We have all seen these labels and claims on products but what do they really mean and why should you care. Obviously, if you're reading this blog you have some innate awareness for the types of products you put on your body - and for that I thank and congratulate you - you are already a step above the rest.
But can we really trust labels like the ones listed above?
The Answer: … It Depends
In today’s cosmetic industry these terms have been used so much that there legitimacy have become convoluted making it increasingly difficult for consumers to protect themselves from harmful products, this is called green washing.
Greenwashing- Creating and marketing cosmetics in a way that gives consumers the illusion that they are purchasing something that is more natural than it really is, while using formulations that cost less than true natural products
As you walk down the aisle of the health and beauty department no one can deny that NATURAL is the new black. Its hip and trendy due to changes in lifestyle and perceptions of consumers therefore the greener something looks the better it sells. These trends have caused a big shift in the personal care market so much that the organic personal care market is projected to be reach 25.1 BILLION by 2025 (Grand View Research November 2016). Green = Green, so naturally ( pun intended) companies are going to market in a way to give consumers what they want so they reap the financial benefits. The reality is a l lot more than meets the eye when it comes to the natural cosmetic industry.
Many products draw in customers through natural and organic labels. Organic Certifications ( we will get to natural labels in a minute) are typically are a good way to insure high quality products but there are several exceptions. Some small companies might have pure products with all natural and organic materials but no certification due to exorbitant cost of certification . Yet some large companies advertise organic ingredients when their formulas that contain less than 5% organic materials,while other products that have organic certifications but still have questionable ingredients that I personally ( and you shouldn't either) want on me or my family; as illustrated by our nameless shampoo ingredient label shown below.
Phenoxyethanol is a commonly known preserative known to cause irritation to eyes, skin and lungs and pose toxicity concerns to organ systems ( Read more at ewg.org)
Regarding natural labels unfortunately the USDA has not specific regulations on the use of the word natural on product labels . You would like to think that products with natural on the label would actually have all natural ingredients but this is not always the case. Some “natural” products can contain a very large percent of synthetics that only can be identified by reading the label. Another term commonly used is “toxin free” or “chemical free” in utopia this would mean that there are no chemicals/ toxins that are known to cause ailments in humans such as cancer or disruption of bodily systems. However even these labels allow for the incorporation of other less the lovely synthetics ( preservatives, polymers, fragrances, parabens etc) in product formulations. Furthermore, the last time i checked if I am putting something on my face it being Toxin Free is a uncompromising standard, it's what i expect from my products not something that should be used as an enticing selling point.
So now what…
Guarding Against Greenwashing
1. Screen your Ingredients
The proof is in the pudding, well in this case the ingredient label. Taking the time to read ingredient labels on your personal care products before plopping them in the cart is one sure way to make sure each product meets your standards. Resources like our #NotOnMe Page, the Environmental Working Groups Ingredient Database, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the very handy ThinkDirty app are also great ways to decipher what ingredients really mean and guide you in your choices.
2.Look for Clues
Nine times out of Ten if a product's label makes vague claims, over exaggerates greenness or masks important information you have caught them Green Handed, They are greenwashing guilty. Typically truly green companies do not make outrageous claims simply because they don’t have to, their dedication to providing quality pure products is shown in their ingredients and processes. They aren't green because it’s trendy , they are green cause it’s part of their core values and DNA.
There is no better way to know exactly what is in your products than to make them yourself! Thanks to our great friend the internet you can find a DIY recipe for just about anything you will ever need . Our Own It page has a few of our favorites.
4. Hold Brands Accountable
If you don’t know what an ingredient is, why it's in the products, or descriptions of ingredients are vague ASK for clarification. If it's going on your body your have the right to ask manufacturers what is in their formulas. If they can't provide answers, there is other brands that have no issue with transparency.