Let’s have a look at greenwashing in the world of natural cosmetics. For those of you who may be interested, we have a whole page on our website dedicated to the topic. What is Greenwashing? By definition it is disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.
Today, I decided to visit the site of a well-known marketed as farm made, hand-made skin care line who at face value looks very similar to us. On the landing page they state their products are 100% free from synthetic chemicals. Before we go any further a synthetic chemical in its simplest form is a man-made substance that does not exist in nature. It can also be a nature identical chemical that was synthesized in a lab or a chemical that was made using some molecules from naturally derived raw materials in combination with man-made chemicals. Not all synthetics are bad…but that’s not what we are examining here. We are simply looking at this company’s claim that their products are 100% synthetic free and instead made from 100% natural compounds and nothing more.
I pulled up a product on the site and had a look at the ingredient list. For starters there is a sentence that states that 100% of the total ingredients are from ‘natural origin’. Well, in reality all chemicals are from natural origin. But, consumer perception is generally that ‘natural origin’ means plant-based, found in nature. This manufacturer is making this particular claim to imply just that. A look at their ingredients shows something very different. In the list were the following substances: Propanediol, Polyglyceryl-2 Stearate, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Olivate, Stearyl Alcohol, Benzyl Alcohol, Benzyl Benzoate. These are all synthetics. To claim anything to the contrary is misleading and false.
For some reason, they have also cleaned up the names of the synthetics they are using. Take propanediol, this is not the full synthetic name. There is 1,2-Propanediol (proplyene glycol) and 1,3-Propanediol. Both can be produced from plant sources, but 1,2-Propanediol is generally manufactured solely synthetically, meaning no plant source involved in the process. Either way, this is a synthetic chemical.
I also noticed the claim that the formula contains a “clinical grade” essential oil blend. There is no such thing as a clinical grade essential oil. (see our November 2017 blog entry on this topic). This is an absolutely meaningless marketing claim.
Greenwashing is a deceitful practice. It’s false advertising with the intent to mislead consumers and convince them that the product they are buying is something it isn’t. In an effort to market their products, the popular manufacturer I looked at today provided us with a glaring example of green washing with the intent to make us believe they formulate with 100% natural ingredients. Why do it? Truly natural ingredients are extremely hard to formulate with and very expensive. Synthetics are not.
In contrast here is the list of ingredients from one of our products, our About Face cream: filtered water, raw honey, aloe, apricot kernel oil, borage oil, extra virgin olive oil, emulsifying wax, beeswax, mango butter, silk protein, leuconostoc/radish root ferment filtrate, vitamin E and the essential oils of grapefruit, lavender, orange and lemon.
Learn to investigate marketing claims. A logical place to start when looking at skin care is in a product ingredient list. You don’t have to be a chemist to spot ingredients that are synthetic. You won’t find anything that sounds synthetic in our products because there aren’t any synthetics in them. If it sounds like a synthetic, it most likely is. If you find an example as blatant as the one I gave you today, it’s a good reason to shop elsewhere because someone willing to lie about this is willing to lie, period.