By: Catalina Patane, co-founder of Dèfii Botanicals
Organic? Non toxic? Derived from natural ingredients? Cruelty free? Just because natural skincare brands say they’re better for you, doesn’t mean they are. Here’s how to tell.
Clean Beauty Has Become Mainstream
The days of shopping for handmade, natural soap at the farmers market are over. What once was limited to the hippy, naturalist, environmentally conscious counterculture is now mainstream. Whether you’re served an Instagram ad, or wandering the aisles at Target, there’s no shortage of “natural” skincare companies these days — many are even endorsed by celebrities who credit these products with their glowing complexion.
But with the socialization of any radical idea (take non-toxic living, for example), comes a wave of brands and businesses claiming to be the best, but doing the bare minimum to qualify. With few regulatory entities in place to monitor the misuse of “clean” labels in marketing materials and packaging, it’s easy to think you’re using a product that’s not as good for you as you might think.
Greenwashing is a blanket term used to describe when an organization isn’t as environmentally friendly as it markets itself to be.
A business or brand that might be greenwashing:
- Spends more resources marketing itself as environmentally friendly than actually addressing and minimizing its environmental impact, enticing aspiring consumers
- Makes false or questionable claims that deceive consumers into believing their products are environmentally friendly, conveying a false impression or putting forth misleading information
- Makes people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.
- Selectively discloses information about its product or practices, highlighting the good, but omitting the bad — or, not mentioning tradeoffs that make their product appear to be more beneficial, but in fact are not
- Takes performative actions in response to individual cultural occurrences, when their entire business model and their profits cause the harm at the center of the cultural occurrence in the first place
Common examples of greenwashing include:
- Using the color green, the word “green”, or an easily identifiable “natural” icon (such as a leaf, a tree, a raindrop) in its branding
- Using vague language like “clean” or “highest standards” on its packaging or in marketing materials
- Using “greenspeak” like “naturally derived ingredients” or “made from natural ingredients” when they might still cause harm to the customer and/or environment and don’t, in fact, meet certification standards
Here are a few examples you’re likely familiar with:
An oil company donates soap to clean infected animals after their own product spills in the ocean
A popular cafe announces they’ve started using straw-free lids to minimize single use plastics, but don’t mention that the new lids use more plastic than before
An auto company comes out with a fuel-efficient SUV, but fails to mention the environmental cost of producing the battery in the car
A home cleaning product claims to be “biodegradable” or “non toxic” or “vegan approved” but shows no evidence on the label
A trash bag is labeled recyclable, but the entire purpose of these bags is to end up in the trash
Unfortunately, greenwashing has become just as common as all natural skincare products. This misleading information is more than a shame — it’s a health concern.
So, how can I tell? Tips for selecting a safe personal care product
With so many brands moving away from selling safe products at farmers’ markets, to natural alternatives being more accessible online and in-store, there are plenty of options.
Made in small batches, or by hand. We recommend purchasing products from brands you can interact directly with. If you can’t speak to a customer service representative, or even the person making the product, it might not be the best choice for your health.
Read the ingredients. At first glance, the length of the ingredient list can tell you how natural a product actually is. Long ingredient list means farther away from its original format. The fewer ingredients on the list, the better! If you don’t know what an ingredient is and/or can’t pronounce it, look it up! Psst: Dèfii products all have an ingredient list of 10 or fewer.
Pay attention to the packaging. Did the product come with minimal packaging? Is the packaging free of toxic materials, made from recycled materials or recyclable once you’re done with it? Biodegradable, even? Or perhaps able to be reused or even returned to the brand for disposal.
Learn about the brand. Does the brand have a sustainability page on their website where they speak to everything from farming practices, to material extraction, to packaging and use? Do they send out an impact report on a regular basis, speaking to the efforts made to improve their environmental impact, and transparently identifying areas of failure or improvement? Do they provide examples for the claims they make? For example: do they claim to be ethical, but don’t speak to how? Do they call out restricted materials, but don’t say what those materials are? Do they close the loop of the life cycle of their products?
Above and beyond. Does the brand go above and beyond to manage their environmental impact? For example: do they use scraps from their factory floors to make new products? Do they source local ingredients and labor, even if it costs more? Do they pay for life-affirming benefits for their teams that change their lives outside of work, not just when they’re at work? Do they partner with nonprofits, or leverage their products to bring awareness to important causes? Do they have a clear social initiative?
Look for certifications and other accreditations. Products with official certifications have been vetted and approved by regulatory entities. Examples include:
- Made Safe
- Climate Neutral
- 1% for the planet
- FDA certified
- Leaping bunny
Additionally, brands might have medical partners who advise on the quality or use of the product, or even undergo clinical testing. Perhaps the brand has a Scientific Board of researchers and authors. Is the brand audited by a governing party on a regular basis?
The Dèfii Difference
Dèfii Botanicals products are designed to help you care for yourself — from the inside out. Hidden ingredients? Misleading labeling? No, thanks. We think you shouldn’t have to question whether “natural” products are actually good for you. Dèfii products contain only ingredients you can pronounce…and even eat! (Although we recommend you don’t).
Each of our products contains at least one live ingredient, which means it hasn’t been distilled, preserved, extracted, or altered in any other way. In other words: in its most natural, potent, and effective form. You can learn more about live ingredients on our FAQ page.
Above all, we believe in empowerment. And that starts with education. No matter which brand you choose, learn about the ingredients, practices, materials, accountability, and reporting in place to make our world (and your body) a better place.
Use code DEFII for 10% off your first order. Shop now.
- Tags: 100% natural All-Natural Skincare clean and sustainable products clean beauty consciously crafted highest standards natural skincare natural skincare brand no toxins or fillers Non-toxic skincare nontoxic living organic skincare products pure ingredients toxin-free