What Is Green Beauty?
Curious about what is meant by the term "Green Beauty"
With green washing rampant in the beauty industry, Green Beauty is a set of high standards or a quality checklist to be used against a product to ensure it is as wholesome as it claims.
For a beauty product to be defined as a true "green beauty product" it must be made with at least 95% natural ingredients, comprise of organic, wild-crafted or sustainably sourced ingredients, be manufactured ethically using fair-trade agreements, be vegan and certified cruelty free, come packaged in sustainable packaging, and most importantly be 100% clean and free of any chemicals and toxins.
Going green” is no longer just the ideology of left-wing hippies. Nor is it a passing trend. We are living in changing times where we are confronted with the challenge of sustaining our food, our water, our health and our planet. We are becoming aware and more connected than ever before, and as a result we are naturally led to taking on a greener, kinder and sustainable approach to life and everything we buy.
The Green Beauty movement is rising rapidly, each year more products and more information is being seeked out and it is undeniable that within a few years the green beauty industry will become mainstream.
The Green Beauty movement is a philosophy and a way of life that encourages you to live with love and respect for yourself, the planet and others. When you live this way, it feels good not only on a cellular level but also a spiritual level. It raises your vibration, opens up your heart centre and brings you closer to living in alignment with your own true nature.
People who regularly use green beauty products notice an improvement in their skin, hair, body and overall sense of well-being. While we cannot ignore that many cosmetic products and procedures are highly beneficial for various types of problems, there is always a natural alternative to everything.
Mother nature is brimming with many things that naturally heal you, nourish you and keep you looking your very best.
There are so many people who want to bring the healing benefits of nature into their beauty cabinet, however when it comes to choosing a truly green product it can be extremely overwhelming, especially with the rampant over-use of words like organic, natural, eco, cruelty free and sustainable on so many labels of mainstream products.
As conscious consumers we have to look past the pretty packaging and impressive claims on labels. There’s no legal standard or industry requirement for companies to abide by when labelling their products as natural, organic or vegan. In fact, companies can make whatever claim they like on their product with no legal ramification. The only legal requirement is to list ingredients according to the global standard of INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). Ingredients must be listed from the highest percentage to the lowest, while ingredients under 1% can be listed in any order.
“Eco” “Clean” “Natural” “Vegan” and “Organic” are popular buzzwords thrown around the green beauty movement and companies are wasting no time in cashing in on this trend. With so many words associated with green beauty many people get confused and start to think that if a product claims to be one of these words then it must be a green beauty product. This couldn’t be further from the case.
Take the word “vegan” for example. If one was to buy a product with this word on it, one would be right to assume that no animals were harmed whatsoever in the making of this product. Wrong. The ingredients may be vegan however there is a high chance that the raw ingredients and/or the final product has been tested on animals (making it not vegan) at some stage throughout the manufacturing process.
Many people associate vegan products with clean and green products. However; this is usually not the case. Many vegan products contain little to no natural ingredients and are bursting with toxic and hazardous chemicals.
Take the word “organic”. You would be correct in assuming that if a product labelled itself as organic then you are buying a high concentrated supply of organic matter. Not the case. Often when you turn over to read the label you will discover that only one ingredient is organic, and it makes up for only 2% of the product – making the product only 2% organic.
So; you can see how highly unregulated the beauty industry is, making it extremely hard to truly figure out what’s really in your cosmetics. To help you figure it all out I have compiled the ultimate guide to organic, vegan, natural, clean, fair trade, eco + green beauty products - and how you can differentiate between each one. Once you understand the concepts behind the popular beauty terms you will gain a greater understanding into why green beauty products are superior to anything else on the market.
Lets spend a little time now going through the meaning and differences between the terms vegan, natural, organic, clean, fair-trade, eco and green beauty.
The word “Natural” is the most over-used word in the beauty industry. A product can be described as natural even if it is made with 99% chemically derived ingredients and just 1% naturally-sourced, plant-based or mineral ingredients.
What exactly is a natural product? The formal definition defines a natural product as:
"A natural product is a chemical compound or substance produced by a living organism – found in nature. In the broadest sense, natural products include any substance produced by life."
For a product to be truly natural, 97% of the product needs to be made with ingredients that breathed life. Whilst you can buy products that are 100% natural there are many products that need the shelf life increased, so companies may add a few preservatives into the formula – it is crucial to note that the preservatives should not be chemical based.
Just because a product contains one or two natural ingredients does not mean it is a natural and healthier alternative.
