Stop Falling For These Common Greenwashing Claims
Shopping for truly clean, non-toxic products nowadays feels like we need a science degree or a detective badge to decode ingredient labels and decipher descriptive language on product packaging.
Can anyone else relate?
Although there’s been a surge in the green beauty industry due to a growing awareness of chemicals and increasing customer demands, we’re still left feeling more confused than ever.
And here’s why:
More and more brands are cashing in on trending catchphrases like “clean” or “chemical-free” or “all-natural” and using these marketing terms to their advantage - even when there’s little to no grounds to back these claims.
Companies are capitalizing on their customer’s desire for cleaner products (and their blind trust in taglines and slogans) without actually delivering on their promises.
How is it possible for a company to claim a product is “pure” while synthetic chemicals are still present? This deceptive marketing game can be summed up in one word: greenwashing.
“Deceitful or dishonest marketing to make people believe a brand is doing more for people’s health and the planet than it actually is.”
Have you fallen for misleading marketing messages only to discover the ingredient list wasn’t as clean as they claimed to be? You're not the only one. With the serious lack of regulation and laws surrounding product labels, greenwashing has become more prevalent than ever.
Whether it’s skincare and personal care products or home and cleaning products, greenwashing has worked its way into almost every product on the market - misleading customers and ultimately, continuing to contribute to toxic buildup in their health and their homes (not exactly the detox effect we’re going for, especially this season).
Don’t let greenwashing sabotage your spring cleaning or your skin health. Here’s how to spot common greenwashing claims, what they actually mean and how to read product labels - no science degree needed. ;)
Common Greenwashing Claims
FREE FROM (fill-in-the-blank): What’s not included in a product is a good starting point (like phthalates and parabens), but there’s more to it (aka artificial fragrance or dimethicone). Don’t settle for a company’s “NO” list and look directly at the individual product label to find out what ingredients brands say “YES” to. When it comes to this claim, we’ve got to dig a bit deeper to find out what’s actually inside.
ALL-NATURAL: While not every “natural” label is a fraud, brands that claim this on their products can still contain synthetic ingredients. Shocking, right? Well, click here for a real-life example of this claim being exposed for what it truly is - greenwashing. The best way to demystify marketing messages is by looking out for any chemicals lurking alongside this “100% natural” claim.
Tip: Not sure about a specific ingredient? Keep this link by your side when you’re deciphering labels for a database of ingredients and any health risks from EWG!
ECO-FRIENDLY: Sustainability has become a buzzword lately (and for good reason!), but even if the packaging is made with recyclable materials and is supporting the health of our planet, many “eco-friendly” products contain ingredients that are linked to serious health risks. Look for brands that are transparent with their practices - and their ingredient lists.
UNSCENTED/FRAGRANCE-FREE: This phrase can be one of the most misleading. While it may sound like no artificial fragrances were added to the formula, an unidentified fragrance can still be included to actually cover up the product’s natural smell.
VEGAN: This marketing term is taking the clean beauty world by storm, but while a product may not contain any animal-based ingredients it doesn’t mean that other harmful ingredients like fragrance or parabens aren’t present in the product. If vegan products are of while value to you, do yourself a favor and find out what other chemicals may be lurking in the ingredient list.
P.S. Find out why we actually believe animal-based ingredients (like tallow from grass-fed cows) belong in your skincare routine!
CLEAN: Unfortunately, this is one claim we can’t fall for anymore. Countless “clean” beauty brands are including one of the most toxic ingredients you’ll find on any product label: fragrance or parfum. This chemical-cocktail is actually considered the new second-hand smoke, making these “clean” marketing claims not so clean after all. Make fragrance your new non-negotiable and you’ll soon find how many “natural” products actually contain sneaky synthetics. No, thanks.
ORGANIC: This claim is one of the few certifications regulated by the FDA, however, a product only needs to contain a certain percentage to qualify for this seal. It varies from state to state, but in our home of California, the minimum is 70%. A USDA Organic label is a bit more stringent with a minimum of 95%. So while the bulk of the product is organically grown, we encourage you to double-check formulas for fragrance, preservatives or other chemicals lurking on the label.
NATURALLY-DERIVED: While the ingredient may have started out as a whole plant or natural compound, this claim doesn’t take into consideration how it was processed. “Naturally-derived” ingredients can be so drastically altered during chemical processing that their final state is vastly different from how it started. This claim leads you to believe the ingredients are sourced straight from nature when in reality, it can be closer to a synthetic product when it’s all said and done.
Note: Look for cold-pressed oils, steam distilled hydrosols and of course, no additional/artificial chemicals among a “naturally-derived” claim.
Have you noticed a recurring theme throughout all of these common marketing claims? Read the ingredients list. We can no longer let a brand’s tagline dictate our purchasing decisions - we’ve got to get down to the nitty-gritty and take note of every ingredient we’re allowing onto our skin, into our home and around our family.
Bottom line: look at the back of a product, not the front.
Spring Cleaning Greenwashing: Spot It And Swap It
Stay on guard for greenwashing with cute icons, natural colors and trending catchphrases. Here’s how to spot greenwashing and products to help you swap.
Don’t fall for cute natural icons. Turn the package around or click the ingredients tab online and dig a little deeper to find out what’s actually inside - and ultimately, what you’re really putting on your body or breathing in. Swap Febreze for the Spring Room Spray.
Make this your new non-negotiable: fragrance. Fragrance is one of the most toxic ingredients you’ll find on a product label - even many “natural” ones! The “clean scent” marketing claims may not be so clean after all. Swap Mrs. Meyer’s Hand Soap for the Spring Hand Soap.
Don’t settle for the “NO” list: What’s not included is a good starting point (like phthalates/parabens), but there’s more to it (aka artificial fragrance). Look at the label to find out what ingredients brands say “YES” to. Swap Anthropologie candles (yup, we went there) for the Spring Oil Blend.
The health of our home directly impacts the health of our whole self (including our skin!), so this spring we hope you take full advantage of this fresh energy to incorporate these cleansing swaps (keep it simple, you don’t have to do an overhaul overnight) and say goodbye to greenwashing for good.
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