Shades of Green

What shade of green is your beauty product?  No silly, I didn’t mean the actual color of the formula…  I mean, how “natural” or “organic” is your beauty product?  Ok, let me back up one step.  Many people use the terms natural and organic interchangeably, but let me start by clarifying the difference between the two.

NATURAL: [nach-er-uhl] –adjective (1) According to the Natural Products Association, “a product labeled ‘natural’ should be made up of only, or at least almost only, natural ingredients (i.e. cannot be derived from synthetic sources) and be manufactured with appropriate processes to maintain ingredient purity.”

ORGANIC: [awr-gan-ik] –adjective (1) According to the USDA, a product considered organic must comply with specific guidelines on how the plant is grown and processed.  More specifically, organic farmers must make it a priority to conserve soil and water and use renewable resources to enhance environmental quality for future generations.  They are also prohibited from using genetically modified organisms (GMOs), synthetic pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers.  The product must also be packaged and processed without any synthetic ingredients.

** Remember organic ingredients are always natural, but naturals are not always organics!

Now that we have those terms sorted out, are you still confused about how green your beauty product is?  I don’t blame you.  The entire beauty marketplace is just as confused.  Unfortunately, there currently are no regulations governing what is deemed natural and/or organic in the cosmetics industry.  What this means is that beauty companies are allowed to run the gamut in terms of what they claim to be natural or organic.  While there are great examples of companies that raise the bar on making truly natural formulas, we will always have the “bad eggs” that ruin it for the rest of the industry.  You know what I’m talking about – the companies that use microscopic amounts of natural ingredients and then market their products as “natural” in order to fatten their profits.

So back to the ‘shade of green’ question.  Let me attempt to help you decode with my own spectrum of green pantones (yes, I am using pantones – I can’t help it, I work with a lot of designers ;)!

Pantone 119-1-1 C (pale green): This light green color signifies “greenwashing”.  No, I didn’t make that word up – “greenwashing” is actually a term used in the beauty industry for companies that make products with a natural or organic claim when in fact, the percentage of natural ingredients in their formula is next to nil.  Their main objective is to capitalize on the growing “green” trend, but they unfortunately are making minimal efforts to actually create a truly natural product.

Current brands that I consider ‘pale green’: Sorry, can’t divulge!  Let’s just say that these products claim “natural” on the packaging, but when you look at the ingredient list, it is comprised mainly of synthetics.

Pantone 118-1-4 C (kelly green): Products that fall within the ‘kelly green’ category are companies that have a ‘green’ positioning, but they do not claim to be 100% natural.  A responsible effort is made to use a higher percentage of naturals, but they do not want to be constrained by using only naturals.  The reason they avoid using all naturals is because they do not want the quality, efficacy and/or stability of their formulas to be compromised.  Personally, this is my favorite shade of green because as a product developer, I know that it is extremely difficult to formulate a 100% (or even 95%) natural formula that will give you the same luxurious textures and efficacious results.  Keep in mind that using all natural ingredients is also very expensive (natural ingredients are at the mercy of climate which will vary the quality of crops from year-to-year).  They also have shorter expiry dates.  These costs will almost always be passed down to the customer.

Using a large proportion of naturals with some synthetics strikes a happy medium where you can enjoy the benefits of botanicals without sacrificing on product quality.  This is of course, my personal opinion!

Current brands I consider ‘kelly green’: Boscia, Aveda

Pantone 114-1-7-C (deep forest green): These companies manufacture products that use at least 95% natural ingredients or more.  They have really taken that extra step to seek out independent certification bodies to set themselves apart from the pack, communicating to customers that they have made full attempts to make a natural or organic formula.  Many focus not only on making a “green” formula, but they ensure that they are sourcing packaging that is made only from environmentally-friendly materials.

Current brands I consider ‘forest green’: Origins Organics (certified by USDA), Care by Stella McCartney (certified by Eco-Cert), Burt’s Bees (certified by the Natural Products Association)

Because there are currently no harmonized regulatory standards for natural personal care products, a number of independent certification bodies that have created their own standards, in attempts to help consumers cut through the clutter.  Here are some of the more well known certifications:

Eco-Cert: a natural certification body based out of France.
Requirements: products must be formulated with 95% natural ingredients, and at least 10% certified organic ingredients.  Formulas must also be housed in environmentally-friendly packaging.  For more information, please refer to the Eco-Cert website.

USDA Certified Organic: an organic certification used in the United States for the food industry, but some beauty companies have adopted the same guidelines to achieve this certification.  Requirements: formulas need to be made with 95% natural ingredients that are certified organic.  For more information, please refer to the USDA website.

The Natural Products Association (NPA): a U.S. non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry.  Requirements: products must be made of at least 95% natural ingredients or ingredients derived from natural and sustainable sources.  Non-natural ingredients are allowed when there are no viable natural alternatives available.  For more information, please refer to the NPA website.

So here’s the bottom line:  you must first decide what shade of green you want to be.  Not everyone will choose the same shade of green as it is completely personal preference.  Once you ‘pick your pantone’, so to speak, try to find if there is a brand that matches your hue of green.  There are, of course, many more shades of green that can be added to my ultra-simplified spectrum above, but I hope giving you this tidbit of info will give you a better understanding on which eco-conscious products are right for you.  Unfortunately, however, until the cosmetics industry comes up with a unified, harmonized standard for natural cosmetics, our shades of green are going to remain a little murky.

Good luck and feel free to ask questions!

Until next time, bye for now dolls!

Yours truly,

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