Greenwashing in cosmetics. Who do you trust?

When you walk past the cosmetics department in your local pharmacy, the claims can't be neglected; Natural ingredients, dermatologically tested, chemical-free and 100% Vegan etc. Sounds great! All products that fit your conscious way of life, right? If you delve deeper into it, it is secretly quite disappointing.


Cosmetic companies are always on the lookout for new ways to use the sentiment in the market. Fortunately, as a society we are increasingly aware of our environmental footprint and aware of the effects of the chemicals that are in the products we buy. However, the industry is eager to use this against us, because green is the new gold.

Manufacturers consciously make products 'greener', but with this immediately walk on thin ice. What is still acceptable? What is legal?You can already guess that here too money usually rules. This concept is called "Greenwashing".

More than once you'll find ingredients in 'green' products that do more harm to your skin than good, or add nothing at all. A product is made as attractive as possible for the consumer; Creams are turned white to create the illusion of being 'clean'. Texture is affected with silicones, synthetic perfumes, preservatives and dyes being added. These additives are primarily intended to create an attractive looking product. They do nothing for your skin at best.


Since there is no legal definition of 'natural' or 'organic' with regard to cosmetics, a number of issues have been initiated from within the industry. First of all, an ISO standard was introduced in 2016. This provides guidelines for ingredients for manufacturers. In addition, there are several important private bodies in Europe that have drawn up guidelines for natural cosmetics; for example BDIH and ECOCERT, the COSMOS standard and the NaTrue standard. More information can be found here (In Dutch).

It is important to realize that European directives are much tighter with regard to cosmetics than, for example, American ones. In the US, for example, only 11 chemicals have been banned, while in Europe over 1300 (!) Ingredients are banned for use in cosmetics (see link).

Judge for yourself

In order to really assess each product on its content, you actually have to follow an ingredient study. However, with a critical eye and a little knowledge of the concepts below you will really go a long way!


Natural This means that the product contains natural ingredients. The amount of this can be minimal, but this must be indicated."Natural" says nothing about the production method, so the product could still contain chemical crop improvers or poisonous weed killers.

Sustainable A product of natural origin does not necessarily have to be sustainable. The method of harvesting, transport, packaging, etc. is very important.

Pure "So pure that you can eat it", in our opinion this is a completely empty term for use in cosmetics. Powerful in marketing, because your brain links it to "pure nature". In addition, there are plenty of plants that can do wonders for your skin, but you really don't want to eat.

Vegan Vegan products do not contain any animal ingredients. However, it doesn't mean that a vegan product is always natural. Or not synthetic. Or green. Or organic. Or necessarily better for your skin. Just like 'Natural', it has a LOT of marketing value in it !! In particular, the vegan logo (with a green plant) quickly puts people on the wrong track.

Organic Refers to the agricultural method used. During the agricultural process, the environment is taken into account: plants, humans and animals. It must comply with the regulations established by the European Union and the government. In short: a product in the Netherlands may not call itself Organic without meeting the established regulations. Organic farming uses, among other things, only organic feed for the animals, no chemical pesticides, preventive antibiotics and fertilizers are used, and no genetic modification is used during the entire process. Crop protection also takes place in the form of deploying natural enemies. Note: Wild plants are often used in organic cosmetics, unfortunately this can not be called organic, because there has been no control over the agricultural method. As a result, a product is regularly 100% natural and XX% organic.

Preservatives Products that contain water must contain a preservative so that they do not spoil. When it says "without preservatives," it sometimes means that a product doesn't contain water, so it doesn't need a preservative. It can also mean that the product has been processed with natural preservatives (anti-oxidants such as rosemary oil). Sometimes a product must be kept refrigerated. Conclusion; with this claim it can therefore go either way.

Mineral oils Vaseline and paraffin (in solid and liquid form) are both mineral oils. "Mineral oils" may sound nice and healthy to you at first, but it is extracted from refined petroleum. These are therefore non-organic, non-living substances. Mineral oils are very poorly biodegradable and cause soil contamination in the event of leakage. Mineral oils seal your skin and therefore less water evaporates from your skin. This makes your skin temporarily appear smoother.

Then there are also the products that want to piggyback on the eco-wave, by being certified organic, but incorporating a minimal amount of active substances into their products. Always remember that a certificate such as ecocert-COSMOS says nothing about working ingredients of that product en therefore says nothing about the effectiveness of it.

"You can no longer see the vegan-friendly eco forest for the trees"

As you can see, sometimes you can literally no longer see the forest due to the vegan-friendly eco trees. It is impossible for the consumer to always be fully aware of what is in products and what it does to your body. We therefore advise you to look for brands that value the safety of ingredients and that have their headquarters in an EU country. Brands that do not sail on the green marketing wave and that you can trust.


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