Greenwashing: Why The Term "Natural" Can't Be Trusted

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Imagine going to your fav grocery store, picking up a pre-made dinner and flipping the ingredients label over only to find that you have NO idea what’s in it. Or maybe that there’s a toxic chemical in it. Scary, right? Unfortunately for consumers, that’s often the case for thousands (maybe even millions) of cosmetic products on the market. That’s because the beauty industry is riddled with murky regulations that leave users wondering what’s really in our creams, oils and potions.

WHAT IS GREENWASHING, ANYWAY?

Let’s start with the definition of greenwashing. According to Google’s dictionary search, to greenwash is “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” In simpler terms, it’s when brands use misleading labeling and marketing to make you think a product is truly natural.

A classic example of this is going into a local retailer, like Target or CVS, and stumbling upon products that boast claims like “natural” or have green leaves all over their labels. Your instinct is to think, “okay, this is a safe, natural product for me.” But then you turn the product around to investigate its ingredients, only to find that it’s filled with toxic chemicals, like talc, ethanolamine compounds, or triclosan, all of which are all banned in the EU.

LACK OF REGULATION IN THE US

Unlike the US, Europe actually has some of the strictest standards on what goes into your products and has currently banned 1,328 chemicals from cosmetics. European law also requires “pre-market safety assessments of cosmetics, mandatory registration of cosmetic products, government authorization for the use of nanomaterials and prohibits animal testing for cosmetic purposes,” unlike the US.

According to Safe Cosmetics, each of these blacklisted ingredients are “known or suspected to cause cancer, genetic mutation, reproductive harm or birth defects.” And what’s scarier? The U.S. FDA hasn’t banned, like, a TON of them. In fact, according to federal regulations, only 30 ingredients are currently banned from the US. I don’t know about you, but those stats are def alarming.

To make matters worse, a myriad of beauty companies are capitalizing on the U.S.’ grey areas when it comes to regulations, ingredients and packaging transparency. Think “green packaging” that’s not really, well… green. To investigate the problem further, let’s get acquainted with the definition of green when it comes to beauty. News alert: there is none.

But after surveying a handful of peers and friends, I found out that a lot of people thought there was. And the general consensus was that green beauty brands are “natural,” “eco-friendly,” and “organic.” This led me to wonder… what’s the deal with greenwashing and how can honest consumers avoid its misleading labels and marketing ploys to spend our hard earned cash?

HOW CAN WE AVOID THE GREENWASHING?

The best way to combat greenwashing is to become an educated consumer. Just like you inspect your foods’ ingredients labels, you should be looking into your cosmetics’ ingredients, too. A great tool to rely on is the Think Dirty app, which allows you to easily scan your products using a barcode. You’ll receive instant information on the product and its ingredients and even have access to cleaner options.

If it’s going on your body, remember that it’s just as important as what’s going in your body –– your skin is your largest organ, after all. So, be sure to take some extra time investigating your beauty products formulations and read Mirra each week (because, duh, why wouldn’t you?), as we decode all your fav ingredients to learn what’s really safe for your skin and what’s not. Trust us, it’s the best investment for your skin (and it’s free). 😉

 

BY KIMBERLY ARNOLD