Greenwashing – Shocking Truths About Your Cosmetic Products

Greenwashing is the practice of making people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. Greenwashing occurs in numerous industries but it is a practice that is increasingly used in the cosmetics industry where many companies market their products or the company altogether as “all natural” or “organic” when they actually are not.

Green” products are one of the hottest trends in beauty today. For years, the “natural” category has been the fastest growing segment of the global cosmetics industry, and a recent report predicts the market will be worth $16 billion by 2020. It is very clear consumers are demanding natural and safer beauty products so brands are rushing to respond to the demand. These consumer demands however seem to be encouraging companies to use words like “organic” ”natural” and “pure” on their labels without taking into account the actual ingredients of their product.

In cosmetics, unlike food, the terms “organic” and “natural” are not regulated so they are used freely and are often unverified. The law does not require cosmetic labelling to have FDA approval before cosmetic products go on the market, and FDA does not have a list of approved or accepted claims for cosmetics

Greenwashing comes in various forms like:

  1. Naturally named product – A standard product given a “green” name so the consumers is focused on the product name instead of ingredients list.
  2. A bit of nature – A standard product loaded with low levels of plant extracts, natural oils and other “green” sounding ingredients. You will notice product claims like “powered by 20 pure plant extracts”.
  3. Misleading labels – Words like “Pure & Natural”, “Chemical Free” on the packaging. (Remember that all substances are chemicals even water!)
  4. Natural substitutions in ingredient list – Replacing standard ingredients with ones that sound like natural ingredients, e.g. Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride (Coconut Derived), Glyceryl Stearate SE (Palm Oil Derived).
  5. Focusing on one specific ingredient – E.g. Aloe Vera, Argan Oil e.t.c.
  6. Images – Leaves or Flowers
  7. Colors – Green
  8. Vague and irrelevant claims – Saying a product is CFC-free, when CFCs are banned by law or stating “SLES Free” on a lotion when SLES will never be used in formulating a lotion. 

I am not stating all this to say that “natural” “or organic” products are better than “synthetic” ingredients, I’m just giving the “green” folks tips on what to look for…..always read the label! If you’re not sure, drop a comment in “Ask the Expert”.

PHOTO CREDIT: Synergie Skin, Botanicals Blog