What You Need To Know About Greenwashing In Skin Care

The rise of the wellness wave is a good sign and we’re surely getting more conscious of the effects of skin care on our bodies and the planet. Greenwashing is a phenomenon that’s capitalising on this trend and can be quite misleading…

What comes to your mind when you hear the word “natural”?

Clean? Green? Organic? Many companies use these buzzwords to attract consumers, especially now that people are more conscious of what they are putting into their bodies. But do they really mean what they say? Perhaps not.

Welcome to the world of greenwashing, where companies mislead consumers by claiming that their products are safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly and natural, when in reality, that might not be the case.

No regulations for natural skincare

Hate to break it to you, but natural does not mean much—the term isn’t regulated in any way. If an ingredient comes from a natural source, but needs to be chemically modified to make it work, is it still natural?  Some believe that at least 5% of natural ingredients are enough for a product to be labeled natural. Others believe that man-made/synthetic ingredients must be absent for it to be considered natural. Many believe that natural is “safer” and “non-toxic”. However, that may not always be the case—there are some essential oils which can lead to irritation and allergies.

Organic skincare doesn’t guarantee safety

While there are strict definitions of what constitutes organic, the primary focus is on how it is grown, ensuring it was created without the use of synthetic preservatives or pesticides. However, organic certification only tells us the source of an ingredient – not whether it’s safe for the skin or if it truly possesses the benefits it claims to provide. Even if a product guarantees that its ingredients are natural and organic, there is still no guarantee on its safety. For a product to be considered ‘organic’, 95% of its ingredients must be certified. For a product to be considered organically derived, the product needs at least 70% organic ingredients. And who knows what the other ingredients would be?

No rules behind ‘vegan’ and ‘cruelty-free’ products

Since there is no binding definition of what a ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ product is, we are relying on the company to be honest. PETA provides a list of ingredients and companies to avoid that are non-vegan, but it can be difficult to determine whether the manufacturer uses animal-derived agents that don’t appear in the final product.

If a product claims to be cruelty-free, this means that neither the product itself nor the ingredients were tested on animals at any stage of their development. Cruelty-free means that the product and its ingredients were not tested on animals at any stage during their development. While not tested on animals, they may still contain animal ingredients or by-products. For example, a moisturiser may be cruelty-free but contains beeswax and therefore, not vegan.  A shampoo that claims to be vegan, may have been tested on animals and thus not cruelty-free.

Preservative-free does not equal safety

Certain companies even pride themselves on being preservative-free. Preservatives are frowned upon, not realising that they are added to ingredients for two reasons. Firstly, to limit bacterial growth and secondly, to enhance the shelf-life of beauty products. So just because it’s preservative-free doesn’t mean it’s natural, and therefore less toxic or harmful.

Skincare labels can be tricky. Companies hoodwink consumers into buying products that seem life-changing, but in reality, don’t do much for the skin or worse. Many a time, they end up causing harm. Now that you know all about greenwashing, take your skin in your hands—read ingredient labels carefully and give in to products that promise transparency!

Image Credits: @studioakrans (Instagram)

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