The best way to know exactly what’s in the formula is to check the ingredients listing. In a natural product the botanicals and minerals will be up top and any synthetic ingredients nearer the bottom. Natural extracts will be named according to their scientific or Latin name so check a cosmetic dictionary if you're not sure.
A great resource is the Environmental Working Group's Skin-Deep Cosmetics Database site, which rates popular cosmetics and personal-care products with hazard scores on a scale of 0 to 10, depending on their toxicity.
It is also important to point out that even if products are plant-derived or non-synthetic, that doesn’t mean they are safe—there are plenty of naturally produced toxic compounds. (arsenic and cyanide and lead!). Personally thats why when I first started to switch to green beauty products I checked every ingredient on the EWG website.
Products only need to contain a minuscule percentage of organic ingredient to label themselves as organic. Truly mindboggling, isn’t it?
Organic ingredients are those grown without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, which is healthier for you and the planet. The pesticides and chemical fertilizers leach into the soil and destroy natural habitat, wildlife and even run into our oceans and lakes.
The best way to trust the organic credentials of a product is to always read the label and be on the look out for any reputable certified organic stamps. Certified organic stamps ensure that the product is sourced and manufactured using sustainable, organically-farmed ingredients; along with not being tested on animals, free from harsh chemicals, nano particles, parabens, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances. It is also important to bring up that some ingredients cannot be certified organic, such as wild-harvested ingredients which can include water, salt, clay and wild-flower essences.
To apply for the organic seal of approval is expensive, therefore many small companies do not travel down the path of getting certified even though their product is organic. My advice in this case is to ask the company questions about their farming and sourcing practices - then let common sense prevail.
With the rising popularity of consumers seeking more and more vegan products many companies are cashing in on this 5 letter word. There are no legal standards regulating beauty products that claim to be vegan [vegan meaning they are free from all animal products and animal by-products]. To determine if the product is truly vegan first read the label and then go to the brands website to check out their philosophy and credentials to enable you to get a feel for the brands ethics and values.
Just because the ingredients are vegan doesn’t mean that no animal testing or animal exploitation has taken place throughout any stage of the processing. Many companies that manufacture raw ingredients or chemical compounds commonly test their product on animals before selling it on to beauty product manufacturers.
It is also crucial to note; that if a brand sells their product in a bricks and mortar shop in China it is then by law required that the product be tested on animals – even if the brand does not do the testing themselves.
The other common thing that can happen with raw ingredients is that animals have been exploited throughout the harvesting of the ingredients. Take coconuts for example – the majority of coconut products come from Thailand, Malaysia + Indonesia where 99% of farmers trap and exploit monkeys to pick the coconuts. Unfortunately, there are no certified stamps of approval to help avoid this trade – which is why we personally only ever support coconut products from the Pacific Islands. I have written an in-depth blog post about this issue on my personal blog Monkeys Pick Coconuts: The Truth Behind Our Favourite Coconut Brands
It’s also worth noting that a product labelled 'vegan' doesn’t mean it is brimming with botanical replacements in place of animal-derived ingredients; they can include synthesised ingredients made in a laboratory.
When you first start reading the ingredients it can be very confusing to know what are vegan and what are not. Some common cosmetic ingredients derived from animal sources include glycerine [unless it states its vegetable sourced], collagen, gelatine, retinol, cochineal (E120) and tallow.
The quickest way to ensure products are vegan is to look for a Certified Vegan logo which ensures that the product does not contain any animal extracts or animal by-products in the ingredients or the manufacturing process. It also guarantees that the products and ingredients have never been tested on animals.
Another logo to look out for are the leaping bunny logos to make sure your products are cruelty-free. To learn more about the certified logos and choosing vegan and cruelty free products head over to my personal blog post A Complete Guide To Choosing Vegan + Cruelty Free
An interesting trend that is being witnessed in the beauty industry nowadays is that more and more consumers are switching from the mainstream products commonly filled with chemicals to more natural and toxic free alternatives. The primary factor governing this change in consumer mindset is the media release of the health concerns caused by the many questionable ingredients found in the majority of beauty products.
Although consumer awareness has advanced tremendously over the past decade, the same can’t be said for the labelling standards, which remain the same since they were put into place in the 1930s. There are literally thousands of ingredients used in the cosmetic industry that simply shouldn’t be, and because the labelling standards and industry regulations are so out-dated, there are thousands of products on store shelves that are just not safe for human use.
