Whether we are talking about skincare or any other industry, everyone associates the colour green with nature, health and natural ingredients. It’s ingrained in us to associate colours with things. However, this is exactly where the multi-billion pound beauty industry may be greenwashing you into believing that something is a lot more natural and organic than what it actually is.
But how do you know if you’re being 'greenwashed'? Let’s start with a greenwashing definition.
What is Greenwashing
A simple greenwashing definition is a deceptive marketing tactic that makes you think certain products, a brand’s mission and policies are environmentally friendly.
Greenwashing Is also called ‘green sheen’ or green PR, because the sole purpose of it is to enforce marketing tactics that make you, the consumer, think the company is making sustainable efforts when that is not the day-to-day reality.
Now that you know what is greenwashing, here are 7 easy steps that help you know how to spot greenwashing in beauty products. Take a look before you go on your next endeavour…
How To Spot Greenwashing
1. Become a Bottle Turner
Brands can often put whatever they like on the front of a product bottle, from a green colour scheme to labelling products as organic or natural. In fact, you can claim that a bottle is natural yet only 1% of the ingredients are natural and the rest are questionable chemicals or petroleum (top of the list of ingredients to avoid in skincare). The only place they have to legally tell the truth is the ingredient list. Become a ‘bottle turner’ and look at the back first.
2. Don't Trust The Hype
Don’t trust brands in the beauty space, or any other industry, just because of their packaging or the fact that their names are associated with the natural sector (e.g.: gentle, botanical, clean). There is no regulation around a brand name containing the word ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, so don’t put your faith in the title.
3. Check The Shelf Life
You need to look for the shelf life on the product - this is usually on the back, with an icon of a pot with a number inside. Any certified organic skincare product is unlikely to have a batch date and a best before date over 18-24 months. Higher and you should be mindful of what is preserving the products for a long time: this goes into the high-level chemical preservative territory.
4. Look For Certification
Next on how to spot greenwashing is to check for a certification logo on the bottle. There are different organisations for different countries: UK is Soil Association, USA is USDA or EWG. This is the only way to trust a skincare product for us. Beware, logos stating “Free from” do not mean they are organic and have no government authority.
5. Look For The ‘sssss’
In a statement such as ‘Made with Organic Ingredients’, the ‘s’ could just mean 2, not the full bottle. Organic ingredients have to be grown and controlled by a human. Dead sea salt or water for instance is entirely natural but not organic. If a brand claims they are entirely organic, unless they only make oils, alarm bells should ring that they aren’t telling the truth.
6. Chemicals Are Not All Toxic
Everything is chemical, the best example being water: it is entirely natural but still made of oxygen and hydrogen chemicals. So brands telling you to avoid all chemicals are either deceitful or don’t know what they are talking about. This is why we are called Proverb: it means ‘statement of truth’ and we felt it was time the mainstream greenwashing industry and fast-growing natural industry both started telling the truth.
7. Learn To Read INCIs
The last thing to remember to avoid greenwashing: learning to read and understand an INCI list. These are complicated as you have to use the official ingredient terms but they are the only place a brand legally has to tell the truth on the packaging so you need to learn to read them.
To do so, there are apps such as Dirty, Yuka or Healthy Living where you can scan the QR code of the product and it will tell you how good the ingredients truly are. Similarly, you can visit the EWG.org website which has the biggest database of ingredients, in a traffic light system of good to bad. And if an ingredient is too complicated for you to pronounce, you need to ask yourself if you are willing to put it in your body.
Now that you know what is greenwashing and how to spot it in skincare and beauty products, follow us on social media @proverbskin to learn more about natural and organic from a brand that cares about what you put on your skin.