Beware of Greenwashing: Natural Beauty Products Flooding the Market

natural products

A study released by Mintel last week showed that the number of beauty products labeled ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ are at an all-time high, up 23% from 2007.  This is great news for anyone who’s been frustrated in the past by the lack of ethical, healthy, natural options.  While there are several reliable brands that have been around for years – like Burt’s Bees and Kiss My Face – there are those occasions when you find that you just don’t like the scent, texture or color of a product and wish you had more to choose from.

Unfortunately, I’ve definitely noticed a huge increase in the number of products labeled or marketed as ‘natural’, that have long lists of ingredients including things like irritants, synthetic fragrance, animal-based substances and even carcinogens.  That’s bound to be a downside to the boom in natural cosmetics and personal care products, so we’ve got to be on the lookout for companies who don’t give a second thought to greenwashing their products so they can make a buck off the natural/organic market.

At least some companies are being honest and backing up their claims, though. From Brandweek:

“What we saw a lot of in 2007 was products that said ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ but when you turned it over, you couldn’t pronounce any of the ingredients . . . Now there is a level of natural, organic and ethical philosophies behind these products,” said Mintel senior beauty analyst Taya Tomasello. She added that manufacturers try to convey these philosophies through either environment-friendly packaging or organic certifications on product labels.

Consumers are wising up to greenwashing, luckily, and in the future getting away with false claims won’t be nearly as easy as it has been in the past. Some companies, like The Body Shop, are making big commitments that other brands will have to compete against, like making 80% of its products preservative-free by 2010 and using 100% recycled PET bottles by the end of this year.

All in all it’s a good time for anyone who cares about what’s in the products we put in and on our bodies, where they came from and who made them. Companies are slowly realizing that they won’t be able to get away with poisoning us and the environment much longer.

Check what’s in your fave products at super-searchable Cosmetics Safety Database
Find truly natural products at these awesome natural beauty supply stores: Beautorium, FutureNatural, and Kaia House.

Stephanie Rogers is a fashion- and beauty-obsessed freelance writer with an abiding love for kale and organic wine, living in Asheville, North Carolina.