Generally, 'clean' products will be free from toxic chemicals and only contain ingredients pure enough to be eaten. The primary motivation behind clean products is to make them safe for humans.
There are endless ingredients to avoid on your beauty labels; however the top contenders to avoid are
Lead, Mercury, and Other Heavy Metals: Known neurotoxins, lead and other heavy metals are linked to learning problems. They are reproductive and developmental toxins that have been shown to reduce fertility and disrupt hormones. Possible carcinogens and known respiratory toxins.
Parabens: Petroleum-based, parabens are known endocrine disruptors and are found in about 75-90% of all personal care products. They are contributors to skin cancer and linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. Parabens are also linked to reducing sperm production and testosterone levels. Avoid any ingredient ending in –paraben.
Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS): A strong skin irritant and possible hormone disruptor, often contaminated with 1,4-Dioxane and Nitrosamines, which are both potent carcinogens.
Mineral Oils: While it sounds natural at first, mineral oil is another term for petroleum and it is a known carcinogen. Commonly found in face creams and scalp-treatment shampoos. A non-renewable and environmentally unfriendly resource, petroleum barely belongs in your car, let alone on your skin. Identify it on labels as petrolatum, mineral oil, and paraffin.
Fragrance: When you see the term “fragrance/perfume/parfum” on an ingredient list, avoid at all cost. This term is virtually unregulated – thousands of ingredients can be used under the term ‘fragrance’. A loophole in labelling regulation doesn't require companies to declare any of the dozens of toxic chemicals used in their ‘fragrance’. The reasoning behind this is that the fragrance composition is often considered 'company trade secret'.
Always choose fragrance-free products that use natural oils instead. Nature does a wonderful job at providing fragrance which is both healing to the body and smells divine. There are many companies that make gorgeous natural perfumes nowadays. Make sure you check out our botanical perfumes which are 100% natural.
Fair trade agreements ensure that the raw ingredients used in beauty products are purchased from the farmers at a fair price.
It is usually the key botanical extracts grown in poorer countries such as coconut, argan, apricot and brazil nut oils as well as cacao and shea butters that are at most risk of human exploitation from beauty product manufacturers. To increase profit margins further big companies [both beauty brands and ingredient suppliers] take advantage of low economic regions by offering a low price for the raw ingredient – almost forcing the farmer to either say yes or otherwise lose business.
Take the time to ask the questions on how your product was manufactured. Were the ingredients sourced by child labour (cocoa, palm oil, mica to name a few)? Did the grower get a fair price for their ingredients?
Fair trade agreements guarantee sustainable wages for the local, small scale farmers who grow the crops. These products also provide support for community projects from clean drinking water to improving local healthcare. Look for the Fair-trade mark to indicate if ingredients are sourced fairly.
Where you spend your money can actually change the livelihood of others for the better - so make sure your money is supporting local farmers and communities. The more you buy fair trade and ethical - the more other companies that are not doing the right thing will be forced to look into ethical sourcing.
A true eco product can only be judged by its ecological footprint on our planet. An eco-product will leave zero negative impact on the environment over its entire life span - from its conception to the day its packaging gets recycled or upcycled.
The beauty industry is a booming trade, and sadly like many mass producing industries, fast production and rising profit margins become the priority and environmental impact is forgotten as a result.
Mainstream cosmetic houses push out enormous amounts of beauty products at record times, the production and manufacturing emits extreme amounts of pollution and waste.
Excess packaging and the overuse of plastics is making it harder and harder for the planet to break down our human waste. Plastics never breakdown and because they are filled with toxic chemicals they further pollute the planet when they get buried in landfill or washed into our oceans. Forests are being destroyed at record speeds all so that the consumer can have beautiful packaging for the goods they buy.
The toxic dyes in the packaging combined with the chemical ingredients found within the product are slowly destroying our planet. The dyes leach into the earth when buried in landfill and the toxic chemicals get flushed down our drains, all this results in toxic contaminants entering our waterways, oceans and soils, which ultimately leads to poisoning and killing habitat, wildlife and ourselves.
A true Eco product uses recyclable packaging, glass bottles, pet bottles, non-toxic inks and has no chemicals in the product itself. Many eco beauty products try and reduce excess packaging by reselling products in either bulk bins or in recycled packaging.
Just because a product is eco-friendly doesn't mean it is cruelty free or fair-trade.
Some would argue that green beauty products are like eco-friendly products, however I tend to disagree. Green beauty products are the entire package - they are natural, clean, eco, cruelty free, fair trade and vegan.
