We all want good skin. But what about skincare that’s “good”? In an era when consumers are becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of the things they buy it’s no surprise personal care is also being scrutinised by savvy beauty-product buyers.

In the past a “natural” approach to skincare might have involved homemade facemasks and market stalls. But today the “detox” phenomenon has propelled “clean” skincare into the mainstream. And in some cases moved it up to the top shelf.

So what is a “clean” product? There isn’t yet a universal or national standard around clean beauty, but green beauty advocates tend to avoid two general culprits: aggressive ingredients and synthetic chemicals. Typically a clean product is any formulation free from irritating synthetic (and potentially harmful) toxic ingredients including synthetic fragrances and colours, sulphates, parabens, silicones, preservatives, mineral oils, and phthalates. These are all on the “no-no” list of Onda Beauty’s Australian director, Nicole Manning, who manages the Sydney outpost of the natural-skincare retailer and spa founded in New York in 2016 by long-time friends Australian actor Naomi Watts, former Condé Nast fashion market director Larissa Thomson, and former Australian newspaper journalist and Donna Hay editor Sarah Bryden-Brown.

The Pure EO oil cleanser by Marie Veronique ($65)

Natural beauty products are sometimes considered less effective than their synthetic peers. But Manning is firm that products such as the The Pure EO oil cleanser should put scepticism to rest. “This is an essential-oil-free oil cleanser,” she says, adding that it’s on her own bathroom vanity at home. “The anti-stripping formula is a beautiful mixture of nutrient-dense botanical oils high in omega 6, including safflower seed oil and sunflower oil, allowing for a thorough cleanse. It will also remove sunscreen and make-up while nourishing the skin,” she says.

Manning’s tip: double cleanse at night to “ensure you remove the day’s impurities”. But she also insists on skipping cleansing altogether in the morning. “Instead, use a gentle mist or tonic like the Mineral Mist from Hannes Dottir ($88), which will awaken your skin and ensure your serums, face oils or cream moisturisers are well absorbed.”

Sodashi’s enzyme polish ($110)

Manning also loves Western Australian beauty brand's exfoliant. “This gives serious glow without stripping the skin,” says Manning. The combination of finely ground rice powder and pomegranate enzymes gently softens and exfoliates, and the geranium and sweet orange brightens. For best results Manning suggests using this once or twice a week.

Beauty Chef Probiotic Skin Refiner ($69)

Another Australian brand leading the clean-beauty game at home and abroad is Carla Oates’s The Beauty Chef.

Manning swears by the Beauty Chef Probiotic Skin Refiner. “I love this tonic for a little extra glow because it’s rich in wholefood probiotics that feed the microbiome [living bacteria] of the skin, which strongly supports a healthy complexion.” Manning suggests using it three to four times a week after cleansing to help refine pores. “The product’s natural lactic acid content will keep skin looking bright and clear.”

May Lindstrom The Blue Cocoon’s Beauty Balm Concentrate ($262)

At $262 this balm isn’t cheap, but Manning assures us it's worth its weight in supple skin. “This is your multi-tasking balm,” she says. “It’s perfect for winter and can be used morning and/or night on the face and neck. Plus it’s gentle enough to be used under the eye area.” Infused with blue tansy oil (known for its anti-inflammatory and healing properties) and the camelia plant, Manning says it has helped to reduce redness and irritation on her skin while also nourishing and protecting. “This feels like a ritual in itself just applying it.” Manning likes to maximise absorption by applying it after toner; you only need to use a pea size amount, which she says you should warm up in your hands before gently massaging into the face.

Dr Alkaitis soothing gel ($108)

Whether it’s skincare crises or general sensitivity, Manning turns to this soothing gel for “any kind of inflammatory responses my skin is experiencing – whether it’s redness, or post-inflammatory pigment from a break out.”

It has a base of soothing organic aloe vera gel and witch hazel (a North American species of flower) Manning says will “leave your skin feeling fresh, calm and soothed”. Order is important – Manning suggests applying it after cleansing and before any additional serums or hydrators. Incorporate it into your evening routine so the skin can benefit from the ingredients overnight. Considering sharing with the rest of the household? Manning says “It’s also fantastic as an after-shave for men, and to clear up eczema, insect bites, sunburn and post waxing.”


This article was updated on August 8, 2019. Some details and prices may have changed since publication.