If you follow higher-end beauty and cosmetic brands, and if like me you have an obsession with Skincare then you would probably have seen the latest trends of ingredients that are marketed to be environmentally friendly, vegan, organic and natural. And whilst it may all seem extremely satisfying to purchase a moisturiser that has a minimal environmental footprint, it is not so satisfying to find out that you dropped 2k on a product that had barely enough of the ingredient to actually make a difference. What am I getting at?
Much like it’s paletted counterpart Whitewashing, which is a metaphor that refers to the glossing over or cover-up of vices, greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.
We see if far too often (more than we should) with bigger and smaller brands that make misleading claims about the environmental benefits of the product and worse, the origin of the recipe and ingredients used. Because I mean, we all love ourselves a little natural, right? So what is the difference between Green vs Green Washing?
What if I told you that corn chips, you know the ones you use in your nachos is in fact naturally derived? No way right? I mean Doritos as delicious as it is, is packed with preservatives and chemicals. Well, actually it is naturally derived. Here’s why.
The words “plant-derived” or “naturally derived” simply means that the ingredient started out as a whole plant. It does not, however, account for the ways in which the plant has been processed in its life cycle before it reaches its final form. The same can be said for Natural at Origin labels. The base/core ingredient in its original form may be natural but this does not necessarily mean that by the end of it all, it’s still natural.
This is perhaps one of the most common forms of greenwashing I have observed in the beauty industry. As a consumer, we are encouraged to believe and accept that the product we are purchasing is a natural product when in reality it is most likely close to being completely synthetic.
Let’s get technical
Let’s just say some ingredients look and smell natural, there is a big likelihood that it has reacted with a petroleum-derived substance in order to create its natural effect. Jojoba Oil as an example. It depends largely on how it is produced. Jojoba seeds contain 60% Jojoba Oil in terms of weight. In fact, it is so loaded with oil, that you can cold press the seeds to produce the most flawless, smooth and beautiful golden oil. However, there is still a fair volume of oil leftover in the seed pulp after the initial cold presses and the harvesters will dare not waste it. Instead, they will use that remainder pulp for downmarket “natural and origin” products.
At this point, you can start to see where good intentions start to turn bad. The additions of chemical extracts such as Hexane, Benzene and petroleum are reacted with that remainder pulp to produce lower grades of jojoba. Most of the chemical extracts are then removed during the processing but trace contamination remains in the product but stays off the ingredient list. This is perhaps one of the biggest reasons I place such a heavy emphasis on labels and the importance of knowing them. Some of the bigger brands we know and love only have between 1 – 3% of a base ingredient in their product, which means you will be paying a premium price for a product that may not have any difference to your skin at all.
I could go on about what to look out for and ways in which to inform yourself but the truth is it really does come down to reading labels, even if for beauty products. Sure, our grandparents never had to dive so deep into research back in their day – because the products they used were simple, natural and effective. So before you fork out a couple of grand on a product that promises “active” ingredients, make sure you know how much of it exists in the product and what part of the plant was used.
Seri signing off…