Thoughts from The Queen Bee

Posts tagged ‘green washing’

Watch out for green washing !

Recently while browsing the Internet doing research for a new product, I stumbled cross a couple of products that started me thinking about ingredients. Health Canada and the FDA have put in place regulations requiring that manufacturers of skin care and cosmetic products list all of the ingredients on the package, either on the container or as an insert in the package, depending on different variables.

A big concern in the handcrafted cosmetic, soap and skin care industry is the number of manufacturers that are obviously not conforming to these regulations, but the reality is that there are not enough bodies employed by these government agencies to adequately “police” the industry, so this will continue.

Check back in the future for a post on how you can spot the “non-conformers”, but today I want to look at some issues that exist with the companies who do disclose their ingredients.

I’ve chosen 2 popular products to illustrate my point, but they are representative of the industry as a whole, and are not being singled out as being undesirable in any way. To the best of my knowledge, they are in full compliance with all government regulations as they pertain to labelling.

Moroccanoil Treatment

Ingredients: Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone, Butylphenyl, MethylPropional, Argania Spinoza Kernal Oil (Aragan Oil), Linseed (Linum Usitatissimum) Extract, Fragrance Supplement, D&C Yellow-11, D&C Red-17, Coumarin, Benzyl Benzoate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone.

The first thing you might not know about the labelling regulations, is that ingredients must be listed on the label according to the percentage of each in the product, from highest to lowest, with the exception of ingredients that make up less than 1% of the product, which can be listed in any order.

The first three ingredients on this list are silicones. Silicones smooth frizzy hair, make it shiny and are an effective detangler. Although the next two ingredients are listed as two, it is actually one. Butylphenyl Methylpropional is a synthetic fragrance. Linseed extract is used to strengthen and increase shine. The balance of the ingredients are color and fragrance.

So if we look at this list, the maximum amount of argan oil that could be in this product is 2 %, but the product has become a best seller by promoting itself as being nourishing due to its use of luxurious argan oil. Here is the what they say about the product on their website:

” This treatment for hair completely transforms and repairs as its formula transports lost proteins for strength; fatty acids, omega-3 oils and vitamins for shine; and antioxidants for protection. It absorbs instantly to fill gaps in hair created by heat, styling and environmental damage.”

The only ingredients on this list which contain proteins, fatty acids, omega-3 oils and vitamins are the argan oil and linseed extract, and the maximum they could add up to is 4 % of the product. There is no mention of the other 96% of the product which is silicones, fragrance and colour. Since fragrance is usually restricted to around 2% of the total product, lets subtract 3% for fragrance and colour, leaving us with a product that is 93% silicones, yet they receive no mention at all in any product detail information or marketing, leaving the consumer to believe that it is the wondrous, magical, natural argan oil that is making their hair smooth, silky and manageable.

As I mentioned earlier, I am not saying Moroccanoil is a bad product…I actually use the leave in treatment as well as their shampoo and conditioner, and have no plans to stop. What I don’t like is the way consumers are left with the perception that the performance of this product is due to the wonderful, natural Argan oils. Do they come right out and say that? No. Could they do a much better job informing the consumer? Absolutely!

The next product I want to look at is Aveeno Baby Soothing Relief Moisture Cream. If you look at the product on their website, under Ingredients for this product they have listed Active Naturals Colloidal Oatmeal. Period. End of story.

The banner on their website is Aveeno Active Naturals, leading one to believe that this is a natural product.

No mention anywhere of the synthetic cocktail that makes up the majority of this product, in fact all of their products. I’m not going to pick apart this list….we could play ‘spot the synthetics’ but that would be like shooting fish in a barrel…there are so many of them!

Water, Glycerin, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Avena Sativa (Oat) Kernel Flour, Carbomer, Sodium Hydroxide, Ceteareth-6, Hydrolyzed Milk Protein, Hydrolyzed Oats, Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, PEG-25 Soya Sterol, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Benzalkonium Chloride, Benzaldehyde, Butylene Glycol, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Ethyl Alcohol, Isobutylparaben, Phenoxyethanol, Propylparaben, Stearyl Alcohol.

In 2011, CBC Marketplace named Aveeno to their Top Ten Lousy Labels, which was the result of their investigation into “green” labelling. When asked to respond, here is the official response from Aveeno.

Marketplace’s question for Aveeno: What percentage of the content of your products is natural?

Answer from Alicia Storey, Senior Account Executive, Edelman public relations

AVEENO(r) products are made with ACTIVE NATURALS(tm); natural ingredients that have been scientifically shown to deliver real, proven skin care benefits. Our definition of ACTIVE NATURALS(tm) references ingredients derived from nature and uniquely formulated by AVEENO(r) to promote skin’s health and beauty. These active naturals include colloidal oatmeal, soy, feverfew PFE, shiitake mushroom complex and southernwood extract, which deliver effective skincare benefits through breakthrough product formulations that are unique to the AVEENO(r) brand.
We do not disclose the percentage of ACTIVE NATURALS(tm) ingredients in our products for competitive reasons.

AVEENO(r) has been using ACTIVE NATURALS(tm) in our formulations for more than 60 years. We are committed to bringing the balance of science and nature to each consumer by finding the most innovative, clinically proven formulations for the best natural ingredients. As a result of this commitment, AVEENO(r) is the skincare brand with natural ingredients that is most trusted by dermatologists.

Hmmm, once again, no mention of the myriad of synthetics in their products, and can’t tell us how much of the product is natural because of “competitive reasons”. I am not going to tell you that all synthetic ingredients are the devil…some, such as preservatives, are necessary,

However, I strongly object to companies hiding behind the badge of “natural” in order to convince consumers to buy their product. Don’t talk the talk, if you can’t walk the walk.

So my message to you, the consumer is: be skeptical. When you see an ad on TV or in a magazine, remember that its’ sole purpose is to separate you from your money. Don’t buy into the hype – read the label…the truth is out there!

You can read more about the Top Ten Lousy Labels at:

Mike Michalowicz

Thoughts from The Queen Bee


Thoughts from The Queen Bee

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