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Home > The Vapour Blog > Greenwashing: The Cosmetic Industry's Dirty Little Secret

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Greenwashing: The Cosmetic Industry's Dirty Little Secret
By Elizabeth Tannen, guest contributor

Sometimes, I go out with a man who is just plain wrong for me,
and, afterwards, make a declaration like this: “I hate men,” or, “I’m never dating a man again.”

This, as you—hopefully—agree, is unwise.

Just because there’s one (okay, maybe a few…) guys out there with poor judgment/taste/ability to express feelings, that doesn’t mean I should give up on all of them.

I don’t, generally, liken the pursuit of men to that of skincare products. But (first time for everything!) I’m here to do just that. Just as the wrongs of one guy shouldn’t turn us off to the whole species, we also shouldn’t let the crimes of some skin care companies turn us against the entire lot.

So, which skin care companies am I talking about? I’m talking about those whose labels claim that they’re “natural” or “green” when their ingredients are anything but. It’s called “greenwashing” and, unless things at the FDA change quickly (yes, I said quickly and FDA in the same sentence), it’s not going away any time soon. So if, like me, you’re a consumer who cares about the things you put on your face to make it look lovely, it’s worth sorting out.

First, I have to be honest: I don’t consider myself much of a “makeup person.” What that really means, of course, is that I don’t want to look like I’m wearing makeup. (Or, spend forty-five minutes putting it on.) But I do want to feel awesome about how my skin looks. Which is why I love Vapour products: they have sheer, buildable coverage and are super easy to re-apply. It’s also nice that Vapour doesn’t make it look like there are inches of plastic between my face and the natural world.

An added bonus is that I can walk around feeling good not only about my pretty cheeks but about the products themselves. That’s because, unlike some companies who claim to be “all natural” and environmentally conscious, Vapour is the real deal.

But too often, that isn’t the case. Looking into the whole “greenwashing” issue, I learned some pretty distressing things. At the root of them all, pretty much, is this: the cosmetics industry is still operating under legislation that hasn’t been updated since the 1930s.

That allows manufacturers to be pretty much unregulated, with nothing to stop them from prettying up their packaging with words like “natural” or “organic” or “eco-friendly” when, in truth, their products are full of potentially toxic ingredients and wrapped in conventional materials.

And when I say toxic, I do mean toxic. Companies are legally permitted not only to use ingredients that haven’t been tested for toxic effects, they’re not even breaking the law by using ingredients that are known toxins.

Not even men can use such false advertising.

Here are some common tricks to watch out for:

  • The “all-natural” claim. Sure, oatmeal is natural. So is arsenic. You don’t want that on your skin.
  • “CFC-Free.” Yeah, probably. But CFCs—commonly known as Freon—are illegal. (A classic example of greenwashing.)
  • Misleading text. Companies throw in words like “bio” and “simple” and “exotic” to lend their products the association of being green. Often, those words don’t mean a thing. 
  • Lies. Yeah, and then there are plenty of companies that make outright false claims. Take a look at BeBeautySmart’s provocative list of companies that may not be as pure as their marketing implies.

So, how are you supposed to know? It’s not as though you’re going to come home, apply your skin cream, and suddenly sprout warts. Your lipstick isn’t going to tell you once you unpack it that its’ wrapping wasn’t, actually, recycled.

Which makes the consumption of beauty products a tricky business: you just don’t know what you’re getting into your skin. (And, with at least sixty percent of what you apply getting immediately absorbed, make no mistake, putting something on your skin is about the same thing as eating it.)

Fortunately, there are groups who—unlike certain manufacturers—are concerned about this issue. The folks at Be Beauty Smart, for instance (linked to above), provide a great list of products with misleading labels, along with more information about the issue of greenwashing. 

While companies are required to list all their ingredients on their products, if you’re anything like me, reading those lists is little different than attempting to read Latin with Chinese letters. (Attempting to read Latin in really tiny Chinese letters.)

So, another great resource are websites that provide databases of skincare products. They do the homework for you, so you don’t have to spend your time googling the names of things with eighteen syllables you can’t pronounce. (Diethanolamine DEA, anyone?)

A great one is the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, compiled by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which lists ingredients for over 76,000 products.

EWG, one of the most trusted environmental nonprofit groups in Washington, is also part of a coalition called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which recognizes certain companies for their commitment to being—really—green.

Vapour is a Champion company, meaning it has the Campaign’s highest level of certification for product safety.

Also, Vapour is committed to the avoidance of animal testing, and use strictly biodegradable ingredients along with recycled or partially recycled materials in their packaging. (You can read more about the company’s various commitments to sustainability here.)

So if you want to protect our resources, the crucial companions we share them with, and be absolutely sure you’re not applying anything harmful to your precious pores—and, of course, looking super-pretty all the while—Vapour may well be your Makeup Mr. Right. (If only the male version were so easy to find…)

But, I’ve learned, finding your perfect makeup—like your perfect mate—can take a bit of work. Until the FDA takes on the cosmetics industry and greenwashing head on, you’ll have to do a little research to sort out the difference between what’s actually in your products and what the label says. Fortunately, as a new, enthusiastic user of Vapour products, I can assure you the effort will be worth your while.

Tags: greenwashing, all-natural, skin deep database
Categories: N/A


On 8/8/2016 Richard Swayar wrote:

This piece of writing offers clear idea designed for the new users of blogging, that genuinely how to do blogging and site-building.

Richard Swayar

On 5/23/2016 Newton Moses wrote:

I like the way that you have written this article from a point of information. It is about time that the authorities did something about those companies that fail to comply with the set standards when manufacturing beauty and skin care products.

Newton Moses

On 2/28/2016 jenna wrote:

Cosmetics do help women to look more beautiful and younger with their appearance. But some times if its wore in large amount, it may look caky. It must look like natural i think this is what every women desires too.


On 2/23/2016 Katrina Green wrote:

Oh goodness! And women use all the cosmetics without even thinking of all the factors here. It is a really great post and every one who thinks that cosmetics preparation involves safe procedures must know about the secrets. I appreciate the author for bringing out such a topic to the fore which is highly enlightening.

Katrina Green

On 2/17/2014 Terecina wrote:

Thank you for this information and for introducing the invaluable resource: The Skin Deep Cosmetic Database from the Environmental Work Group(EWG)
It is a wonderful tool for determining which products are really green and I will always use it now when looking for cosmetics. Vapours ingredients were all considered safe and made me feel much better about wearing a product I already love!

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