Let’s go greener!
Many of us want to go green or greener. We hear the call, feel the responsibility, are pushed by our pre-teens & teens, want to take our part in an improved consumption system… In a way, all roads lead to Rome. In the last three years, I therefore also decided myself to make a plan and implement changes at home as a team. It’s so much more sustainable when it’s a family decision!
Rather easy when it comes to food I must say. However, not always as easy when it comes to cosmetics and self-care products. With plenty of trendy expressions, the industry jargon, some (very) equivocal product names, a multiplicity of brands, the technical certifications we’re not always familiar with, the complexity of ingredients’ lists, and the influence of advertising, we just go off-track!
We’ve found ourselves often struggling to comprehend what we truly were purchasing and whether the products we were about to use were really as natural as they appeared or claimed to be… This is without even mentioning what I experienced on professional beauty fairs in the Netherlands and Belgium, that frightened me to be very honest.
My solution to the challenge has been to structure this jungle in 3 categories on which to base my buying decisions: products inspired by Nature, natural products and organic products.
1) Products inspired by Nature
Beauty is the manifestation of our health and well-being. We therefore expect every beauty product to provide our body with overall well being. Plants, flowers and many other natural wonders have been supplying the nutrients, enzymes, minerals and solutions that our body needs since the dawn of time. In every aspect, Nature has always excelled whether at treating or curing diseases or health challenges. That’s why we rely on it confidently.
On top of that, the sustainability movement that has been spreading all across the world, has drastically changed the way raw ingredients are being cultivated, how they are being re-introduced in the products we use every day, and how we make buying decisions when it comes to personal care products.
Actually, we now all bear in mind the long-term side effects that chemicals have on us. We are well aware that being “inspired by Nature” does not guarantee the quality of the product’s components, and is definitely not a sufficient claim. And it makes me crazy every time a brand uses natural inspiration in its brand imagery, band name, tagline or headlines, to pretend to be good, efficient or worth the price difference. Absolute red flag. All those companies should be fined for fooling the consumers. The truth is that when you run in a supermarket, a pharmacy, a para-pharmacy, a drug store, you just judge the books by their covers. You have a long list, limited time, and need to tick the boxes.
2) Natural products
The term “natural” applies to products or ingredients created by living organisms that are available in nature. However, a natural product could likewise be sourced from a farm that vigorously depends on pesticides to develop their harvests, which can be harmful to our well being and the environment.
Since natural products -or those pretending to be natural- are not managed by any overseeing body, marketers can utilize the term ‘natural’ without supplying 100% clean products, and even despite adding synthetic ingredients. This category of products covers a very wide range of realities, that does not serve the family businesses that can have very pure natural products ranges but lack the funds to certify them.
The ideal consumer’s approach is therefore to turn the bottles and packaging around and read through the whole INCI list of ingredients. It seems obvious but facts & figures tell that it has not become an automatism yet… Ingredients are typically referenced in the order of percentage from the highest to the lowest percentages. So, in case you’re attempting to restrict synthetic or even harmful ingredients from your bathroom, they are always specified towards the bottom… Small letters are always the most dangerous ones!
Decrypting the ingredients’ lists is a challenge for our children and teenagers. It requires quite some research and home education first, but we can do it consistently before sending them to the shops or web shops! It of course also helps to be buying the same brand over again once we’ve found some good products.
3) Organic products
The term “organic” specifies how every ingredient of the product was cultivated – it must be grown and developed without:
- Pesticides, artificial fertilizers, GMOs or antibiotics
- Artificial or synthetic colours, preservatives or chemicals (counting parabens and sulfates)
Organic farms follow severe rules and procedures to keep their production 100% free of toxins. Organic products, whose ingredients originate from organic farms, are known to follow strict rules and regulations, so the end product is guaranteed 100% free of toxic ingredients. Organic products certifications are long, expensive and really demanding. Last but not least, ingredients originating from organic farms are usually produced with the most ecologically, socially and economically sustainable approach.
This of course comes at a cost that millions of consumers are already willing to pay for, which sometimes implies making a financial effort. The market for organic, responsibly produced and chemical-free cosmetics is growing and getting structured. I believe it is the responsibility of each of us to make organic skincare and self-care products become the norm, so they become affordable to all of us.
And now, what?
After all, our skin mirrors our health and what’s happening inside us. It is our largest organ, the one that connects us with the world. It therefore deserves our reflection and enlightened choices. Unfortunately, the so-called natural products we want to apply onto it, often appear not to be natural at all. As stated above, they can even be toxic and deteriorate our skin. The best way to back up our choices is research, home education and labels / certifications analyse.
It seems like a too simple call to action, but it’s at least realistic and achievable. Let’s therefore watch out for the difference between “natural” products and the ones that really benefit our skin sustainably, in order not to be fooled by marketing!