How To Spot Greenwashing

It isn’t easy being a green beauty brand; it requires tons of research and often means going the more expensive route. (The ingredients and packaging that are best for our skin and the environment can get expensive!) But a brand claiming it is “natural,” “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” isn’t the same as it actually taking the time to find new, better ways to make beauty care. Here’s what to look for so you can spot the difference between green and greenwashing.

Signs of greenwashing

Though the rules can sometimes become a bit fuzzy, you may want to keep an eye out for these red flags.

  1. Lack of proof for claims
  1. Vague, buzzy words with no definitions or explanations
    Words like “eco,” “sustainable,” “natural” and “green” aren’t regulated, so each brand is responsible for making up its own definition. Check if the brand has provided careful, detailed explanations about its ingredients, packaging and processes so you can understand exactly what each buzzword means. How many of the ingredients used are natural? What is the brand’s definition of sustainable packaging? Are ingredients and/or formulas tested on animals by the brand? If you can’t find answers to any of these questions, that’s a red flag.
  1. Confusing technical jargon

A brand can balance its carbon emissions by removing equivalent amounts from the atmosphere (like by planting trees). While this strategy is better than nothing, it’s not nearly as sustainable as reducing emissions overall. Watch for brands that strive to limit their emissions by recycling, using recycled resources, sourcing ingredients that are closer to home, investing in green equipment and more.

  1. Symbolic eco-friendly gestures without core green practices
    No brand is perfect, but transparency is important—and a brand should be clear about ways it can do better. If a company puts a lot of emphasis on its green products or product lines, but hides or omits information about other, less eco-friendly products, do you still want to support that company? Something to think about.
  1. Suggestive imagery

It’s easy to put a product in a green bottle and add a leaf to a label. These little visual devices make us feel, as consumers, that we must be purchasing eco-friendly products. But don’t let packaging fool you. Research the brand to discover what it’s actually doing for the environment. If this information isn’t easily accessible, that’s a big sign of greenwashing.

No brand is perfect, but these are a few known greenwashing tricks that you can watch out for when choosing brands to support.