Have you ever stood in the aisle at your local Target store, staring at all of the hand soap bottles, with their vintage packaging and their “garden-inspired scents?” The labels say things like “all-natural” and “paraben-free” so you think to yourself, “these must be safer than some of the other brands, right?” UGH. Why is life so hard!!!
Maybe, Maybe Not.
You probably know where this is going already, but I have some bad news for you. They might be a little safer, but more than likely, they’re not.
Being Safer Vs. Appearing To Be Safer
The thing is, companies are on to us. They know that we’re looking for safer alternatives to the chemical-laden products that we’ve used for most of our lives. They know that many common ingredients are endocrine disrupting, cancer-causing, and allergen inducing.
They know that we want a change. Whether they’re willing to be the change is a different story. Unfortunately, while many companies are changing their formulas to BE safer, most of them are just changing their marketing to appear to be safer. Which yes, is SUPER annoying. Like, whyyyy? But we will persevere! (And, hopefully, I will show you how today.)
What Is Greenwashing?
So what is greenwashing? It’s basically using misleading information to trick consumers into thinking they’re buying something better (and safer) than what they’re actually buying. And it’s working like a charm.
Take, for example, the Mrs. Meyers hand soap that I dutifully bought each time I went to the store, for years. I always looked forward to which new scents they would be coming out with for each holiday, and happily stocked up on them. After all, their company slogan is “rooted in goodness and thoughtfully formulated,” I thought for sure it was the healthiest option.
That is, until I found out that one of the ingredients was rated 8 out of 10 on the EWG rating scale, with the potential to cause lung irritation and potential organ system toxicity. Needless to say, I had been duped. Embarrassing, infuriating, and most of all annoying! (Eye roll, Mrs. Meyers, Eye. Roll. You’re dead to me.)
Step 1: Look At The Ingredients
Unfortunately, we can no longer rely on companies or the FDA to protect us from harmful ingredients. The good news is, we can definitely protect ourselves! The easiest thing you can do, if you want to avoid greenwashing, is to look at the ingredients on the label!
Ignore the buzzwords and the packaging. Just flip the bottle around and look at the label. If you see the word “fragrance,” beware. That’s the easiest place for toxic ingredients to be hiding because companies don’t even have to disclose what ingredients are in their fragrances.
Step 2: Avoid “Fragrance” Whenever Possible
Originally created to protect companies from copycats who might steal their perfume formulas, this antiquated loophole from the fair packaging and label act, is now an easy way for companies to sneak in thousands of ingredients that they may not want to disclose.
Step 3: Consult the EWG Website
Still want your products to smell good? Look for companies using essential oils as fragrance, or who are very transparent with their ingredients. Use the EWG Skin Deep website if you aren’t sure. It’s always a great idea to double check.
Download An App To Help You
There are also some great apps out there that can give you reliable ingredient and safety information. My personal favorite is the THINK DIRTY app and it’s definitely worth checking out.
Once you have some practice checking the ingredients, you will know which companies that you can come to rely on for accurate safety information and which ones are notorious for greenwashing and trying to appear greener and safer than they actually are.
You’ve Got This
I know it can be confusing and overwhelming at first, but you might be surprised with how quickly you can decipher product ingredients once you get the hang of it. Just remember to always check your labels, consult with the EWG website, and stick with trusted companies whenever possible.
To give you some extra help, I’ve also created a new resource for you. It’s a printable list of the most common toxic beauty ingredients that you should avoid.
The 10 Most Toxic Ingredients To Avoid
Quite simply, this is the cheat sheet that I wish I’d had when I was first making the switch to cleaner products. It explains what health issues have been linked with each particular ingredient, as well as in which products they’re most likely to be lurking. Basically, it’s your f-that-get-the-f-away-from-me, list.
Be The Change
Feel free to print this guide out and take it with you to the store. Those greenwashing companies will be no match for you and your toxic ingredient wisdom! Remember, when enough of us speak up with our purchasing power, more companies will be forced to change.
I’m so looking forward to the day that this list isn’t even necessary because the ingredient laws have changed. But for now, here is that list. Now, go forth and concur, my little toxic ingredient warrior!