Greenwashing 101: Beauty Product Labels vs. Actual Ingredients

greenwashingGreenwashing is a practice that I see commonly, as a professional aesthetician.

As someone who has spent years researching ingredients and reading beauty product labels, one of the biggest reasons I started No Bull Beauty was to expose all of the greenwashing going on within this industry. That’s not to say there aren’t those of us who work tirelessly to make effective, honestly natural beauty products. However, there are quite a few others that want to “have their cake and eat it too” so to speak.

Many personal care, fragrance, and beauty product manufacturers want to spend as little as possible to make as much as possible.  Heck, who am I kidding – that’s most companies these days; and greenwashing has become a large part of that. 

You see, in an effort to “maximize profits” these companies use substandard ingredients, yet they know many of us prefer natural products and that most of us will pay a bit more to get effective, yet earth friendly formulas.  So, what are they to do?  Employ serious greenwashing campaigns that’s what!

These companies choose green boxes, names like Earthblahblah, or NaturSkinGoop (both made up mind you!), images of nature scenes, and other marketing tools to fool you into thinking their products are green, natural, and safe.  But when you read what’s really in them you see they’re anything but green beauty products, and, instead, are often full on toxic dumps.

To show you what I mean, I grabbed a few real life examples of products that have been marketed through greenwashing, I found online. I’ve not shared the names as that’s not quite appropriate….or so I’ve been told.  But I really want to – cause this is some serious BS they’re slingin!  Just can’t afford slander suits you know?

For our first example of greenwashing, we’ve got an aloe very gel.  It carries a name that’s really earthy and on the label it says things like “100% Gel,” and “Pure.” Here is the official product description minus any identifying info.

Product Description

Cooling soothing gel from nature’s miracle plant of the ages.
Made with the most concentrated amount of fresh Aloe Vera leaves on the market, this cooling gel creates a protective barrier which helps retain moisture and helps promote healing.

  • Contains No Alcohol
  • Pure. No Color Added
  • 100% Pure Aloe Vera Gel
  • Fragrance Free
  • No Color Added

And here are the actual ingredients – anything but “Pure” for sure; even though this company seems to really, really like that word!


Aloe Vera (Aloe Barbadensis) Gel, Triethanolamine, Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Carbomer 940, Tetrasodium EDTA, Diazolidinyl Urea, Phenoxyethanol, DMDM Hydantoin

beauty product labelsNext we have an ingredient list for a popular brand of “natural hair color” which in my opinion, doesn’t exist unless you count body art grade henna, or lemon juice and sunshine!  Here is the listed benefits on the beauty product label.  For the full effect imagine it as it would usually appear – on a green box sporting a green sounding brand name.

Intense and Radiant Color

No Ammonia, Resorcinol, or Parabens

With Certified Organic & Natural Ingredients

Free Of – Ammonia, resorcinol, parabens, silicones, paraffin, mineral oils, heavy metals, artificial fragrances, SLS, and  formaldehyde derivatives

Great news right?  Not so much.  When you read the ingredient list you see this hair color may be “SLS Free” but it’s got quite a few other troublesome ingredients; way too many for it’s attempts at being a natural beauty product!

Ingredients:  PEG-2 oleamine, aqua purificata (purified water). cocamide DEA, alcohol denat (alcohol). propylene glycol, ethanolamine, oleic acid, sodium sulfite, tetrasodium EDTA, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (triticum vulgare, soy, corn, avena sativa), sodium erythorbate, p-phenylenediamine, 4-chlororesorcinol, 2-amino-4-hydroxyethylaminoanisole sulfate, N,N-BIS (2-hydroxyethyl) p-phenylenediamine sulfate, m-aminophenol, 4-amino-2-hydroxytoluene,  Aqua purificata (purified water), hydrogen peroxide, cetyl alcohol, cetearyl alcohol, laureth-3, ceteareth-20, oxyquinoline sulfate, fragrance.  Aqua purificata (purified water), quaternium-83, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, hydrolyzed vegetable protein PG-propyl silanetriol, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, PEG-10 rapeseed sterol, ceramide 2, butylene glycol, helianthus annuus (sunflower seed extract), parfum (fragrance),phenoxyethanol , d-limonene, hexyl cinnamal, benzyl salicylate, imidazolidinyl urea.

And these are just two examples of greenwashing.  I’m sure you can come up with many, MANY more.  In fact, if you have some greenwashing examples you’d like to share, post them in the comments section.  I’ve gotta go get dinner ready right now or I’d post several more I found in my 15 – 20 min search prepping for this post!  It’s total BS!!

Now that we see just how funky some products can be; even with their pretty green boxes and natural seeming label info – What can you do to avoid greenwashing and it’s toxic side effects? 

Aside from outing greenwashing brands and products, you can also be sure to educate yourself and read any and all labels on absolutely EVERYthing you buy, beauty products or otherwise.  Then, boycott companies using hokey ingredients, poor manufacturing practices, or other BS.  Companies hide their chemical darkness in many ways so you must be smarter than they are or you’ll end up totally hosed.’s skin deep is an excellent resource to guide you toward truly natural beauty products as well.  And, as always, you can post a comment or send us a message via our contact page and we’ll help you cut through the crap by answering ingredient questions, providing product evaluations, and anything else we might be able to do to assist you in your BS Free Beauty Crusade! 



Posted in Beauty Ingredients, Non Toxic Beauty, Skin care ingredients
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