Are your “natural” beauty products green-washed?

are your natural beauty products green washed

Green-washing: it’s happened to the best of us.

Because, gosh darn it, we live in a confusing world. A world where companies can use terms like “natural” and “pure” when their products are in fact chock-full-o’-nasties.

It’s downright infuriating.

So how does green-washing happen?

The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act prohibits the distribution of “misbranded” cosmetics. So we’d think that the FD&C Act would make green-washing impossible, right? 

But nope.

Really all this means is that a product cannot claim to be “X-free” when it does in fact contain X.

However, vague “green” buzzwords are not regulated and can be used at will regardless of a product’s ingredients: “naturals”, “organics”, “organix”, “eco”, “pure”, “botanics”, “mineral”…

Another green-washing tactic companies employ is to draw attention to certain ingredients that their product does not contain. For example, a product may be paraben-free or fragrance-free, but it may also very well contain a ton of other chemical ingredients.

See just how easy it is to green-wash?

Fortunately, USDA certified organic products are regulated.

One term companies are not allowed to toss around is “USDA certified organic.” A beauty product is USDA certified organic if it contains all or mostly agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards.

  • org“100% organic”: product must contain only organically produced ingredients.
  • “Organic”: product must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients. The remaining 5% must be from a list of approved ingredients.

The USDA organic seal is therefore a good indicator of quality and inherently prohibits greenwashing of products bearing the seal.

But a product does not necessarily have to be USDA certified organic to be a great, all-natural product.

Just as it’s more expensive for farmers to produce USDA organic crops, dairy, and meats than it is for farmers to spray their fields in chemicals and pump their livestock full of drugs (ugh), it is very expensive for beauty companies to get the USDA seal on their products. And some just don’t see the necessity.

So just because products do not carry the USDA organic seal does not mean they do not contain safe, natural ingredients.

Then how do we know if they do contain safe, natural ingredients? By checking the ingredient label!

Picture 5

Green-washers want to razzle-dazzle us with some pretty pictures of flowers and nice sounding words like “eco” and “organix.” Ignore these. Turn whatever it is you’re looking at over and carefully inspect that ingredient label, because this is where the truth lies. What do you see? A bunch of chemical sounding terms? Any one of the paraben family? The ever mysterious “fragrance”? If yes, put that baby right back on the shelf.

Now let’s check out one of my favorite all-natural deodorants to the right, Primal Pit Paste. This product is not certified USDA organic, but ooh is that ingredient label a beautiful sight: simple, recognizable ingredients that you *could eat*, most of which are organic. This is what I look for when buying beauty and body care products. (P.S. right now, Body Unburdened readers get 20% off Primal Pit Paste and all other Go Primal body care products!)

My other favorite all-natural beauty brands:

100% Pure is the first company to create cosmetics with fruit and vegetable pigments. They also have full skincarebath and body, and haircare lines, each of which is formulated with absolutely NO chemicals. Their products are ideal for sensitive skin and are also vegan-friendly. My all-time, hands-down favorite product is their lip and cheek tint, which I have in “cranberry glow” and use daily.

Juice Beauty offers organic skin care and organic beauty products that are clinically validated to show transformative results.

Nourish Organic carries luxurious certified USDA organic skincare items in gorgeous scents. If you’re a sucker for packaging like I am, you’ll love their products that much more.

And of course, DIY lets you know the exact ingredients in your beauty and body care products.

… because you put them there with your very own hands! Check out my DIY archives for some great recipes. Some are as simple as two all-natural ingredients (that you probably already have in your pantry).

green washing

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  1. “Another green-washing tactic companies employ is to draw attention to certain ingredients that their product does not contain…”

    I recently saw my childhood favorite shampoo, Herbal Essence, in a store. They were greenwashed. Here’s a photo: http://d277vln4jzkhhg.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Herbal-Essences-Smooth.jpg

    The hilarious thing is that they have Silicone-Free Shampoo and Sulfate-Free Conditioner, as if this was a selling point. Of course the conditioner is sulfate free, sulfates are primarily in shampoos for cleansing. And silicones are primarily in conditioners to coat your hair into softness. They are simply marketing what always has been to snare the unaware consumer.