Greenwashing in Beauty & Personal Hygiene Products

The more I walk this Clean Beauty path, the more I realize just how cray cray it is out there. I was shocked to learn that the FDA actually lets companies get away with using ingredients that are considered irritating, toxic and even worse, have been linked to cancer.

Then I was even more shocked to hear that in the US there is not much regulation of our beauty and personal hygiene products. Just to put that into perspective, the US has only banned about 40 ingredients that are used in our cosmetics, whereas the EU has banned around 2,000.

The other day I was having a conversation with a friend about my Clean Beauty journey and mentioned “greenwashing” and they had never heard of that term. But it is a very real occurrence that is happening in the Beauty Industry right now.

Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice. Greenwashing can make a company appear to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. As more and more people begin to pay attention to what they are putting in and on their bodies, companies are trying to convince you that their products are safe to use.

Here are a few terms that companies use to convince you that their products are safe and you should continue to use them.

Natural

The term “natural” is not regulated at all by the FDA (or anyone for that matter) and that can mean just about anything. If you were to look at a “natural” moisturizer for instance, they could have one natural ingredient like shea butter, but the rest of the formulation could be full of irritating and toxic ingredients.

Organic

This is another huge one that companies will use in their greenwashing campaigns to get you to buy into what they’re selling. Organic is only regulated by the USDA, so the product must go through their rigorous process and carry the USDA certified organic label. In fact, I know of one company who not only claims to be fully organic but they even use the word “organic” in their name. However, they have no certification at all.

Paraben Free

Parabens have been a controversial topic for years now, so we are starting to see more companies fazing them out and smacking “paraben free” on their label. The problem with this is that the rest of the formula is still loaded with toxic junk. Paraben has been used in beauty products as a preservative for decades. Now that it has been shown to be an irritant and even linked to certain cancers, more people are avoiding it and companies are removing it from their formulations. However, they are replacing it with other preservatives that are just as bad (more on this topic in an upcoming video/blog post).

Other Greenwashing terms

  • Botanical
  • Chemical-free
  • Dermatologist recommended
  • Extracts
  • Gentle
  • Green
  • Herbal
  • Mineral
  • Natural
  • Naturally fragranced
  • Oil-free
  • Plant-based
  • Plant-derived
  • Pure
  • Raw
  • Sensitive
  • Sulfate-free

The only way to know if you are truly using clean beauty products is to be diligent about reading labels. Know what the toxic ingredients to avoid are (see my list here) and what the ingredients on labels mean.

To hear more on my thoughts on Greenwashing in our Beauty and Personal Hygiene products, check out the video below.

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