Avoiding ‘Green Washing’ and Informed Consent in the Beauty Industry

We all know what false advertising is, but it seems we tend to think that companies are forced to tell us everything about a product they are trying to sell us. All though this can be true to certain extents, when it comes to personal care products there really are not very many regulations surrounding what we need to be told.

Industry Regulations

The beauty and personal care industry is valued at 66 billion dollars, and yet has one of the poorest regulatory systems! The FDA has only 6 inspectors regulating 3 millions shipments of cosmetics coming in each year! That is insane!

Now don’t panic I am not telling you this to freak you out, I am just sharing information so you can make more informed decisions.

What is ‘Green Washing’

We have been led to believe that if we want to make better choices for yourselves and our families that we should seek out products that say they are non-toxic, natural, organic, botanical, pure and chemical-free.

When the truth of the matter is those terms mean nothing, if they are not backed by a transparent business model. There are no regulations around these terms, and companies will not get in any kind of trouble if they lie when using them. Marketing does not equate to a safer product choice!

This is called green washing, the use of marketing buzz words in order to get our attention.

How to Avoid Getting Fooled

Research! Make sure you trust the brand you are choosing to spend your hard earned money on, make sure they live up to their claims and are not just offering empty promises.

Three great resources are the Healthy Living and Think Dirty apps and websites, and Beautycounter’s Never List.

The apps allow you to search brands and products to see how they score in terms of their ingredients as well as environmental impact. The Never List is a list of 1400 ingredients Beautycounter promises to never use in their products, even if you are not buying from Beautycounter, their Never List can give you an idea of ingredients to avoid in other brands as well!

What Buzz Words to Watch Out For

Natural

It is not regulated at all, unless certified by a third party organization. And could simply mean that as little as one ingredient is mineral or plant based rather than synthetic. Don’t forget, technically lead is ‘natural’, but you would not want it in your shampoo now would you! The scariest part is a LOT of cosmetics contain heavy metals, either directly or via contamination from the manufacturing process!

Organic

Again this really doesn’t mean much, in any industry. The term organic is not regulated either and usually only means that some of the raw ingredients where produced without chemical fertilizers or pesticides and does not mean they don’t contain chemical preservatives or questionable ingredients.

Preservative Free

Anything made with water, need to have something to preserve it to prevent yeast, bacteria or mold from growing rendering them unsafe. Generally this is used on products that would not have needed a preservative in the first place. i.e. Something that doesn’t contain water…

Chemical Free

The term chemical does not mean ‘man-made’, everything is made up of chemicals, water is a chemical! Chemicals become an issue when they are untested, or known to be harmful. Choose products that are free of harmful, toxic or questionable chemicals.

Dermatologist Approved

Just because a dermatologist approved it does not mean the products has been tested in any way. It also does not mean that it has been evaluated for health impact.

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