The ‘go green’ movement has swept through most industries, and cosmetics and skin care are no exception, but some ‘green’ products may be greenwashed instead, says Kathryn Murray Dickinson of AILLEA, a new curated e-tailer site that makes it easier for us all to be green.
“Green washing is what happens when companies use sleight of hand to make you think a product is clean and green when it’s not,” she says. Perhaps it’s pretty packaging with tree leaves for decoration or the free use of words like ‘organic’, ‘natural or ‘pure botanical,’ she says. There’s no legal definition of ‘natural’ or “organic” and the US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate chemicals in beauty products in the same way they do food and drugs.
Products labeled “organic” or “natural” can contain petrochemicals, and those certified as organic may contain as little as 10% organic ingredients by weight or volume, she explains.
What’s a girl to do?
Dickinson realized just how difficult it was to assess what was truly in her skin care products when she cleaned her makeup bag up two years ago – and it made her mad.
“You shouldn’t have to use a magnifying glass or have a PhD to figure out what is in your skin care products,” she says.
To make it easier for others, she launched AILLEA and opened a brick and mortar store in Denver in May. “There was no single place that curated all of the products so you could trust that you are buying and using safe products,” she says. In building the brand, she has also put together a database of more than 1000 do-not-use ingredients – none of which are in any of the products that AILLEA carries. “About 60% of what we put on our skin and goes into out bloodstream,” she says.
The worst offenders are the Fearsome Four, she says. Parabens, sulfates, petrochemicals and phthalates should be avoided. Some studies suggest that these chemicals can mimic the effects of the female sex hormone estrogen and may be hazardous to our health.
When reading labels, look for more specific wording like “100% USDA certified organic,” she says. “You should also be able to read and pronounce every ingredient,” she says. Don’t get tripped up by root names. Sometimes green companies use the root name for a safe, natural ingredient.
And don’t worry about sacrificing luxury for nature. Today’s organic cosmetics are high-end items that can hold their own against Chanel and La Mer. “The days when green beauty meant Patchouli oil and Burt’s Bees is far-gone, “ she says. “There are some extremely luxurious product that are chemical free,” she says.