Beware: Green-Washing is Real (& Toxic)
This Nutrition Bite takes a closer look at some little-known, potentially dangerous facts about “organic” skincare products. What you need to know and why it’s important for your health.
Whether you label yourself a skincare ‘junkie’ or just find yourself caring for your skin with minimum thought and effort, there’s no denying that there has been an ever-growing awakening with the organic skincare movement.
Beyond a consumer standpoint, people are becoming more aware and selective of what they put into their bodies with skincare education taking its fair share in the wellness spotlight. This is because it’s becoming well known that what you put on your skin quickly gets absorbed into your body.
This is why the organic movement has taken such an upward turn. Organic, in terms of food, ingredients, and even clothes, means that the product is 1) free of synthetic chemicals, 2) free of artificial additives, and 3) environmentally safe. Organic is associated with being safe and healthy. With that said, it’s no wonder why the demand for organic is at an all-time high; everybody wants to live a lifestyle that promotes their well-being.
Unfortunately, for a product to be truly organic, the end to end process is quite complicated and expensive when it comes to ensuring that a product meets all organic requirements. Not all companies are capable of meeting the rigorous standards of being truly organic. (Some are not WILLING, because it’s expensive, too.)
Organic skincare in particular is something that takes a lot of work to achieve because of the many ingredients that go into a product. This hasn’t stopped companies though from slapping on an ‘organic’ claim to keep up with the demand for organic and to make their products more marketable.
We call this ‘green-washing.’ This practice actually creates a wide range of organic “imposters.”
Here Are The Problems With “Organic” Skincare
1. Small quantities, big marketing.
Marketing can notoriously lack transparency, especially when trying to hype up a product. When it comes to skincare, it’s common practice to place a big spotlight on a single ingredient, and in many cases, they select the organic ingredient. Unfortunately, organic ingredients are commonly only a small component in a product’s formulation.
For instance, you may see that a product contains organic lavender extract. It’s all over the packaging and marketing, giving you, the buyer, a false sense that the product is filled with organic lavender.
To find out just how much lavender is in a product, you’d have to read the label. Often, the amount of actual lavender present in the product is minimal, regardless of what the packaging will lead you to believe, and instead is mixed with a cocktail of non-organic, often toxic ingredients.
Fact is, that’s just cheaper for most companies to do, and it takes advantage of the legal loopholes AND capitalizes on the organic marketing boom!
2. Ingredients matter most.
Skincare products all come down to their formulation. What consumers should be most concerned about are the ingredients in their products, more so than the branding, packaging, and promotion.
To really get your money’s worth and to make an informed decision, know that ingredients matter most. So turn that skincare product over and read the ingredients. Do you understand what the ingredient list means? Are there synthetic chemicals in there that you should be avoiding? Does the marketing match the label?
These are important questions to consider that will help you determine the quality and integrity of a product.
What Does Organic Mean?
Fortunately, people are more educated on the benefits of organic and proactively seek out organic products. Unfortunately, ‘organic’ in fact means very little in product quality because so many companies have taken on organic claims with little to no verification.
Organic, especially in the skincare industry, is a highly unregulated term, and even just 1 organic ingredient justifies claiming “organic” all over the products‘ branding and promotion.
This goes for claims such as vegan, all-natural, pure, clean, wild crafted etc. These are all marketing terms that do very well to paint a picturesque image in the consumers mind, giving the false impression that the product they are buying is pure and free of harmful ingredients.
The Power Of The “USDA Certified Organic”
Calling a product ‘organic’ is very different from being able to call a product “USDA Certified Organic”. It’s important to know the difference because “organic” and “certified organic” are what sets a product apart from something that is well marketed but toxic, to a product that is authentic and transparent.
Certified organic is a formal label that requires third-party verification and certification. There are stringent and continuous audits and processes to maintain a certified organic label – from farm to manufacturing.
A product that claims to have organic ingredients according to the company selling it has minimal verification since ‘organic’ is a highly unregulated term.
Why does this matter and why are skincare brands quick to have an organic label?
This is because organic ingredients are more potent and nutrient dense. When consumers see organic in skincare, it’s synonymous with high quality and effective ingredients. But again…keep in mind that ‘organic’ and ‘certified organic’ are not the same.
As mentioned with certified organic skincare, it’s as much about what you’re putting on your skin and what you’re not putting on your skin. Organic skincare feeds your skin from the outside in with nourishing ingredients that are healthy for you.
When it comes to formulation though, even products containing certified organic ingredients lose their value when formulated alongside toxic ingredients.
Common Toxins In Skincare To Avoid:
- Parabens: Parabens are known endocrine disruptors. Issues such as inflammation, fat storage, and reproductive hormone imbalances have been linked to parabens present within the body.
- Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids: These acids are chemical skin exfoliators that make your skin photosensitive. Using Alpha and Beta Hydroxy acids prior to sun exposure can damage your skin and accelerate skin aging due to UV damage.
- Hydroquinone and Benzophenone: These carcinogens are banned in Europe due to their toxicity. They are known irritants internally and externally, affecting our eyes, skin and lungs as well as adding to the toxic load in your liver and kidneys.
- Fragrance: Fragrance in skincare offers no benefits to your skin and is present to enhance the user experience. Unfortunately, ‘fragrance’ in skincare is an umbrella term that can comprise up to 300 different synthetic chemicals, which are irritating and toxic.
- Phthalates: Phthalates are responsible for that ‘soft’ feeling in skincare, acting as a lubricant and is one of the many ingredients contained in ‘fragrance’. Like parabens, phthalates are endocrine disruptors and have been linked to birth defects.
- PEGs: Polyethylene Glycol acts as a thickener in skincare and helps ingredients penetrate the skin more effectively. However this synthetic chemical has been linked to toxicity once absorbed through the skin and although it makes skincare feel more emollient, it actually dries up your skin.