Navigating the world of green beauty used to be fairly simple. When I was growing up, there were only a few natural brands that were decent but nothing to celebrate. Zoom in on today’s green beauty scene, and we encounter a very different story.
The market is saturated with new labels all the time. Green beauty is now a green business that makes people see GREEN! Where there are dollar signs, there are always going to be new people jumping on the bandwagon.
And here’s the rub… With so many people answering the demand for green beauty, the “green” part may be getting lost in the shuffle. In this decade of conscious consumerism, the green label is simply not enough anymore.
People “in the know” have been blowing the whistle on companies lately for many reasons.
Here are a number of areas that beg questioning.
Too much packaging. Recently I ordered from a new brand with one of the most exquisite (and expensive!) marketing campaigns I have encountered. The ingredients actually stood up to their claims of being pure and natural—that’s no small feat! What I marveled at the most is the amount of packaging and paper used to advertise and ship this small but lovely line. With about three or four products to the entire range, I found this to be rather alarming—and missing the point in shopping for cleaner, greener alternatives.
Lies in disguise. Then of course there’s the ubiquitous term “greenwashing” or “pinkwashing” that casts a gloomy shadow over many brands. As I said, many people attempt to join the bandwagon of natural beauty but few achieve it with honesty and integrity.
Throwing around terms like “all natural,” “botanically-based,” “organic,” and others can be misleading. I’ve even seen brands that use the word “organic” in their name but use toxic chemicals in their formulas that would not render their product organic. Somehow it seems worse when “natural” companies lie. It’s a bit of a double standard, yet that appears to be true. As we align with nature, it’s natural to expect more from a company that claims to be safer.
Seeing double. Here’s another disturbing reality: brands are copying formulas and then marketing them in different packaging. Several times I’ve asked myself: which came first, this product or that one? The formulas are almost exactly the same. One product I found merely changes around the order of the ingredients! It even uses a similar glass bottle. With a saturated market, it’s inevitable for this to happen. That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable.
Hiding ingredients. Some companies won’t even tell you what’s in their formulas. They may list a few “Active Ingredients” and leave the rest to your imagination. While we demand full disclosure of ingredients, does a company have a right not to disclose a proprietary formula in the name of protecting itself from copycats? Maybe listing “fragrance” on a label is the only recourse for an organic brand.
Several companies found a way. Osmia Organics lists: “proprietary blend of organic and wild-harvested essential oils,” while Josh Rosebrook‘s labels say something similar. At least we know what we are getting: no synthetic (read: harmful) fragrance.
Fear-mongering is running rampant. People throw around the terms “toxic ingredients” and “dangerous chemicals” as a selling point for their natural brand. Unfortunately studies are often misquoted or largely exaggerated. It’s high time to get informed. Try this reading list for starters:
- Let’s Not Peddle Half Truths by Siam Botanicals
- Can Cosmetics Be Absorbed into Your Bloodstream by Herb & Hedgerow
- The Impermeable Facts of Skin Penetration and Absorption shared by Kristen Arnett of The Green Beauty Team in a discussion thread about this topic on Mind Body Green
I’m sorta tired about reading about the cancer I might be getting from my foundation, or the lead in lipstick that will cause lead-poisoning. Let’s just say that if these claims were true, we would all be dropping like flies. The environment holds the greatest toxicity of all, but our bodies have adapted to these changes and we are somewhat immune to them. It’s amazing what self-regulating healing machines our bodies can be when we allow them.
If we take it upon ourselves to teach others about good health and natural lifestyles, then it’s vital to our own collective credibility to stay current and cite accurate sources when discussing green beauty. Our words will get lost if they are not valid.
Misinformation perpetuates confusion, distortion, fear, and lies. ←Click to Tweet!
Let me put it bluntly: it also makes us look bad. It’s hard to take someone seriously when they don’t have their facts straight.
Not everyone gets sick. Remember that thoughts, feelings like fear, shame, guilt and anger create an inner climate that supports illness too. With all that being said, even the angriest person on the planet may not get sick. You can do all the “wrong” things like eating junk all the time, smoke cigarettes, and use chemically-based personal care items, and still not get sick. Not only that: some people can be exposed to nuclear fallout and are fine! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not condoning any of these activities. I’m just making an observation about something that I have witnessed.
Let’s face it. We spend a lot of time trying to steer away from disease rather than enjoying our present moments. What a waste of time!
Are demands unreasonable? After dissecting the ingredients of a popular beauty company that claims to be natural, I felt sick inside. I don’t want to read every beauty label with a fine tooth comb, even doubting the work that EWG (Environmental Working Group) has done on the Skin Deep Database. I do enough of that when it comes to reading the labels on my kids’ snack foods!
I’m no chemist or lab scientist, but sometimes I feel like I have to be one in order to know exactly what I’m getting.
Maybe we are demanding too much of cosmetics and skin care companies. I often ask myself if we are straddling two fences. On the one hand we want quality beauty products that have lasting shelf-life (no mold please!) and work wonders. On the other hand, we demand completely natural, non-toxic, and chemical free formulas. Can the two work together?
I think it’s harder for cosmetics companies to achieve that balance because creating certain colors is no simple task. Also makeup must have staying power, feel good on the skin, taste or smell decent, and not melt, clump, chunk, or crumble. Plus it has to last for at least a year on the shelf. Phew! That’s a lot to demand of a company and, quite frankly, a huge investment that many brands just can’t afford to make.
Yet, if we don’t make those demands, who will? In my view, these observations point to this: Are we losing sight of the reasons for wanting to choose greener products?
For me, beauty is a fun outlet in a serious world. It is an opportunity to play with colors and textures, refresh a look, and bring something pretty into this world.
Quite frankly, I don’t put that much weight in scientific studies. They are constantly changing, misquoted, biased, or too hard to read for the average person (me!). Do I need a study to tell me that aligning with nature helps us align with our innate wisdom and truth?
When it comes to steering towards natural beauty—it just makes sense. Even if I don’t get sick from using toxic chemicals, those chemicals enter our waterways when we wash them off and make the earth sick.
It’s about treating the planet with respect and teaching the next generations to do the same. I want a beautiful world overflowing with natural resources to give to our children and their children.
So I’ll continue seeking out more natural alternatives and eco-friendly options in my immediate surroundings. As much as possible. I’m not perfect and I don’t think that’s achievable anymore. But where it is possible, I do my best and am compassionate about the ever-evolving journey.
Where I’m not perfect, I send loving thoughts, so that whatever I’m doing has the intention of highest good. I send loving thoughts to the chocolate I’m about to eat, the chemical products I may still be using, and any other activity.
That’s probably the greenest thing I could ever do. I’m still cultivating the rest.