Greenwashing Part II

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Audrey Davis-Sivasothy, the author of "The Science of Black Hair"and "The Science of Transitioning", writes:

As more and more people explore their natural hair textures, there’s often a desire to pursue more natural, green and organic product options as well. It’s a growing market,  and hair care product companies certainly want a piece of it!  There are many companies out there that are dedicated to providing truly natural and organic experiences, but there are others who simply “greenwash” their products to appear to be doing so. Greenwashing occurs when a company claims that their product is natural, organic or environmentally-friendly, but the company’s practices or ingredients just don’t measure up to their claims.

The Biggest Culprits

Any product can be greenwashed, but two types of hair products are almost always guilty of this practice: permanent hair color products and chemical relaxers. Because these products do not actually benefit the hair, they often rely heavily on greenwashing in their marketing to distract you from the possible dangers. Organic cigarettes, botanical relaxers—you get the idea! In the case of chemical relaxers and permanent coloring products, green terms are almost always an attempt to play down the negatives of an inherently damaging product. Products specifically marketed to those of us with natural hair are also often guilty of greenwashing—moisturizers, shampoos, conditioners you name it!

Companies can greenwash by:

  • Emphasizing natural oils or ingredients that barely figure into the formula. (Ex: Emphasizing the Argan oil in the product when argan oil is far down in the ingredients list or calling a product “mango butter relaxer” when mango butter is the 14th ingredient after fragrance on the label)
  • Using “—free” (ex: sulfate-free) on products that wouldn’t normally contain that ingredient anyway. (Claiming a moisturizer or conditioner is sulfate-free when the ingredient is more commonly found in shampoos anyway)
  • Stating the obvious. A product may list purified water as its first ingredient, instead of just “water” when all product formulas use a purified form of water.
  • Combining ingredients on the label into special herbal or botanical “blends”—rather than listing the ingredients out individually in order of proper concentration as they should.
  • Listing out the origins of an ingredient or the ingredient’s function in the ingredients list (ex: “decyl glucoside (from coconut)” or “tricolsan (antimicrobial)”)
  • Using earthy colors on packaging and ads, or putting natural things like leaves and berries on the box.
  • Adding fruity/herbal fragrances to mimic the real deal.
  • Using their own natural/organic ingredient logo certifications or quality logos rather than established 3rd party certifications.

Greenwashing Part II

Common greenwashing buzzwords:

All-natural, Botanical, Exotic, Fresh, Green, Herbal, Natural, Organic, Pure, Vegan, etc.

Greenwashing only exists if advertising claims are made just to make a product look better, greener or more natural/organic than it really is. To some extent, we consumers encourage the practice! Have you noticed any greenwashing with your hair care products?

Thanks again for sharing Audrey!!!

Make sure you check out Part I if you missed it.

To see more of Audrey Sivasothy you can find her at the following places:





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