There is a lot of money to be made in wellness right now as it’s about to be a trillion dollar industry. So it’s no surprise that virtually every brand is trying to hop on the wellness money train by greenwashing their product design. If we rely on the colorful floral pretty packaging that is selling us “green, wellness, natural, organic or holistic” without understanding the ingredients it’s safe to say we’ve probably been greenwashed.
Greenwashing is Designed to SELL Us Wellness.
It’s becoming harder and harder to spot a green product from a $reen product on store shelves. Target, Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Walgreen and Rite Aids now all have wellness sections in their stores and online. Marshall’s, Homegoods, and TjMaxx all have discount wellness sections as well. This is a great thing for making wellness accessible to a larger consumer base which we all know is what I’m all about!
Unfortunately, not all ingredients are green friendly and natural doesn’t always mean without chemicals. Preservatives or harmful chemicals sometimes make their way into that gorgeous floral soap packaging you just put in your cart. Wellness packaging is meant to SELL you wellness, not always actually BE it. It’s called greenwashing folks, and I’ve been a victim.
*Greenwashed- contains parabens
Greenwashed Labels Trick You Into Thinking You are a Wellness Warrior.
This does not mean what I think you think it means. (The Princess Bride reference here!) Natural just means it contains a natural source, not in fact that it is ENTIRELY natural.
Show me the USDA Organic Label! Certified organic prohibits the use of synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering. It certainly does not mean your eggs are cage-free playing in a field of dreams.
Smaller farming communities often cannot pay to become certified. They may still follow all the rules we as consumers want from the marketing that has been pushed on us, that organic is always better. Think again, wellness Sally!
*Seek out local and sustainable farming communities and get to know how they grow and process their crops.
Ingredients That are Far From Green in Beauty Products.
Don’t get stuck on the old adage ” if you can’t pronounce it don’t buy it” because sorry to burst your hydrogen bubble but you are probably not a chemist. You might not know what is what. “Chemical” does not automatically mean poison. The word “chemical” relates to different substances interacting. Feel better yet? Well not so fast..
Many of these gorgeously greenwashed beauty products may contain ingredients you rather not use.
We have all definitely heard of parabens by now! Also a preservative, these synthetic compounds are used in healthy, beauty and personal care products. With different names like methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, and alkyl parahydroxy benzoates sometimes with beautiful packaging these suckers fall through the cracks. The CDC reports that the human health effects of exposure to low levels of parabens are unknown?- Ohhh okay… um no.
The main reasoning behind avoiding parabens is the possibility and studies showing parabens can mimic the activity of estrogen in the body’s cells and how they are associated with certain forms of breast cancer. I don’t enjoy (neither do those around me) having my hormones out of balance so I’ll skip them.
As a society, we are super quick to jump on the avoid, remove, crucify ingredient product train. Based on common sense I rather have a less chemically based product in my life than not. I am not against chemicals as there is nothing wrong with advances in science but I am an earth woman so I just prefer a truer to its original form.
Sulfates are mineral salts containing sulfur. They are great for getting rid of dirt and build up relating to hair but they also have been known to dry out or irritate your scalp and skin. Sodium Laurel sulfate sound familiar?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can be derived from coconut oil or palm oil (Nope!). They allow products to give you the foam we all know and think makes us cleaner. As far as being a part of the “green” community they do not get a pass.
*I will be honest I have used shampoos, even while I had alopecia that made my hair look fabulous. At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice and moderation is always a good measure.
No F*$@ing way! So that’s obviously my stance on artificial and synthetic coloring. Synthetic coloring has been pretty clearly linked with hyperactivity and allergic reactions even cancer and tumors make this list.
Blue # 1 and #2, Yellow #5 and #6, Red # 40, etc a good base meter to know what to leave on the shelf if they contain any of these colors.
Sounds harmless enough right? Think again. Derived from the palm fruit from the African Oil Palm Tree this harmful oil is usually found in snacks from chips to nuts to beauty products.
Palm Oil has been the subject of many animals, environmental, and human rights regulations with links to deforestation and driving orangutans and other endangered species like tigers and rhinos into extinction. It is incredibly hard to track the sustainability of this large profit oil venture but even worse out of the over 3 million palm oil workers thousands have been found to be children taken through child trafficking or family debt bondage.
I don’t buy products with Palm Oil because I like rainforests and children, and I know real change starts with affecting the money system.
Phthalates make plastics flexible and add lubricants to our cosmetics. Out of the many types of phthalates we most commonly see the following -DBP (di-n-butyl phthalate), DEP (diethyl phthalate), DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate), and DMP (dimethyl phthalate).
Unfortunately, it is nearly impossible to avoid phthalates because they are used in everything! Because we are using, ingesting, inhaling and absorbing phthalates these chemical compounds move into our bloodstream and show up in our urine.
