At SeaBerry Studios I teach how to make skincare products with kind ingredients. I really love how empowered people feel after their first workshop. It’s more than just making skincare. It’s about learning what can and what shouldn’t go into the skin. It’s about deciphering the nebulous cosmetic label world.
Students go home after a workshop and often write to me surprised by the ingredients listed in their daily cosmetics. Broad claims such as “natural”, “green”, “botanical based ingredients”, “earth friendly”, and “naturally derived ingredients” are common but what products are truly sustainable, safe, and effective? How can you spot greenwashing and distinguish which companies are truly green and ethical?
Greenwashing is a growing trend that refers to companies vague and misleading claims about their eco-friendliness. Do you know that a scent-free labeled product can contain “fragrance “or “parfum”? In such cases, manufactures add a masking agent to hide the scents from the other ingredients! Crazy stuff, right?! If you are looking for a vegan product a “Not Tested on Animals” label only means that the final product was not tested on animals, but does not guarantee that the individual ingredients were tested in animals! An “all-natural” product might not be safe or green. Formaldehyde is naturally occurring but in certain concentrations is poisonous. Sandalwood is harvested from slow-growing trees that have greatly suffered over-harvesting. We should make sure sandalwood is obtained in a sustainable fashion or avoid it all together.
Is your head hurting yet? Fear not, here are some tips to spot greenwashing:
1) Read your labels! In Canada, cosmetics have to list all the ingredients in their labels.
2) Don’t know what an ingredient is and how can impact your health? At the The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database you can type the name of that ingredient to find any related health concerns (you can also type the name and brand of many cosmetics).
3) Buying an essential oil or raw ingredient to make your own cosmetics? Reputable suppliers provide you with Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) right on their site. These wonderful pieces of information provide you with the compounds that a certain ingredient contain, among other data. This way you can check, for instance, if that essential oil is really 100% pure.
I also highly recommend you to check The Sins of GreenWashing. This is a great resource for all the questions you might have about this sketchy practice. You’ll never look at cosmetic’s advertising the same way again!
This article was first published in May 2016 on the Guide to the Good site and slightly adapted for here.