GREENWASHING AND THE DARK ART OF MISLEADING LABELS
When It Comes to Looking After Your Skin, Remember to Read the Fine-Print!
In today’s world, a great deal of currency is given to our appearance and the way we present ourselves (too much currency, in fact… but that’s a subject for an entirely different article). We all want to look our best and we all want to use skincare products that will leave us with a glowing complexion and healthy, youthful looking skin.
In search of this panacea, we’re exposed to hundreds of new products every year. Some of them are promoted by celebrities, some of them have wonderfully exotic, ‘natural’ sounding names, whilst others are marketed as having impeccable ‘green’ credentials.
The good news? A number of these products will deliver on their promise. But too many don’t. They flatter, but they deceive. And, in the absence of any guiding legislation, it’s up to us to work out what’s real and what isn’t: that the product we think we’re getting and what we’re truly getting are one and the same.
At The Organic Skin Co., we’re committed to offering you skincare that will not only help you look good but feel good too. We source our ingredients from organic and biodynamic farms and well over 99% of everything we put into our products is pure and natural. Equally important, we list the organic percentage of all our products, both on our packaging and on our website.
Sadly, the same cannot be said for some other beauty products on the market. Many mainstream cosmetics companies continue to rely on synthetic chemicals as the key components in their products, whilst others who claim to be environmentally friendly and natural are guilty of greenwashing.
What is greenwashing, exactly? What should I look out for?
Greenwashing occurs when a manufacturer makes (or - potentially even worse - seems to make) a claim about their product that’s designed to convince a customer they’re buying something natural and good for them. The product might, for example, have an organic sounding name, offer “a truly natural experience”, or claim to be based on “fair trade”. Acting in good faith, consumers buy these products, believing they’re doing the right thing, both by themselves and the world around them.
Unfortunately, closer inspection often reveals a different story. A shampoo that claims to have no sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) may simply be using an alternative (and equally dubious) foaming agent like ammonium laurel sulphate.
A company that promises consumers “natural skincare”, or which touts a trending natural ingredient in a product’s name and marketing, may only be offering something that possesses a small percentage of natural ingredients (whilst also being full of parabens and other synthetic, potentially toxic, chemicals).
Another manufacturer might claim to be “fair trade” or “environmentally friendly” but - when you drill down into the details - there’s no real evidence to support this.
In the end, claims like these are possible because the beauty industry does not, as yet, have any set guidelines or rules that a company is required to follow to claim ‘green’ or ‘natural’ credentials.
And so, we’re required to take responsibility for what we buy, operating under the outdated 19th century law of caveat emptor - ‘buyer beware’.
What can I do to protect myself and purchase the kind of product I want?
To help avoid falling victim to greenwashing, there are a couple of steps we can all take to mitigate our risk and ensure that the product we’re buying is exactly what we think it is.
- Look for evidence of certification. Leading certification agencies such as the American based NSF, the European based Eco-Cert, BDIH and NATRUE, New Zealand’s BioGro (our personal fave!!!), or the Australian based NASAA and ACO, will only certify products that meet prescribed minimums in terms of natural or organic content. They offer a strong guarantee that you’re purchasing products which are truly “green”.
- Take the time to read the ingredients list on the product you’ve chosen. This will help you determine the worth and authenticity of the product. If you’re unsure about one or more of the ingredients listed then talk to the supplier or check for yourself in a book like Christine Farlow’s “Dying to Look Good”, an easy-to-carry guide which classifies and explains over 1,300 cosmetic ingredients according to their safety. Other online databases, like EWGs ‘Skin Deep’ cosmetics database or an app like ‘Think Dirty’, are also excellent sources of information.
Whatever you do, don’t simply assume that because something looks, at first glance, to be green and pure, that it truly is a natural, healthy product. Check the certification, check the ingredients list, and rest easy in the knowledge that you’ve chosen skincare that is good both for you and the planet!