Friday, June 22, 2012

The Real Meaning of Green Cosmetics

Just because it says it's "green" doesn't mean it is. While we all know that most cosmetics found at the drug store contain many ingredients we wouldn't ingest, somehow we tend to forget that anything such as blush or lipstick may contain nasty things that seep into our bodies. More and more I find companies claiming "Green" and "All Natural", we can easily be tricked. Let's face it, if the colour is awesome,  I may sway towards a purchase no matter what, except of course testing on animals. There is no reason at this day and age for that, but I digress....Here is some handy knowledge to keep in mind if you want to ensure you buy green. 

Terms to Look For:

Contains no traces of these harsh chemicals. Parabens and phthalates are found in the ingredient list of a product, while PCBs can be found in the plastic of the product's container.

Organic certified
Through the National Organic Program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates food ingredients found in cosmetics, and the Certified USDA Organic symbol is one of the most trustworthy labels around, especially on foods. But because the USDA only has jurisdiction over farm-raised ingredients, not all beauty product ingredients are regulated under this program, and there are more than enough ways to get confused. 

Not regulated: Plant-derived ingredients and essential oils.
Regulated: Ingredients like honey, cinnamon, avocado and other foods.

The term "organic," as it appears on beauty labels, has four variations.

100% Organic: The product must contain only organically produced food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA Organic seal.

Organic: The product must contain at least 95% organically produced food ingredients, and the label will display the USDA Organic seal.

Made with Organic Ingredients: The product must contain at least 70% organically produced food ingredients. While the front of the product can list up to three organic ingredients or one organic food group, the label will not have the USDA Organic seal. Individual ingredients on a product's ingredient list will be labeled as "organic".

Organic Ingredients: Products which contain less than 70% organically produced food ingredients can only include organic ingredients on its ingredients list, but these products cannot display the USDA Organic seal.
IOS Natural & Organic Cosmetic Standard

In 2008, independent certification company Certech Registration Inc. introduced natural and organic certification for cosmetic products in North America.

The IOS Natural & Organic Cosmetic Certification requires that all food ingredients be organic and that the company follow a strict set of eco-friendly guidelines, including use of recycled and fair trade materials and production methods with small environmental impact. The first IOS Natural & Organic certified company, Eaurganic, launched in 2008.

BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics
The BDIH is an independent German certification association (Association of German Industries and Trading Firm) that regulates health care products, food supplements and personal hygiene products, including cosmetics.

To gain BDIH certification, brands must use natural – not synthetic – raw materials (plant oils, herbal extracts, essential oils, fats and waxes). The ecological impact of each product also plays an important role in certification. More than 2,000 natural cosmetics are certified BDIH in Europe and North America.

The biodynamic movement is holistic in its approach to farming and food production. No artificial fertilizers or pesticides are used. Instead, farmers seek to achieve a natural harmony with the earth through an acute awareness of how weather and climate patterns and elements of nature (like the sun, earth, and air) work together to create a harmonious balance.

Brands Weleda, Primavera, and Dr. Hauschka use biodynamic ingredients and are certified by the Demeter International Association.

Whole Foods Premium Body Care Seal: Look for the premium Body Care seal on more than 1,200 products offered in the Whole Body section of your local Whole Foods store. Whole Foods regulates their own self-certification of cosmetic products that contain safe, gentle ingredients and are free from synthetic dyes and fragrances and harsh chemicals. Sunscreen is made with chemical-free alternatives zinc oxide and titanium oxide.Brands are capitalizing on consumer desire for organic and natural make up by writing green-friendly catch phrases into product descriptions. What originated as an industry for the improvement of your health now possesses imitators just looking for some extra revenue,  not the type of green you want companies to prioritize.

Be wary of this language:

Made with organic essential oils
Contains organic ingredients
Made with nontoxic ingredients
100 percent natural
Essentially non toxic (what does this really mean anyway???)
Environmentally safer
Hypoallergenic/Dermatologist Tested/Allergy Tested/Non-Irritating

All the above can be easily negotiated into meaning many things.....  

Language like "100 percent natural" and "made with organic essential oils" seem legitimate. The reality is that the United States Food & Drug Administration only regulates organic food products. That means that plant-derived ingredients are not certified organic by the USDA and may have been grown with chemical fertilizers, toxic pesticides and other harsh chemicals. (See an explanation for what 'organic' means on beauty labels.) It is extremely difficult to produce anything without insects causing some difficulty. I am reminded here of a teacher I had many years ago who always stated that when grocery shopping, choose the fruit and veggies with marks and imperfections, that means the toxic chemicals and pesticides didn't harm it as much as the perfect apples or lettuce for example.

Terms like "natural," "earth-friendly" and "nontoxic" are also not regulated, and companies are able to use these terms at will. It's up to the consumer to differentiate marketing from reality by refusing to buy products that use misleading claims.

Phrases that lead you believe the product is "allergy free" can be false. Pure, natural ingredients like avocado or honey can still irritate your skin, depending on the person. No matter the promise, be prudent and to do a simple patch test with a free sample before buying. Same for cosmetics using "vegan" ingredients: Sure, you may be using a product free from ingredients derived from animals, like milk, honey, and animal fats, but this claim doesn't necessarily guarantee the product is free of harsh chemicals. While it seems reassuring that the product may be "cruelty-free," claims of no-animal testing don't necessarily translate to safe and gentle ingredients.

Always check the ingredients list. Chances are that product touting "contains organic ingredients" has only one certified organic ingredient. The "100 percent natural" product can still contain suspect preservatives and parabens. And who knows what "environmentally safer" or "earth-friendly" even really means. The government doesn't regulate the use of those terms, so there's no standard definition. These claims are open to misleading marketing claims.

Think about the term "essentially nontoxic." Companies choose to focus on the few safe ingredients, neglecting to tell you about that other stuff. They might be taking your money in exchange for a supposedly "green" product that in contains a handful of safe ingredients mixed into some sort of cheap chemical cocktail.

One tricky thing about this list is that some very good products may include label claims using these terms. But they will also include reputable third-party certifications that back up vague marketing terms.

Now you have the knowledge to be confident in taking a stand and considering what companies are touting in their products! 

Have a great weekend!


1 comment:

  1. This was so informative, thank you!!:)