The Beauty Industry’s Dirty Secret: Greenwashing

The term “greenwashing” has been used more and more in recent years to describe the practice of deceptively marketing products to persuade the public that they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. A flagrant case of this happened in 2015, during the Volkswagen emissions scandal that led consumers to believe the car they were buying was much more green than it actually was.

This practice affects many industries today, and the cosmetics industry is no exception – Certain mass consumed brands are falsely packaging and branding goods with false promises and misleading ingredients to trick buyers into thinking they’re being responsible consumers.

Why do brands practice greenwashing?

The beauty industry is where you’ll find some of the most prevalent forms of greenwashing. The rise of responsible consumerism and makeup influencers has led consumers to be more aware of how to choose products that respect the environment and their health. And as the organic cosmetics market continues to grow, the craze for green products is reaching even the most traditional brands, forcing them to adapt to the times in order to stay competitive. However, opting for green manufacturing methods and natural ingredients comes at a certain cost, and in response to this, brands have been actively manipulating consumers to come off as “green” without actually paying the price. For most uninformed consumers, a product branded as “natural” is enough to justify a purchase made based on ethics. But real skincare connoisseurs know that this is just a buzzword that applies no true organic or scientific meaning.

Known for Greenwashing, but are these brands really sustainable?
Lush

With its colorful, fun and deliciously scented cosmetics, Lush is known for its “handmade products made with natural ingredients”.
In the brand’s value statement, the emphasis on the “natural” formulation of products is repeated, and the brand even makes the effort to list ingredients via a colored coding: Green for natural ingredients and black for synthetic ingredients. But upon closer look, a lot of Lush’s primary ingredients are harmful to humans, and some even harmful to the environment. The brand is extremely skilled at marketing, using subtle communication that knows how to trick consumers. Considering the dubious and almost dangerous composition of a large part of these products, it is obvious that the natural values advocated by the British company are not based on much.

Image: popsugar

Bi-Oil

Bi-Oil, formerly known as Bio Oil, was lauded as a revolutionary product with noble active ingredients and a concentrate of rare oils, but the reality of the product was actually quite a different story. It was discovered that the main ingredient was paraffin oil, an ingredient of petrochemical origin that’s not only inexpensive, but not at all organic as the name and packaging suggested. The brand even changed their name in Europe when they were forced to face consumer laws that protect the organic certification, which is not the case in many other countries where the brand is distributed.

bi-oil bio oil natural mineral oil product greenwashing

Image: freshglow

The Body Shop

With its unique fragrances and appealing, nature-like packaging, The Body Shop is a favorite body care brand for many. Unfortunately, almost all of their products contain at least one harmful ingredient. In fact, most of their formulations miss the mark, with many products containing several harmful and risky components to humans and the environment.

The Body Shop uses many ingredients that pollute the environment and that are not biodegradable, totally contradictory to their nature-like branding. It’s simply not enough to illustrate your ethos with cute green packaging – consumers are demanding to protect the environment with non-polluting products. Their use of the slogan, “Nature inspired beauty” is trickery enough, and they hide behind marketing terms like “wild argan oil” to impose an organic feel on consumers. A lot of energy is put into marketing their products to trick the consumers rather than into initiatives directly linked to the quality of their products and their impact on the environment.

honey mask natural product greenwahing the body shop

Image: Kherblog

As consumers, it’s important to play your role in your buying choices. Read up on brands, use apps to decrypt products (learn how here), and be a responsible buyer. Not only are you helping yourself by using clean beauty, but you’re also doing your part for the environment.

As consumers, it’s important to play your role in your buying choices. Read up on brands, use apps to decrypt products (learn how here), and be a responsible buyer. Not only are you helping yourself by using clean beauty, but you’re also doing your part for the environment.

By Radja Kettouche

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