Just like there are 50 shades of grey, there’s a whole palette of green when it comes to choosing the safest toxin-free beauty products. Not all green beauty products are born equal. Some of them contain 100% natural ingredients, while some other sneaky businesses only use a minimal amount of organic ingredients yet still claim their products as ‘natural’. That’s where the grey comes in to muddle the water on the topic of green beauty.
What exactly is greenwashing? Here’s a quote from Greenwashingindex.com:
Greenwashing is when a brand or company makes efforts claiming to be “green” and natural through advertising and marketing rather than implementing practices that minimise environmental impact.
This article on greenbeautyteam.com lists beauty brands that advertise their products in a way that make you believe they’re all natural when they actually contain harmful chemicals (how beautiful is this list?).
Identifying greenwashing lies in the cosmetic industry is a topic I feel so passionate about. Walking through the cosmetic aisles at my local chemist makes my fume with shock and disappointment. I can’t help but pick up every bottle of personal care product that reads ‘all natural’ on the labels to check if their ingredients live up to their claims. What I found was nothing short of disgusting marketing lies that attempt to cover up their dirty and toxin-laden formula. When I spoke to the Brisbane Threads team on all things green beauty a while ago (you can read the post here and download the free ebook here), I briefly mentioned how I’ve started detoxifying my beauty routine and throw away products that aren’t up to my green standard. I’ve almost completely trashed my old favourites including SKII facial mask, Lancome eye makeup remover, Giorgio Armani foundation and more. But then while I was going through my ‘trash’ piles, I realised some of them are even worse than just being non-natural based. Some of these simply pretend to be natural while it’s in fact a massive green lie.
Typically from what I’ve seen so far, here’re a few ways brands attempt to engage in ‘greenwashing’ marketing tactics:
1. Label their products or name their brands as ‘natural’ while they still contain tons of dirty toxins (a list of ‘dirty eight’ toxins to avoid is published here).
2. Advertise themselves as ‘cruelty-free’ and ‘vegan’ (again they can still contain toxic ingredients that aren’t animal derived)
3. Simply package their products in green or ‘eco-looking’ packaging – typical example is the Coca-Cola Coke Life while it’s still sugar-laden (sourced here)!
And just like playing cat and mouse, these greenwashing tactics by dishonest beauty brands are ever-changing and getting smarter and smarter to try to fool us all.
So in view these unethical practices and having fallen victim to these myself back twelve months ago, I’ve decided to start running this ‘Trust It or Trash It’ beauty greenwashing column monthly here on the blog. I realised I’m not helping anyone else other than myself if I quietly trash beauty products that got my ‘hall of shame’. So here you have it, in this monthly column, I’m sharing my thought process on determining whether a product is as natural as it claims. I have to admit though I’m not a chemist nor health scientist while I aim to make my unbiassed judgement based on extensive research. This is such a hot topic that no doubt will stir controversies and I’m sure you have different opinions, which are exactly what make this conversion interesting! So please pretty, feel free to share your point of view and your experience on uncovering greenwashing lies with our green beauty tribes here.
To commence our series, I’m putting one of my all-time beauty favourites under the microscope (can you believe I’ve been using this ever since my teen years?):
Product: Palmer’s Shea Butter Formula Body Lotion with Vitamin E
(identified as high toxicity by the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database)
Mineral Oil (clog pores), Fragrance (might contain phthalates that can affect male reproductive system in high regular dose), Methylparaben and Propylparaben (both are hormones disruptor) and EDTA (made from formaldehyde – a known carcinogen)
- Labelled as ‘made with certified organic shea butter’ without revealing the organisation that provides their certification
- Labelled as ‘Nature’s Treatment for Soft, Radiant Skin’ on the bottle
- The use of green colour in their packaging (you’ll find this a very common tactic)
- Thier AU website only lists active ingredients of each product that seem ‘natural’ but not other chemicals added
Trust it or trash it?
It’s a definite ‘TRASH’.
There’re simply many other safer alternatives for body lotion without the above listed questionable ingredients and putting your health at risk! I can recommend GAIA (reviewed here), A Bit Hippy (reviewed here) and La Mav.
This is the ingredient list for the La Mav Certified Organic Nourish Body Moisturiser so you can compare and see it for yourself how much less iffy chemicals (that even your chemistry teacher struggles to pronounce) and more natural oils that are present in the formula:
Aloe Vera Leaf Juice, Shea Butter; Sweet Almond Oil, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Jojoba Seed Oil, Macadamia Seed Oil, Cetearyl Olivate, Glyceryl Stearate Citrate, Sorbitan Olivate, Glycerin, Cetearyl Glucoside, Aqua, Glyceryl Caprylate, Sodium Levulinate, Tocopherol, Avocado Oil, Coconut Oil, Sodium Anisate, Rose Geranium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Lactic Acid, Lavender Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera Cera, Xanthum Gum, Soybean Oil.
So tell me dear fellow green beauty lover, have you fallen victim to greenwashing tactics in beauty products? What are some of your previously loved brands that have let you down with their greenwashing lies? If you’re new to our green beauty tribe, how much do you know about what’s in your bottle of body lotion? As I mentioned, I’m slowing finding my way through this green beauty journey and I’d love to hear your opinions to make us all smarter and more green-savvy when making purchases. So share your thoughts below, and let me know what other brands you want me to look into in our next ‘Trust it or Trash it’ series in October!
Till next time. Stay beautiful inside and out.