For years I had made switches in my consumer choices, looking to companies that were showing to be ethical, eco conscious and cruelty free. And for the most part I can say my choices were good ones and I felt a sense of pride that I was supporting those companies. My favourite shops that I used to favour for their products were places like The Body Shop and Lush. Combining my ethical choices with amazing quality and aesthetically pleasing products. Who doesn’t love a lush bath bomb or snow fairy shower gel, am I right?
However, when I started to hear about hidden toxic chemicals in products under the guise of umbrella terms like “perfum” or “fragrance”. I started to question my choices and look at the product labels from my purchases and uncover the truth. And that I did! It became very disheartening to see brands that I had trusted for YEARS, were actually telling me a lie. Or rather, getting away with it through clever marketing techniques.
More of that to come in a moment, but lets just unpack the frequently used terms to describe products. You have most likely seen words splashed on the bottles of your favourite beauty products like “vegan”, “cruelty free” and “organic”. But what does that actually mean. If something is vegan and cruelty free then that product has not been tested on animals or contains any animal products or byproducts. This always gets a huge thumbs up from me – but it doesn’t mean that there aren’t still toxic or “dirty” chemicals inside the product. This brings me onto the meaning of products being natural and organic. To be fully organic the product has to be natural and have no synthetic additives or preservatives.
Green Washing, in a sense is misleading consumers to believe that their products are natural and organic by using these various terms. Even though it may be partially true in some cases, it might not be the full picture. There still could be hidden ingredients and toxic chemicals in your products. Not to mention that even if products are organic and natural, the packaging is a whole other ball game. This can bring forth issues with sustainable and eco friendly packaging practice.
Here is a following list of key ingredients that I started to look for when purchasing my beauty products as this is what will be applied directly to my skin – since our skin is the biggest organ in the body it is vital to protect it.
Toxic Ingredient List
- Sulfates (i.e. SLS)
- Metals (i.e. Lead, Aluminium)
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG)
- Alcohols (i.e. Ethanol, ethyl alcohol)
- Petrolatum (i.e. Paraffin wax)
This is not an exhaustive list, this is just some of the toxic ingredients I was made aware of and it can get very consuming and overwhelming. My method now is to find products that have few ingredients and are 100 percent natural. It is also a bonus if the packaging is plastic free and zero waste as possible. I understand this isn’t for everyone and there is a fantastic app that I have used to investigate and research brands and products on the market, including big name brands. This app is called “Think Dirty” and it gives you a rating for each product using a numbering and colour coded green, yellow and red system. This will show you how clean you products are and allow you to search and review other products to find out their rating based on their ingredients list. For me, it has given me such control and power to discern what is truly natural when it comes to skincare and my cleaning products. I think most people will agree they would appreciate honesty and transparency when it comes to marketing products and what the ingredients mean. Through proper education and sharing of knowledge we can understand and make informed choices on finding products that are not filled with ingredients that are hormone disruptors, allergens or worse carcinogens.
I believe brands have a personal responsibility to ensure their products are safe rather than attempting to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. I.e
- not using sustainable packaging
- clever marketing terms
- percentage of ingredients still toxic and only some organic ingredients included
Be wary of (MLM) multi level marketing companies as well since these are the companies that are literally “selling” the product for profit rather than making a real effort to be toxic free, natural and sustainable. It’s all clever marketing techniques to sell their product and attempt to target the now awakening world and new eco conscious consumers. Rather support local business that are transparent and clear on the packaging of the ingredients they use. In the process you might even meet some down to earth people like I did at my local refillery in Cape Town ‘The Green Tap’. Small business owners that are always eager to help and share their knowledge. Be part of the way forward in going zero waste, plastic free and being kind to your body and the planet.