What is Greenwashing?
If the name of a product says “natural,” you would believe that, right? Not if you knew was greenwashing was. You know good and well not to believe all advertisements you see. As a result, we often check ingredient lists on food labels or reviews before buying a product online.
You should apply those same principles to see if the natural alternatives you’ve found are actually natural. Sadly, most companies don’t care about your health at all. So let’s jump into some ways you can outsmart the fake advertisements, shall we?
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Why Should I Care about Greenwashing? Shouldn’t I Believe Product Labels?
No, the answer is a hard no. Greenwashing is a term used for lies and promises companies make to you that the product is free of any harmful chemicals (source). It’s false advertising that people are still grappling with. And what I mean by that is we as a society haven’t come to an agreement on what “natural” actually is.
If you’ve been living a natural or healthy lifestyle for a bit of time, I’m sure you already know what makes something natural or not natural. But it’s not very black and white for the rest of the world. There are numerous ingredients that some people don’t have a problem with, while there simply isn’t enough research done to make a conclusive argument.
America in particular is struggling to define “natural” guidelines, leaving it up to companies to decide. Many big corporations are picking up on the natural and holistic trend, and they want to cash in on it as much as possible. And that’s how greenwashing was born. The words “natural,” and “nontoxic” have been seen on more and more labels.
Most companies just slap a health-related word on the product and call it good. There may be a slight change to the ingredient list, but it’s not much better than before. But you, my friend, are a smart one. That’s why you’re here. And there are plenty of products out there that actually have accurate advertising!
Some Commonly Used Greenwashing Words
If you want to outsmart greenwashing and see what’s actually in your natural products, you’re going to have to grow your vocabulary a bit. I have some of the most common words used in greenwashing, and what they may or may not mean.
This doesn’t mean that the company is automatically lying about their ingredients if they use these words! Some companies actually tell the truth, believe it or not. You can check out my favorite products in my top 10 natural products actually worth buying.
The main thing to remember with this is that there are no major tests or guidelines that companies must follow to ensure the safety of a product. Which means that every company maybe has their own set of standards. Whether or not they make a product safe is a whole other matter. Here are some of the most common words you find on labels these days.
My Top 5 Worst Greenwashing Words
Nontoxic: This doesn’t always mean that the product is free to toxic or harmful chemicals. Rather, it means that this is a safer alternative compared to other products. So there still could be plenty of harsh chemicals in there, because there are no safety guidelines out there.
Dermatologist Tested: This is the same thing as saying “My next door neighbor tried this face cream and didn’t break out in hives, so I shouldn’t either.” Since there’s no official guidelines for products, there’s no telling how the company got their product “dermatologist tested.” Double check with whatever organization did the testing to see if they’re legit.
Organic: Usually, this word is used to make customers think that all of the ingredients are 100% organic. The reality is, only a few ingredients will be organic, but the other harsh ingredients will still be in there. In the end, it’s really not worth buying the product at all.
Natural: You see me using this word a lot on Essential Moves to Wellness, but I do mean what I say on here. Natural usually means “of natural ingredients,” or “naturally derived.” I see it as a fluff word that makes you trust a company more so you buy their products. Preservatives, synthetics, and hormone disruptors can all be found in “natural” products, so always be careful!
Fragrance-Free: If you ever see “fragrance” in an ingredient list, run far away! Companies use “fragrance” as a cover word for hundreds of harmful substances combined to make that pleasant you put on your body every day. Even it a product says it doesn’t have fragrance, double check that there’s no DLS or artificial coloring. Fragrance likes to hide in those ingredients too.
Now that you’re more educated on what to look for, let’s take a look at how you can avoid these harmful substances and still find products you enjoy!
Learn to Read Labels and Find Good Resources
This may be the most tedious method to avoid greenwashing, but it’s by far the most beneficial. I even got you started with the most common words I mentioned earlier! Unfortunately, there’s a slew of other words you can learn too.
Before you decide to buy a natural product, take a look at the ingredient list. You can be super strict with yourself if you like. One common rule I’ve seen people use is you won’t buy anything if you can’t pronounce every ingredient. But it’s totally fine if you don’t want to be that strict. If you come across an odd ingredient, you can simply Google it.
