feel good about investing in a workforce dedicated to systemically shifting an otherwise outdated industry.

5 – Investing in ingredient innovation and safety requires research

Another simple but important factor, some leading clean beauty companies are investing in researching new ingredients that are safer for your health and working to fill scientific “data gaps” for ingredients already on the market.

6 – Creating products that actually work is more expensive

I wrote a piece about clean beauty products for families on a budget HERE. You can purchase these products and feel good about their ingredients, but in every case there is a performance trade-off. The shampoo doesn’t quite suds as well as the more expensive versions, the face oil isn’t as high quality or the makeup falls off my face after a few hours.

If you want a clean beauty brand that creates beautiful products that work, then you’ll need to spend a little more. Why? The research and development needed to make that shampoo suds without using all of the ingredients typically designed to give shampoo a lather is expensive!

7 – Manufacturing in North America costs more

For those that can afford to invest a little more money in their health by buying safer products, you can also invest in creating jobs in North America. Many companies manufacture their products abroad and for the majority of clean beauty companies, manufacturing is happening domestically, investing in our local economy.

How long do your products last?

I would be remiss not to touch on the topic of value. Many clean beauty companies may be more expensive, but the products last longer, ultimately saving you money over time. I would encourage all conscious beauty buyers to find out on average how long products last and then do the math, by paying more up front you may actually spend less in the long run.

Read more about when it makes sense to spend money on skin care HERE.

Why clean beauty products won’t always come at a premium:

This is perhaps the most important part of this article!

As someone who has been working to pass laws that ban toxic chemicals, thereby making safer products for everyone, I have seen how markets shift and prices drop overtime. Many will have you believe that by passing legislation to remove toxic chemicals, that products will get expensive for everyone, but the opposite is true.

As markets scale, ingredients become cheaper and products more affordable.

Take for example baby bottles, when we were working to ban BPA from baby bottles and sippy cups, the safer versions were more expensive. Now you can purchase safer plastic baby bottles for the same price as the less safe ones. Think about when electronics like smart phones or DVD players first hit the market, they are always more expensive when you’re the first to market. Overtime companies can reduce their costs when materials are less expensive.

So in short, clean beauty products are worth it for your health and to invest in companies who are actively trying create safer products. The more you support companies working to do the right thing (including passing safer beauty legislation) the more you’re investing in the future safety of the industry.

If you are on a budget, I get it, check out some of my affordable safer beauty recommendations HERE.

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