Initially, phthalates were described as safe but now are widely known to affect male reproductive development with endocrine disruption. They mimic and displace hormones while interrupting production. Sound like parabens much?
Best way to avoid- look for recycling codes 1,2, or 5 not 3 and which may contain halites, get BPA free plastic, avoid old plastic such as old toys, containers, etc, and if possible seriously avoid plastic. Glass and paper containers are way better for you and the environment anyway.
The FDA does not regulate or require listing the ingredients of what composes your “parfum”. Most fragrances and parfums have been linked to hormone disruption as well as allergic reactions. Unless they are naturally sourced from oils and listed completely on the label, it’s best to avoid.
For a complete list of the good, the bad, the chemical. Although we differ on our opinions about preservatives, check out the ingredient dictionary at Paulaschoice.com for a complete list.
Beauty Ingredients that Sound Bad but are Okay-ish
Ethylhexylglycerin (which is plant-derived) or Phenoxyethanol
These cosmetic preservatives protect against bacteria, mold, fungi, and yeast. Phenoxyethanol is found naturally in green tea and chicory but is also synthetically derived. Used as an alternative to parabens
There are two sides to the wax fence and really, in my opinion, comes down to how you use it. Native to Brazil, carnauba wax is harvested from the palm leaves of the Copernican prunifera. The wax which is beaten off the leaves falls off in flakes. Carnauba wax is safe when ingested in its natural form but can cause irritation when used for mascara and eyeliners.
Unlike Palm Oil, only 20 leaves are removed per tree to sustain the trees and their ability to grow. I personally haven’t had any irritation so for me this is a green go.
Mostly used in soaps, stearic acid is a useful ingredient in all types of skin and hair washes. Cocoa and flaxseeds contain substantial amounts of stearic acid also known as magnesium stearate in combination with stearic acid and magnesium.
SA is used as a bonding aid which keeps your cleansers together and prevents their ingredients from separating. It is also used as a lubricant in many many supplements to help them move down the gastrointestinal tract and make them easier to swallow.
Tocopherol is a form of Vitamin E that provide extra protection for your skin by absorbing UV Rays, helping moisturize your skin, reducing pollution-related free radical damage. All in all, they can prevent UV-Induced free radical damage to the skin.
Tocopherols have antioxidant properties that preserve and prevent natural oils from going bad as well. While tocopherols can be both natural and synthetic when in doubt natural versions are always best. Japanese researchers found you need triple the dosage of synthetic vitamin E to get what natural vitamin E brings to the table.
How To Make Sure Your Wellness Buy isn’t Greenwashed.
1. Turn the item over.
Oh yes, the front is meant to draw you in because most people don’t make it to the back or side. Do not get tricked by the colorful flowers.
2. Check the order of ingredients
This is the golden rule of ingredient checking: Whatever ingredient is first, has the largest quantities in the product. That doesn’t mean that the most nutritive ingredients are the largest it just means they are somewhere in there.. even .01% worth.
3. Read the packaging.
Trust no one. I’m not even kidding I read the packaging on everything. I’m not obsessed I just don’t want certain in things my products because I’m sensitive to them or I know they are harmful. I don’t necessarily fault companies who sub-natural ingredients for harmful chemicals because this is an economic landscape where money is meant to be made and this is America. And thanks to my American education- I read everything.
4. Know what to avoid.
Reread the above list and make your choices. If you are on a health special diet of any kind it’s usually best to avoid all preservatives because that will usually keep you away from processed and nonnutritive foods.
5. Ask yourself – would put this on a baby?
Sounds crazy but if it isn’t pure enough for a perfect baby then it’s probably not pure enough for me.
Do You Really Know What’s Green or Not?
*Greenwashed- mostly okay except it contains fragrances.
How can I put this gently? Mostly you do. Well, you think you do. The problem is we live in a highly influential marketing age where “studies”, trends, and healthy buzzwords are being sent through every digital avenue we engage on. Companies now even pay influencers, some of your most trusted, to back products that are mostly good but lacking personal research.
We have been taught through negative branding that anything non-organic is full of poisons. We’ve learned that all preservatives are bad, and what you buy is yet another way to improve your social status.
It takes an incredible amount of research to be able to understand how things function in your system and without proper access and education we are just following the next article on the newest wellness magazine or blog. But not mine, mine are legit:)
It’s important to know what trends are marketing trends enacted to sell a product and what products without the greenwashing and green product design are just fine.
Branding is a billion dollar industry and companies pay millions to pay the research companies to talk to people and find out how their product will sell before it even comes to market. Almost every product out there is not a happy accident but one that has been crafted tirelessly and with the next consumer trend in mind.
When in doubt do your own research and above all, do not be fooled by the greenwashing of wellness packaging.