Is Philosophy a Clean Brand? We Analyzed Them To Find Out

6 min reading time

Philosophy is a skincare and fragrance brand founded by Cristina Carlino in 1996 and currently owned by the American-French beauty company, Coty, Inc. The brand’s mission is to create clean and eco-responsible products, taking into account ingredient sourcing and manufacturing processes.

The brand’s aesthetic features pastel colors and lowercase lettering, conveying a sense of simplicity and elegance. Philosophy’s marketing aligns with its clean, straightforward branding, focusing on using clean ingredients supported by scientific outcomes. Their website showcases products with “clinically proven results” based on consumer trials.

As Philosophy positions itself as a clean, eco-conscious brand, we took it upon ourselves to investigate the brand’s ethics and ingredients.

Is Philosophy truly as clean and sustainable as it claims to be?

Our in-depth analysis aims to provide an objective overview of the brand’s commitment to cleanliness and sustainability.

Our Methodology

At Better Goods, we rank brands on our three pillars: ingredients, sustainability, and animal welfare.

Brands are rated on the three pillars as follows:


This ranking is for the best of the best. Only exemplary brands will receive a ranking of best for any category.


This ranking is for brands that are typically quite good, but don’t go above and beyond like our best choices.


This ranking is for when we find something we find iffy. Not a good sign.


This ranking is reserved for the worst of the worst.

Ingredients (Rating: Iffy)

On Philosophy’s website, the company is transparent about the ingredients used in their current formulations. Each product has a list of key ingredients, and there is an option to click for a list of full ingredients.

As you can see in the quote above, Philosphy does make claims about their ingredients being ethical, sustainable and socially conscious. However, after digging into their actual ingredients used, we found that this is misleading.

Philosophy promised to exclude parabens, phenoxyethanol, BHT, phthalates, and other harmful ingredients from formulations beginning in 2022. The brand also also stated it will reformulate older products to adhere to its new, clean standards. 

When reviewing Philosophy’s ingredients, we found some concerning ingredients…
  • Synthetic fragrance – Many current products have undisclosed fragrances listed under ingredients. We do not suggest using products with fragrances.
  • Phenoxyethanol – A preservative that can be safe for cosmetic use in small concentrations. It can cause allergies or respiratory side effects. At Better Goods, we consider this an iffy ingredient, but
  • BHA & BHT – Both BHA and BHT were found in some of Philosophy’s current products. These preservatives have been linked to endocrine description and are possibly carcinogenic.
  • PEGs – They usually act as emulsifiers and skin conditioners. They can irritate the skin and are often contaminated with carcinogens like 1,4-dioxane and ethylene oxide. 
  • Parabens – These are synthetic preservatives that can disrupt hormones. Philosophy states on its website that the company is searching for alternatives. 
  • Synthetic dyes – Some synthetic dyes have been linked to cancer. 
  • Methylisothiazolinone – A preservative ingredient. Some studies in mammals have found a link between methylisothiazolinone and neurotoxicity.
  • MicaA 2018 report uncovered child labor and exploitation in mica mining in Madagascar and India. Philosophy has made no specific statements about its mica being ethically sourced. 
Examples of ingredients found in a Philosphy product

Sustainability (Rating: Iffy)

Philosophy claims that it is transitioning to eco-responsible packaging. Its goal is to use FSC-certified recycled paper for packages and more PCR plastics and glass in packaging. The language in Philosophy’s sustainability statement is vague and has caveats.

For example, the eco-responsible packaging only applies to products manufactured after January 2022 and is “subject to available commercial supply.” This eco-responsible packaging does not seem to extend to Philosophy’s samples. 

Animal Welfare (Rating: Iffy)

Philosophy positions itself as a cruelty-free brand. The company makes the following statement about animal welfare on its website:

“Please be assured that we do not perform, nor do we ever commission any third parties on our behalf to perform animal testing on our products or ingredients except when required by law.”

However, after we dug into the brand, we discovered that this isn’t true.


Cruelty-Free Kitty reports that Philosophy is not a cruelty-free brand. Its products are sold in places where animal testing is required by law. In the “Frequently Asked Questions” section of Philosophy’s website, the company confirms that it abides by animal testing when required by law. Philosophy’s parent company, Coty Inc., is also not cruelty-free.


Philosophy’s products are not 100% vegan. Some products contain vegan ingredients, but not all. Many products contain synthetic ingredients and fragrances, especially in Philosophy’s perfume line. 

Final Brand Ratings

Our rating scale ranges from “Best” (for having the best practices) to “Avoid” (for having unacceptable practices). We rated Philosophy as follows.

IngredientsIffyPhilosophy is transparent about the ingredients used in their current formulations. However, some products still contain concerning ingredients such as synthetic fragrances, phenoxyethanol, BHA, BHT, PEGs, parabens, synthetic dyes, methylisothiazolinone, and potentially unethically sourced mica.
SustainabilityIffyPhilosophy claims to be transitioning to eco-responsible packaging using FSC-certified recycled paper, PCR plastics, and glass. However, the language in their sustainability statement is vague, with caveats regarding availability and the exclusion of samples from the eco-responsible packaging initiatives.
Animal WelfareIffyAlthough Philosophy positions itself as a cruelty-free brand, it is not truly cruelty-free as its products are sold in places where animal testing is required by law. Philosophy’s parent company, Coty Inc., is also not cruelty-free. Their products are not 100% vegan.

Overall Rating: Iffy

Philosophy is a skincare and fragrance company that markets itself as a clean beauty brand. While the company has acknowledged its commitment to removing harmful ingredients from current and future products, most of the products listed on their website still contain hazardous ingredients. Thus, the products are not as “clean” as its marketing implies. 

Philosophy supports mental health awareness. The “Hope & Grace Initiative” gives grants of $25,000-$75,000 per year. According to Philosophy’s website, it has donated $5.3 million to mental health since 2014. The brand also chooses one project per year to donate to via the New Venture Fund

The company positions itself to be cruelty-free. However, Philosophy sells products in areas where animal testing is lawfully required, so it cannot claim a cruelty-free status. 

Philosophy has made promises for improvement, and time will show if these changes come to fruition. For these reasons, Philosophy receives an overall rating of Iffy.

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