Beauty & Fashion

The Truth Behind Your Favorite Cosmetic Brands: Greenwashing

The Truth about Your Favorite Beauty Brands | Greenwashing

I’m trying to be more environmentally conscious and mindful about the brands I choose to put my money towards. I love the idea that, with your money, you can vote for the type of world you want to live in. Don’t support unfair living wages? Don’t buy from that brand. Hate animal testing? Don’t buy from that brand. Really disagree with a business owner’s ethics? Don’t buy from that brand.

In a strategic communications course I took in the spring, one of our course topics was corporate social responsibility. We talked about how brands and companies contribute to the world around them, and how (specifically Millennials and Gen Zers) are more and more concerned with a brand’s mission and values. We want to buy from brands that contribute to a better world as a whole.

And… brands aren’t dumb. Brands know that we want cruelty-free products. They know we value products that don’t diminish the communities they’re produced in. These companies know we don’t want to spend our money to continue the cycle of poverty in third world countries. So what do they do? They use public relations and brand messaging to convey the good they do for our world, hoping that it will wipe out the mass production, cruelty, exploitation, etc. that they cause.


Greenwashing is the act of brands and businesses to make unsubstantiated, misleading claims about the environmental benefits of their products. This tactic makes us believe that we’re making an impact with the products we’re choosing when it’s not proven that we are. It’s business. And it’s cruel.

These brands make claims that they are non-toxic, eco-friendly or natural, and in reality — they just aren’t. This is a marketing ploy that is used to swindle you into buying a product that is no better for the environment than the rest.

The Red (or Green?) Flags of Greenwashing

There are a ton of different strategic words these brands use in order to carry out this marketing ploy on us all. These terms are not regulated, meaning that a brand can literally use them even if it’s just not true. The reason for this is because most of these things are blanket subjective terms — what may be considered “natural” to you may not be “natural” to me. What distinguishes a pure product from another? Plant-based could mean that there’s one plant used or all plants used.

Organically Becca put together this list of “red flags” you should watch out for when you’re looking for products that are actually natural and good for the environment:



Dermatologist recommended








Naturally essenced or fragranced










So, when taking a look at these products on the shelves in the store, be sure to take a peek at the back of the product. Read the ingredients for yourself. Are the ingredients things you recognize? Or are they mostly ingredients you don’t?

Ingredients To Look Out For

Concerning ingredients range from micro plastic to different types of oils that are completely decimating rainforests around the globe.

Here’s your short list of ingredients to keep your eyes peeled for:

(And here’s why)

Polyethylene (micro plastic)

Palm Oil


Tetrasodium Edta

Ci 15850

Stearic Acid, Caprylyl Glycol

Cyclopentasiloxane (silicon oil)

Aluminum Hydroxide

Dimethicone Crosspolymer


Sodium Lauryl Sulfate

Methylparaben & Propylparaben

Propylene Glycol

Disodium Edta


Syntheic colours




Diazolidinyl Urea

Butylphenyl Methylpropional

Ci 19140


Top Greenwashing Companies

It comes as no surprise, to me at least, that the top greenwashing brands in America are electricity and power brands. However, there are still so many beauty brands in particular that claim to be natural and organic, yet are far from it. They use green and white packaging, use alluring buzzword terms that sucker us all in.

The Method

I’ve included a short list for you, but then I’ve gone into more depth about the types of non-green qualities if you’re interested to see why I’ve included them in this list. Just remember: all of this is subjective. I myself am mostly concerned with animal testing and human exploitation, as well as unsustainable business practices and production. I’m not as concerned with the natural ingredients, although some of those practices have landed them a space here on this list as well.

The Short List of Greenwashing Beauty Brands

The following are not linked to products, but instead an explanation as to why they’ve been included on this list. Please click on a link to read a fellow bloggers’ deep-dive investigation into the unethical or unsustainable practices these brands are guilty of. 

  1. Kiehl’s
  2. Origins
  3. Aveda
  4. Aveeno
  5. Estee Lauder
  6. Moroccan Oil
  7. The Honest Company
  8. Arbonne
  9. Bio-Oil
  10. Covergirl Natureluxe
  11. Herbacin
  12. Herbal Essences
  13. Johnson’s Natural
  14. Josie Maran
  15. Jurlique
  16. Korres Natural Products
  17. LUSH Cosmetics
  18. Nivea Pure & Natural
  19. Organix
  20. Simple Basics
  21. Tarte Cosmetics
  22. The Body Shop

I’m going to go more in depth on a ton of these different companies as time goes on, but this seems like a good starting point to present the dangers and reality of greenwashing. Many of these companies are companies I personally have bought from; they’re raved in Sephora reviews and generate millions of dollars per year. However, just being aware of the harmful effects they have not only on the environment but your body as well can help to stop the mass consumption of these products.

Which brands would you like me to do a full deep-dive into first? ‘Cause you know that’s where I’m headed. Let me know in the comments!

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Jade Nicole

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