A Guide to Green Beauty Products

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The trend toward 'green' beauty is fast and furious. It’s happening so rapidly that many feel that all beauty brands will eventually be green in some way.

The founder of Alison Raffaele, an eco-friendly, socially responsible color line says, “Consumers who insist on eco-friendly products that will not harm them or the environment could easily become the norm, because of the present cultural shift towards personal and corporate responsibility."

But how do we make sense of all the terms, the certifications and the labels? I’ve been in the beauty biz my entire adult life and found it all really confusing. So, I set out to educate myself and, in turn, you.

WHY GO GREEN?

A lot of consumers and companies are jumping on the green bandwagon, but for different reasons.

For some businesses, it's an effort to make beauty products that customers feel comfortable putting on their skin.

Kristine Keheley, co-founder of Vapour Organic Beauty, stated their mission quite nicely, “We at Vapour are committed to the mission of creating safe, non-toxic, beautiful choices for women. What we put on our skin is absorbed and ends up in our bodies. Also, organic ingredients have twice as much anti-oxidant content as their natural counterparts, so they are very effective.”

For others, it's an effort to be a better friend to the environment that drives their green focus.

Thomas Wick from eVitamins.com says, “We truly believe the trend toward eco-friendliness is positive and good in the long run. More awareness and more brands with an earth-friendly focus puts better products and services in the marketplace, ultimately empowers consumers to reduce their environmental footprint and live better.”

THE BUZZWORDS

There is very little regulation in the U.S. ‘green’ beauty world, so I did encounter a lack of consensus regarding the definition of certain terms. Most of the people I interviewed gave the following definitions, but there is some gray area and room for argument, even among the experts.

Green / Eco-Friendly / Sustainable

My research shows that these three terms essentially mean the same thing. Lee Wright of Ma Mi Skincare, a maker of pure products for price-conscious moms, said, “This means that the products were developed using raw ingredients that are not harmful to humans or the environment, not tested on animals and that the waste can be recycled, reused or at least disposed of without negative impact on our environment long-term."

Natural

Marj from AllNaturalCosmetics.com, an all-natural skincare and color line, said, “When pertaining to beauty products, that the product is pure and made with ingredients found in nature, and containing no synthetics.”

Organic

Jacquelyn Ramsey, from Woodsprite Organic Body, classifies organic as: “Certified organic ingredients or products bearing the USDA Organic symbol are grown with only approved pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and in the case of finished products (food or beauty), must contain at least 70% certified organic ingredients and may not contain prohibited substances or ingredients.”

WHY ARE SOME GREEN PRODUCTS MORE EXPENSIVE?

Green takes on two meanings when you talk about the price of organic, natural and eco-friendly products. Sometimes, the items can be pricier.

“The simple reason that organic products tend to be more expensive is because it takes more effort to grow and process organic ingredients," Ramsey says. "And because they are agricultural, they are highly subject to weather conditions, which means absorbing major pricing variables. Manufacturers using chemicals and synthetic alternatives see very little pricing fluctuation, because these ingredients are made in a controlled environment”.

Cristin Sheehe from online retailer Green4YourSoul.com says you should keep in mind the value of the product you're buying.

"When you are choosing a ‘green’ product you will find that the product contains higher levels of concentrated ingredients and aren't full of fillers like commercial products - this means a little goes a long way and you will actually get more for your money."

GREENWASHING: A WARNING

Greenwashing is a term used to describe products that appear to be green, but don't necessarily live up to the promises on their packaging.

“Unfortunately, greenwashing is an all too common occurrence in today's marketplace," Sheehe says. "There is little regulation, and many companies are taking advantage of the fact that consumers are looking for healthier products. Consumers should always read labels to ensure that a product is as pure as it claims to be before investing in the product.”