Its the advanced soul that is often drawn to green beauty products - someone who cares not only about their own wellness but about the wellness of all living things.
The ultimate goal of green beauty products is to reduce negative environmental, health and social impacts throughout its entire life span. Green beauty is thoughtful beauty; every phase of the product is taken into consideration from the concept of the recipe, the manufacturing and testing to how it will break down when it becomes a waste product.
There are many different reasons to opt for green beauty products and to be honest the reasons come down to your own individual beliefs and ideas.
However, this I know to be true, when you choose green beauty products you leave a positive impact on absolutely everything. By choosing green beauty products it will:
Gift you with wellness and a beauty boost: Green skin care products promote good health and because they are chemically free they also help you achieve radiant and beautiful glowing skin. On average 80% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your blood stream. Considering that the average woman uses at least 12 beauty products every day, she is likely to be exposed to 175 potentially harmful chemicals in the process! All those chemicals are filling your body up with toxins, making it harder for your body and skin to heal and repair itself. By replacing your beauty products with green alternatives you become more healthier
Prevent disease: What if I were to tell you that many of the chemicals found in mainstream beauty products are also found in anti-freeze, brake fluid and engine decreaser! Yes, this is a true fact - it certainly makes you rethink that expensive moisturiser that the beauty consultant at the department store convinced you that you just had to have. Beauty products contain chemicals for many reasons - to make them look and smell good, to create more lather or to give them a longer shelf life. However, the worrying thing is that many of the chemicals found commonly in toiletries, skincare products and makeup have been proven to be potentially carcinogenic, disruptive to hormones and cause skin and eye irritation.
Reduce allergies: Allergic reactions are on the uprise - more and more people are allergic to skin products and foods, and it is believed that chemicals are the major culprit. If you suffer allergic reactions to mainstream beauty products then there is a good chance you will find green beauty products to be more soothing. Make sure you opt for ones that are designed for sensitive skin (some plants, even though they are natural can have a strong effect on the skin).
Reduce environmental impact: The ingredients used for green beauty products are free from toxic chemicals. Toxins and chemicals pollute our land, air, and water; which results in killing wildlife and natural habitat.
By switching to green shampoos, conditioners, body washes, exfoliating scrubs and face cleansers you are making a positive impact on the environment, for once they are washed down the drain the natural ingredients breakdown, causing no damage or pollution to the environment.
Be a higher quality product: The majority of green beauty products are handcrafted and made in small batches. Every product is mindfully made and infused with higher concentrations of natural and raw ingredients which then work in synergy to bring about a more balanced and healthy mind, body and spirit.
Nourish the body: Plant materials are made up of the same minerals, vitamins, hormones, essential fatty acids, amino acids and enzymes as the human body. Because of this our bodies recognize these materials as nutrition and readily accept them through the skin. Everything we put on our skin has the potential to be absorbed into our bodies and circulated to all of our cells; selection of skin care products is as important as the selection of the food we eat.
Support sustainable agriculture: Green beauty products are mostly made from natural ingredients that are grown on organic farms. Organic farms do not use toxic sprays and chemicals, therefore the water runoff from the farm does not do damage to the oceans, rivers, wildlife and natural habit. Organic farming promotes not only healthy living soil but a greener planet.
Support human rights: By buying mainstream beauty items you are often supporting cheap labour and unethical work practices (take Mica for example), and I think it is fair to admit that beauty is not beautiful if it comes at the cost of lives, health and happiness of others. If enough consumers choose to buoycot these companies who choose to trade unethical, then in order to survive these companies will be forced to revise and change their manufacturing process. This will then encourage better pay and ethical working conditions for the workers who are currently being exploited.
Put an end to animal cruelty: As a consumer, you have a lot of power to help put an end to animal testing. By purchasing cosmetics and other products that are not tested on animals you send a powerful message to corporations and organizations, showing them that if they want a slice of your hard earned money then they will have to comply with humane and ethical practices.
People who embrace green beauty products realise the full effect consumerism is having on the planet, as a result they are choosing to shop with consciousness, opting to turn away from mainstream trends.
Many people argue that green beauty products are more expensive Yes this is true, however it is important to remember that green beauty companies spend more money on sourcing ethical products. Personally I believe that the little extra you pay for a green beauty item is worth it for the sake of our planet, our health and the well-being of the workers and our animal friends.
What a more information on how to choose green beauty? Join my free 30 Day Green Beauty Challenge where you receive an email from me everyday with new tips, ideas and knowledge on how to green your beauty routine. Sign up and read more here.
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