The good news is, you don’t have to. There are hundreds of reliable resources and databases that have done the research for you. Check out my personal favorite, Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database. You can search for your favorite products, where they provide a rating on the product’s safety.
They even give a rating on each individual ingredient, which helps you build your vocabulary and understand why they are dangerous in the first place. If you use the database for a week or so, you’ll be able to read ingredient lists on your own in no time!
If your search gives you a green light on a product, woohoo! Your natural product is actually natural! Otherwise, your result could be yellow or red. I would stay away from products that don’t get a green light rating.
Or, if you want the convenience of Skin Deep right on your phone, there’s an amazing app called Think Dirty. You simply scan the product and it will give you a rating of how dangerous it is. You can read more on my Think Dirty App Review here. It’s much more convenient because you can simply scan items to get result, instead of searching for it online.
Find Your Favorite Companies
While it may seem like all greenwashing companies are just out to get your money, there are thousands of great companies out there that actually care about giving you genuine products. Some companies are so honest, they publish their ingredients list right next to the product info online! If you’re extra lucky, you can even get a little explanation on the purpose of each ingredient.
Just Nutritive, the first actually all-natural company I ever found on Pinterest, does this for their customers. They sell hair and skincare products that are handmade with naturally-derived ingredients. They make products for every hair and skin type, and for just about every ailment too! You can check out my Just Nutritive skincare review, or my natural haircare review to learn more.
When a company goes that extra mile to explain each ingredient to me, I know that I can trust their products. So do some searching, ask around, and you’ll find your own favorite companies in no time! I’ve got a few recommendations for you to check out here at Essential Moves to wellness too! All of my product reviews are down below.
- Ditch Your Low-Quality Essential Oils for this Brand! Rocky Mountain Oils Review
- Honeybee Gardens Review | Safe, Natural, and Affordable Makeup
- The Best All-Natural Shaving Products for Sensitive Skin
- Get a Cleaner Home and Body with Norwex Microfiber Cloths!
- Safety Razors | The Absolute Best Way to Shave
Use Your Best Judgement
So you found a product that’s claiming to be natural or organic, but the rating on EWG’s Skin Deep isn’t that great. Where do you go from here? At the end of the day, it’s up to you to decide how much you want to educate yourself about harsh chemicals in products that aren’t actually natural at all.
I’ll admit that I’m not always super strict with my choices, but I do have rules. If a dangerous ingredient is at the bottom of the list, that usually means that it’s in very small trace amounts. I sometimes let trace amounts of ingredients slide if I’m feeling lazy, but like I said, it’s all up to you.
There is no one correct way to live a natural lifestyle, so personalize it as much as you want! You can choose products that tone down the harsh ingredients, or only go for the utmost natural and genuine. Or you can choose to make absolutely everything! Yes, that’s actually possible.
Final Thoughts on Greenwashing
If you remember anything from reading this post, it’s that big name companies don’t actually care about your health at all. Just think about it. Rates of cancer and obesity have soared the past couple of decades. Do you think any of this could be linked?
While the harsh chemicals in our home and beauty products may not be the cause of cancer, it’s definitely not helping. I’ve had friends and family go from life-threatening health situations to their absolute best health when they eliminated harsh chemicals from their homes.
I hope I taught you something new today on how to read companies’ advertising when it comes to natural products. Always read the ingredient list first! And there are plenty or resources out there that can help you make a good decision. Essential Moves to Wellness is here for you too. You can contact me anytime if you have questions.
Do you have any rules when it comes to picking natural products? Let me know in the comments below!
Related to Greenwashing:
- The Absolute Easiest Way to Switch to Natural Living
- 5 Reasons You Should Ditch Harmful Chemicals and Try Healthy Living
- Essential Oils Safety | What You Should and Shouldn’t Do
- The Dangers of Melatonin | Why You Shouldn’t Take it Long-Term
- I Tried Dryer Balls for the First Time. Do they Really Work?