HOW TO WEED OUT THE FAKES

Ramsey says spotting a truly green product is as simple as looking for simple words that you can pronounce on the packaging. "Look for the words 'pure essential oil' instead of 'fragrance.' You want products that contain lots of herbal extracts, cold pressed vegetable oils and butters, clays, minerals and vitamins." If the word has 12 syllables and sounds like a chemical compound, chances are the product isn't as green as it claims to be.

Julia from Anthology Organic Skincare recommends that consumers “look for products that state 40%-100% of post-consumer/recycled material in their packaging because packaging is the major pollutant in water, streams, landfills and oceans. Also, look for products in re-useable packaging." Anthology Organic Skincare is one of the only skin care companies in the world that is a USDA-certified organic grower, and their products are completely vegan and cruelty free.

Also look for companies that don’t use fillers in their products. Fillers as deceptive as water (what could be greener?) can increase transportation and packaging costs, which increases a company’s carbon footprint. Lush, (Seed) and ONE, all eco-friendly skin care lines, eliminated water from their shampoos (making them in bar form). Keep clicking for product recommendations from these brands.

INGREDIENTS TO AVOID

Just about everyone I interviewed agreed that the following ingredients should be avoided if you've decided to go green with your beauty regimen.

  • Parabens
  • Pthlates
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate
  • Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS)
  • Petroleum derivatives
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Diethanolamine or Triethanolamine (DEA or TEA)
  • Dibutyl Phthalate (common in nail polish)
  • FD&C colors

MORE RESOURCES

Are you interested in learning more about this fascinating topic?  Here are a few resources to help.

SafeCosmetics.org

Run by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.

Green4YourSoul.com

“Every product we carry has a Green 411 that details hazardous chemicals to avoid and explains why our green alternative is a healthier choice. In addition our Features and Benefits tabs outline each company's environmental, charitable efforts and certifications. “

EVitamins.com

This site is a resource for vitamins and natural skin, hair and body care.

EcoStiletto.com

EcoStiletto is an online magazine dedicated to eco-friendly fashion, beauty, lifestyle and celebrity.

CosmeticsCop.com

Here's a dictionary of common cosmetic ingredients to help you decipher your shampoo bottle.

EWG.org

The Environmental Working Group's mission is to use the power of public information to protect public health and the environment.

Terressentials.com

Terressentials is an organic skin care brand that focuses on consumer education.

A FEW OF MY GREEN FAVES

Deodorant: My search for the perfect aluminum-free deodorant is finally over. The Naturally Fresh Deodorant Crystal really works. Trust me…try it. They have a very nice lip balm as well. $6.99 at NaturallyFreshDeodorantCrystal.com

Shampoo: Shampoo in bar form from LUSH, (SEED) and One — try them all.

Dental Care: Dr. Sharp Natural Toothpaste. Dr. Sharp believes that fluoride has no real treatment benefits, and in fact can be ultimately harmful to our teeth. Check out his line of natural toothpastes and rinses. $11.95 DrFluorideFree.com

Moisturizer: Anthology Face Serum Lullaby for Dry Skin. Super nourishing and it smells wonderful. $15.95 at AnthologyPlace.com

Body Lotion: (SEED) has a wonderful selection of quickly absorbing, but nourishing body lotions.  My favorite is the Invigorating Citrus. $8.99 at Seed.Alice.com

Body Butter: ONE Body Butter. Rich and decadent-feeling for all-over body moisture. $9.99 at Target.com

Body Balm: Thistle Farms Body Balm for those rough spots. These products are hand made by — and also benefit — women who have faced unbelievable life challenges. $14 at ThistleFarms.org

Bar Soap: Woodsprite Organic Body Organic Olive Oil Soaps. Creamy, with yummy scents. Try their sampler to find your favorite. $10 at WoodSpriteOrganicBody.com

Body Wash: Terressentials Certified Organic Body Wash in Cool Mint. Refreshing and invigorating. $11.95 at Terressentials.com

Fragrance: LUSH Solid Perfumes. Lush has lots of yummy homemade products. I used to buy them overseas when I was traveling for business, but now their products are available in the States. $7.95 at LUSHusa.com

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