Friday, July 3, 2009
Beware of Greenwashing When Buying Cosmetics!
Nothing makes your Kitty snarl and growl like greenwashing. Greenwashing is what sheisty, shady companies (and industries, and governments...) do to sway modern consumers. By using slick PR campaigns and words like "natural," "botanical," or "eco-friendly," some manufacturers make caring, health-conscious and environmentally-aware people think that otherwise toxic/polluting products and practices are really "green."
Just because a product is labeled natural does not mean it's organic, good for you, good for the environment, or medicinal in any way. Botanical ingredients may have been grown irresponsibly with no regard for product purity; even certified organic ingredients can exist alongside toxic carcinogens and/or nonbiodegradable parts (yes, some of the stuff you use to exfoliate actually contains plastic bits).
Take Archipelago Botanicals for instance. A nice brand, a luxey brand. Its attractively packaged bath, body and "aromatherapy"-type products line the shelves of fabulous boutiques and spas everywhere. According to one website purveying the brand, "Sunflower Oil softens and hydrates. Aloe Vera cools and calms. Vitamin E protects skin from damaging free radicals." Nice, right? And yet, there they are right at the bottom of the ingredient list where they often lurk: parabens. Parabens! Perish the thought! Skin-irritating endocrine disruptors are definitely NOT green!
That said, Archipelago doesn't tout itself as an organic, green brand. But some cosmetics emporiums who resell their lines do exactly that by grouping said products with so-called "green and natural" brands. I've seen it with my own eyes in a few boutiques. Many people don't think a few parabens to ensure product purity are a problem. After all, who wants moldy, spoiled products?
Most people layer parabens (known most commonly as methylparaben (E number E218), ethylparaben (E214), propylparaben (E216) and butylparaben) on several times a day, since the vast majority of cosmetics brands still use the toxic buggers. If you have sensitive skin, the proclivity to develop tumors when exposed to estrogen-mimicking compounds, endocrine/metabolism problems, or you just plain give a crap what gets washed down the drain along with your body gels, shampoos, detergents,deodorants, and conditioners well then, parabens are a big, huge problem.
I think the single most helpful and influential website on the web is the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database. I consult it daily to learn what poisons are out there waiting to be consumed by a product whore like myself. Keep using the products in your arsenal until they're used up (unless of course you consult the database and find your lipstick or what-have-you is a level 10 offender!). It's never hip to waste good makeup or money. But when you shop to replace those former staples or get the hottest new thing, do so armed with knowledge.
If you're behind the movement but you don't have the time for research and unlimited resources with which to conduct your own product trials, then you can cull resources (including this blog) to get some good, honest information. Check the Skin Deep website or go to Organic Divas dot com. They only carry the very healthiest products for your and the environment (I have no relationship with them, aside from admiration). Further, they have compiled a list of the "Dirty Dozen" chemicals in cosmetics, which you can download and take along to the store. Genius! Just be sure to print on recycled/reused paper!