Greenwashed Personal Care Products

How to Tell Organic Personal Care Products from Toxic Ones

Makeup rack at drug storeAs a green consumer you are likely already aware of some of the hazards of the conventional personal care products and cosmetics industry. Tales of finding chemicals like 1,4-dioxane, lead, and diethanolamine in everything from shampoo to lipstick have sent people running to throw their old products in the recycling bin.

But what even well-educated greenies may not know is that even within the natural and organic personal care industry, there lurks some dangers. With little in the way of regulations, many supposedly “green” cosmetics and personal care brands use misleading marketing to make you believe that their products are better for you and the planet. So how are you to know what is a true eco-label and what is not?

Several consumer watch groups have cropped up to help protect consumers from the hazards of conventional beauty products. One of the most comprehensive databases of chemicals, ingredients, and brands is the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database where you can search to find your favorite brands and determine how safe they really are. Ecolife’s article on Purchasing Natural Personal Care Products has several other resources you can use for this purpose.

Another measure of eco-friendliness in personal care products is the use of organic ingredients, and for that, you can rely on the Coming Clean Campaign spearheaded by the Organic Consumers Association. They maintain “naughty” and “nice” lists that outline those companies who are genuine about their organic ingredients and those that are less than honest.


Coming Clean Campaign's "fake" greenwashed organic brands:

  • Avalon "Organics"
  • Desert Essence "Organics"
  • Earth's Best "Organic"
  • Giovanni "Organic"
  • Goodstuff "Organics"
  • Head "Organics"
  • Jason "Pure, Natural & Organic"
  • Kiss My Face "Certified Organic Botanticals"
  • Nature's Gate "Organics"
  • Physicians Formula "Organic" Wear
  • Stella McCartney "100% Organic"

Coming Clean Campaign's "true" organic brands:

As companies change their formulas, they may move from one list to the other, so we encourage you to check back with the Coming Clean Campaign regularly to be sure you’ve got the most up to date information.

You can also learn more about natural, eco-friendly cosmetics and greener personal care products through our guides and articles. Another great source of basic information about the hazards of the personal care industry is The Story of Cosmetics by Annie Leonard. 


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