Saturday, October 23, 2010

Saying 'No' to Misleading Cosmetic Certification

I walked into Lush today and was alone in my ventures. Why? Because the rest of our crew cannot handle the strong scents in the self proclaimed 'natural' store. Yep, I walked straight over to the shampoo section... hoping for something natural to pop out and say 'Pick Me!'.

You'd think choosing a natural alternative for cosmetics would be straightforward, but spend a few seconds closely reading the ingredient list in any Natural Health food store and you're in for a nasty surprise. Lush does have the odd synthetic-ingredient free product but I really wasn't in the mood to read every single tiny, barely legible label in the store. So I asked... and was kinda the annoying customer on this one. When she asked me to specify what I meant by 'clean', I chose a shampoo bottle and started reading some of the synthetic and sketchy chemical ingredients- 'anything without these?' She pointed me to a few that had less, but I pointed out that I really wasn't in the mood for a half a** job here, go eco or go home.

Bottom line, I went home.

Here's the problem. Labels like 'natural', 'organic', or environmentally friendly really mean jack sh*. when it comes to the beauty industry. Women slather a ridiculous amount of products every day, so you'd think the industry would be more closely regulated. Ah no.

According to Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database, the FDA has been quoted 'FDA cannot require companies to do safety testing of their cosmetic products before manufacturing....' and '... a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA...' (FDA 1995 as quoted on Skin Deep). They've also found that the Cosmetics Ingredient Review has only reviewed 13% of the 10,500 ingredients over the past 30 years for safety... which means that nearly 90% of all cosmetic products have not been evaluated for safety. Nice.

Even labeling is pretty wonky and can be misleading. Take 'Ecocert' certification labeling. To qualify for a certified organic labeling products only need to contain 10% certified organic ingredients by weight. Wow. Even though Ecocert has other fabulous aspects like not allowing testing on animals or the majority of ingredients by natural origin (um, whatever that means), when you see a shiny label saying 'certified organic by Ecocert' do you think only 10%? (Adria Vasil, Ecoholic).

Some exciting news though? Whole Foods will be requiring all cosmetic products with a claim of 'organic' to be certified through USDA certification by next year... or their product won't be carried in the store. USDA organic certification requires that at least 95% of the ingredients are certified organic by food grade standards. So companies like 'Avalon Organics' or 'Giovanni Organic Hair Care' can't just have that as their name anymore without certification to back it up. Yay for us the consumers!

Even though I know I was the annoying customer in Lush today, I really think that things won't change until we talk with our moneys. It's not unreasonable to say 'I'm not ok with misleading greenwashing silliness- I care about what I put in and on my body' and standing firm. No ingredient list? Ask for one, and walk away if they aren't willing to provide you with one. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. If you don't feel comfortable or understand the ingredients on the list, don't feel embarrassed or bullied into buying it.

Come on EcoYogi(ni)s! I support you! :)


  1. Go green or go home! I want the t-shirt! Excellent work! You are a true ambassador.

  2. i think the beauty/cosmetics industry is one of the scariest to try and navigate for 'green' and 'natural'.

    my default is 'go home' and use a minimum of products....just so I don't have to think too

  3. Go green or you won't have a planet to go home to!

  4. It really is horrible, just how misleading the beauty industry is. Even worse, it seems in Australia at least, the only "pure" brands you can trust are super $$$. Which isn't great if you're not exactly rolling in money. So it's tough to win in this field with wonderful natural products!

  5. When I bought my henna from Lush, the instructions were only to be found in their newspaper "Lush Times" (which I recycled). The good thing about it is it lists the majority of products & their ingredients, with the sketchy ones highlighted in red. made it easier to pick out the ACTUAL natural products. very few, and I don't think any of the shampoos are SLS free.
    Gad to hear about whole foods!

  6. I agree with EcoGrrl: Go green or go home is totally awesome! Let's make some compostable bumper stickers, LOL!

  7. Great advice! And it's not just the cosmetic products claim to be "green" or all natural, but are not regulated and aren't required to display their ingredients! Thanks for reminding us all with this article!
    PS- long time follower of your blog, but this is my first comment! hehe namaste.

  8. It is so, so difficult to find natural products. Great post !

  9. Trying to find a natural bio-degradable shampoo is ridiculous! I'm diver so I see what non-biodegradable detergents do to life on the reefs in resort areas. Not good. I tried 7 stores last year and each time I asked the employees looked at me like I had 7 heads. The pharmacy had something like 32 different kinds of shampoo, each in several varieties. Not a single one was natural, once your read the label. But thanks for the rant post, I'll put you on the blogroll at

  10. I am impressed that you could even go into that store; I have to hold my breath when I walk past the local Lush store. I don't like strong fragrances - and prefer fragrance-free personal care products - so natural or not, that store's not for me.
    I check everything I buy on the skindeep database of Environmental Working Group's site. It really is possible to buy natural products for all kinds of personal care, and brands such as Kiss My Face are not too pricey. (need to check each product though, because it seems no company's complete line is ttally clean)

  11. I used to think Lush was all green and natural until I read the ingredients of their products on their website a few months ago. A lot of their products have parabens or sls. It's difficult standing in the store and trying to make out what all the ingredients are so I do all my research online before hitting the stores.


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