As the natural and green makeup movement becomes increasingly recognised, more and more brands are turning to it. However, while some companies do genuinely try to be as natural as they possibly can, constantly searching for new alternatives to harmful chemicals and opting for simplicity in place of “glamour” in their products, many brands with the reputation of being green are not actually so. Some may simply be mistaken as green by consumers while others are purposefully misleading customers as a marketing ploy. As I said in my first post, there is much more hidden inside a beauty product than companies care to admit. This phenomenon is known as “greenwashing”, otherwise defined as “an attempt to make people believe that [a] company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is” (ref 1). Moreover, it can take place in any industry, not only pharmaceutics, for instance in agriculture, transport and even hospitality.
There are several different ways to discern credible brands from those guilty of greenwashing, intentionally or otherwise. However, here are just a few of my recommendations.
Overly demonstrative “green” packaging
If the product or packaging is plastered with drawings of leaves, flowers and ladybirds, or if there is an excessive use of the colour green, chances are, the product is compensating for its lack of natural ingredients. The same conclusion can be drawn if the packaging has copious amounts of “natural” adjectives such as real, pure, sustainable etc. written all over it.
Emphasis on one or two ingredients
If the same few ingredients are repeatedly printed on the product, deliberately drawing attention to themselves as opposed to the complete list of ingredients or origin of the ingredients, then there is cause to be suspicious of the product’s credibility.
Excessively long list of ingredients
Simply glancing at the list of ingredients is a fairly accurate way of ascertaining whether or not the product you are considering buying is natural or synthetic. If the list of ingredients is over 7 to 8 components long, and if you can’t pronounce or understand the majority of them, there is very little chance of the product being natural. Often, herbal extracts and oils are written in Latin whereas the suspicious ingredients simply sound like chemical compounds. Mineral makeup is a particularly sneaky group since truly mineral products should only contain the following 4 ingredients: Mica, Zinc Oxide, Titanium Oxide and Iron Oxides.
Vague words such as “fragrance” in the list of ingredients prevent customers from knowing the complete list of components in a product. “Fragrance” is an especially treacherous one since it is a term that usually hides within it a lengthy concoction of chemicals which give the product in question its distinctive smell.
Although this is not the case everywhere, in most European countries, the terms organic and bio can only be commercially employed by a company if they are certified. This law has been implemented in most European countries, however, it is always worth verifying yourself; ask someone working in the shop or do some independent research online. Moreover, an organic certification is not the only one to look out for in cosmetics. If a brand claims to be gluten free, they should be certified, if they claim to be vegan they should be certified and so on.
This term is one to watch out for as it states nothing about the procedures used to create the new material. For instance, “Cocamidopropyl Betaine derived from coconut oil” is very misleading as your eye is drawn to the latter part of the claim leading you to believe that the ingredient is natural. However, in actual fact, creating Cocamidopropyl Betaine requires chemicals and other synthetics. Its close relative Cocamide DEA is another ingredient to be wary of as it too is derived from coconut oil but is created with carcinogenic chemicals.
Placing emphasis on the nasty substances a product doesn’t contain is a very basic way of distracting the consumer from the product’s actual ingredients which the brand clearly feels ought to be hidden. For example, when a brand states they are “preservative free” but they Sodium Benzoate in their ingredients; they are lying through their teeth as this is definitely a preservative. Sodium Benzoate is a preservative widely used in food and is usually listed as the E number E211, meaning it clearly isn’t something you want to put in your body or on your body. It can be naturally found in very small quantities in food such as berries, apples and plums, but when used in food and cosmetics it is usually synthesised.
Simply by using the colour green, drawing a few leaves on their packaging, employing one or two choice words associated with nature in their names or slogans brands can misrepresent themselves. However, what makes it worse is that we fall for it so easily! My final piece of advice to you is research! There is nothing that will be more effective than simply doing a little investigating. Take your time, read the ingredients, research what you don’t know, read about the brand’s certifications and do not be afraid to ask the shop assistant for help or email the brand itself! Besides, if the brand has nothing to hide then all the information you are looking for should be clearly displayed on the website. You are going to be applying this product to your skin so the little extra effort is worth it!
To finish off, here is a list of a few brands that, having conducted my own research, I see reason not to trust:
It is worth adding that this is a list of “greenwashers”, as opposed to “not natural” brands.
These, on the other hand, are natural brands that appear to be honest concerning their products:
Of these, however, I plan to do a much more detailed list in the future.
I hope very much that you enjoyed this post and that you will be back, eager to read more about how to be healthy minded in the world of pharmaceutics! Nicky xx
My research was conducted with help from these websites: