How Green Is Your Green Beauty Product, Really?
So you’re on the green beauty bandwagon! Congratulations! Now that you've done your research and know which ingredients to avoid in personal care products, is there anything else to be aware of? Without going crazy, here are four other things to consider when making that green beauty purchase.
1. The label.
Is the manufacturer making “green promises” the product doesn’t live up to? Be wary of the claims “natural” and “all natural” on packaging as there are no legal definitions for these terms. As a result, companies are using this wording loosely on their labels to give consumers the impression that their products are pure and non-toxic. While the product may indeed contain a “natural ingredient” like aloe, chances are there's also a dose of harmful chemicals in the mix as well.
Don’t be fooled by all-natural claims and green-looking packaging (companies think they can fool us by slapping a picture of a green pasture on the bottle). It's imperative to read the list of ingredients both active and inactive typically found on the back of the container to know what is actually in the product.
Claims like, “pediatrician recommended” or, “allergy tested” don’t hold much clout with the savvy consumer. We know what matters most is on the back of a product. Until you can readily recognize the baddies, bring your no-no list of ingredients with you. Remember that “inactive ingredients” are just as important.
2. The packaging.
How is that lovely product packaged? Is the container something that can be reused or recycled, or is it going to end up in our waterways or sit in a landfill for years to come? Is it a plastic that contains BPA, which can potentially contaminate your product?
In general, avoid plastics labeled with the numbers 3 and 7 as these can contain hormone-disrupting phthalates and/or BPA. (For more information on the subject, visit the EWG’s guide to plastics.) Applaud environmentally responsible companies that use safer, recyclable alternatives like paper and glass, or are developing biodegradable, compostable materials.
3. Where the ingredients are sourced.
Look for organic, GMO-free ingredients where possible. Do you know what the USDA Certified Organic label stands for? The USDA Organic seal represents the highest standard for organic food and personal care products in the United States. This seal means that a product contains at least 95% organically produced ingredients, and the remaining ingredients are approved by the National List. Be careful though: some companies are fraudulently putting the USDA Organic label on their products! A genuine USDA certification requires the name of the certifying agency be identified on the product or its packaging.
We always consider it a bonus to see ingredients, such as cocoa butter, shea butter and olive oil, identified as Fair Trade because this means farmers and workers are fairly compensated, ensured safe working conditions and follow environmentally sound practices.
Are the products biodegradable, or will they stick around for a while putting the environment at risk? Take microbeads for example, that serve no real purpose, but are instead collecting in the waterways and endangering aquatic wildlife. They can be identified as those little colorful plastic beads that are found in toothpastes, soaps, hand sanitizers and other personal care products. The best way to determine if products are truly biodegradable is to contact the manufacturer.
4. Animal testing.
Two prominent organizations that certify manufacturers for cruelty-free, non-animal testing in their manufacturing processes are Leaping Bunny and PETA. Both non-profit organizations are dedicated to protecting animal rights, promoting their safe and humane treatment, and educating the public.
While it may be comforting to see these certifications on the package of your favorite product, be aware there are many great brands that don’t test on animals but haven't gone through the process of being certified. When in doubt, call the manufacturer.
The good news is that many green beauty brands are taking steps to ensure their products are truly green by going above and beyond the ingredient list. Most would never consider testing on animals and some even power their facilities with renewable sources of energy, and/or print with soy inks. Support companies that go to the lengths to ensure their products are not only safe for consumers, but for our environment as well.