As a 13-year-old trolling the cosmetics aisle of my local drugstore, I assumed the products on the shelves were safe for me to use daily. Being a green-minded person even then, I reached for cosmetics I thought were natural, like Aveeno, Herbal Essences and St. Ives. I had no idea that cosmetics are basically unregulated or that a company can claim their products are "natural" or "organic" even if they contain few if any natural or organic ingredients.
I was fooled. I eventually found out these products are no different from conventional products: they, too, contain synthetic chemicals that are hazardous to health and the environment.
Was it my fault? No way! My teenage self, in a critical time of development, fell victim to greenwashing, when a company makes "green" claims to appeal to consumers even though the product, company or ingredients is not truly healthy or sustainable. These same companies (and many, many more) are still greenwashing. It's time to tell these greenwashers that we want cosmetics that are really safe, not just a lot of foolish marketing!
Aveeno (owned by Johnson & Johnson) is found in the bathrooms of my green-leaning friends, but some Aveeno products contain mystery "fragrance" ingredients and chemicals linked to cancer (1), reproductive and organ toxicity (2).
Herbal Essences (owned by Procter & Gamble) claims to be "inspired by nature." But there's not much natural or "herbal" about a line that contains a dozen synthetic chemicals, including sodium laureth sulfate, diazolidinyl urea, fragrance and others linked to health problems (3).
St. Ives' (owned by Alberto-Culver) now touts its "100% NATURAL MOISTURIZERS" and "natural ingredient glossary," but uses synthetic surfactants, preservatives and fragrance (4). St. Ives says it no longer uses parabens and phthalates, which is a great first step, but they still have a way to go to make truly "100% Natural" products.
It seems that companies have heard one part of the message: More and more of us want safe, green products – but we want products that are actually better, not just marketing hype.
Fortunately, many companies are making products that are safe and green. Click here for tips on finding safer cosmetics. You can also look for NPA, NSF and/or USDA Organic certifications* on products to know that a third-party certifying body has looked into ingredient sourcing. (To learn more about the wide world of cosmetics certification, click here.)
Clearly, we need to send Aveeno, Herbal Essences and St. Ives the most important part of the message: We will no longer be fooled by false green claims. Sign the petition and spread the word!
Yours in pursuit of truly "green" and truly safe products,
Mia, Campaign Organizing Director
* NPA is the Natural Products Association Standard. NSF "Contains Organic Ingredients" seal is a project of the Public Health & Safety Company. If a cosmetic product contains or is made up of agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards, it may be eligible for USDA Organic certification.
1 Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report “No More Toxic Tub.” http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=426 last accessed March 17, 2011.
2 Skin Deep search for Aveeno Foaming Cleanser. http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/product/97644/Aveeno_Foaming_Cleanser_Clear_Complexion/ Last accessed March 17, 2011.
3 Skin Deep search for "Herbal Essences." http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/wordsearch_free.php?hq=herbal+essences&go=go. Last accessed on March 17, 2011.
4 St. Ives website. http://www.stives.com/Body-Wash/Cleanse-Plus-Moisturize/Energizing-Citrus. Last accessed March 17, 2011.