5 Brands You Think Are Eco Friendly…But Aren’t

These brands you think are eco friendly may actually surprise you!

By Diane Small

Yes, I was raised with the command: ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, best not to say anything at all.’ But after reading again and again about these brands in various eco-fashion and beauty publications, I felt it was time to speak up.

I’m sure these names below are brands you think are eco friendly because they make green claims. However, these are often false. Others have marketed themselves as eco-friendly, but are no better than the average company.

To be fair, defining a true eco-friendliness difficult. Even if a company creates fashion from all-organic fibres and vegetable colours, if they’re fuelling their operations with dirty diesel or coal, and then air-freighting the final products out to global markets, is that more sustainable than a brand that uses non-organic cotton but energises their factory with wind power? If a beauty brand uses only recyclable materials in their packaging and donates some profits to green charities, can they still be considered ‘green’ if their makeup is loaded with harmful chemicals?

Ultimately, it’s you who decides. But to better make such decisions, we’d like to present some information below that you might find very interesting indeed.

5 Brands You Think Are Eco Friendly But Aren’t

1. LUSH Cosmetics

Lush used to supply the Body Shop with cosmetics in the 80s. They’ve also worked with Vivienne Westwood (see below) on the Climate Change Revolution campaign. The brand is renowned for crazy publicity stunts, like doing ‘animal testing‘ on a live, naked woman. In short, Lush love using environmental causes in their marketing.

Through these activities, combined with Lush’s policy of not testing on animals (now illegal throughout the EU anyway) and their ‘corner-deli food-container’ types of packaging, many believe this is an eco-friendly brand, almost pure enough to eat.

However, last time I checked, many of their products are packed with harmful preservatives, including parabens. They also use plenty of ‘parfum‘, that nebulous, obscure ingredient that can serve as a euphemism for myriad nasties. In fact, their ‘parfums’ are so strong, you can literally smell them from outside on the street! There’s no way anything natural can penetrate the city air outside Lush’s shops like that.

On their website, the company makes their excuses for the use of these chemicals (promising ‘no more than two synthetic preservatives’ in any given product). But with so many totally natural cosmetics brands out there, it’s very hard indeed to justify the use of chemicals anymore. Especially when a company markets itself using words like ‘fresh’ and ‘natural’ all the time. Am I right?

Not vegan friendly

What’s more, despite their strong position against animal testing, 33% of their products are still not suitable for vegans. In other words, they contain animal products like milk and beeswax.

As for waste, their shop floors are full of ‘raw’ soaps and ‘deli’ type bins full of ‘freshly made’ creams and masks, giving the impression that Lush uses almost no packaging at all. However, in my experience, the customers have to do the dirty work, putting their products in plastic tubs to buy them. And are those plastic tubs even recyclable? Given the number of zero waste beauty brands around today, can’t Lush do better?

Even when the ‘raw’ bath bombs and soaps are purchased, they too are put into a clear little cellophane bag at the counter. Then that is put into a paper bag, and a copy of Lush’s newspaper/marketing tool, the Lush Times  is included in the bag.

So in short, you leave with a load of packaging, but are under the illusion when you walk in that almost none is used. Nice trick, Lush!


2. The Body Shop

This is another of the most surprising brands you think are eco friendly, but aren’t.

Founded way back in 1976 by Anita Roddick, The Body Shop was one of the first companies to decry animal testing and to use Fair Trade, natural ingredients in some of their products. The Body Shop also champions various social causes and supports developing communities by their purchasing hemp, Shea butter and other locally harvested products. But the good news pretty much ends there.

Today, like most big cosmetic companies, the Body Shop’s beauty range is full petrochemicals, synthetic colours, fragrances and preservatives. In many of their products they use only tiny amounts of botanically-based ingredients.

What’s worse, most of their goods come in plastic tubs or containers. And most scarily of all, they actually irradiate certain products to kill microbes! Obviously, radiation is generated from dangerous non-renewable uranium, which cannot be disposed of safely. Yipes!


3. Vivienne Westwood

Her Climate Change Revolution calls on consumers to buy less, and links the capitalist economy to the destruction of the planet. She has created a line of bags manufactured in Africa to help empower women there, and designed eco-friendly uniforms for the staff of Virgin air.

These are all commendable activities, yet Dame Westwood has done very little indeed to make her own brands more eco-friendly. From Anglomania to Red Label, from men’s wear to accessories, her clothes are often made from petroleum byproducts and worse, PVC. She cannot guarantee her designs are not manufactured in sweatshops and or don’t contain toxic dyes. Rank-a-Brand even gives her the lowest possible score for environmental friendliness and transparency (she got an E), yet loads of ‘ethical fashion’ magazines laud her for being a ‘sustainable brand,’ mainly only because she is vocal about climate change.

Greenwashing Queen

To put this into perspective, Shell was a long-time sponsor of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and exhibition. Their aim was to raise awareness of the threats faced by animals, plants and habitats. Does that make them a ‘sustainable brand’?

It’s all very well when companies donate money to charity or pay lip service to environmental issues. But let’s not forget that this can be a fantastic public relations move for them, placing their brand in a more positive light. Charitable donations can also be a huge tax write off. In other words, it’s all greenwashing.

When brands highlight social or environmental problems, that’s a great service to society. But it’s also a bit dodgy if it’s the company’s main marketing strategy. Especially if they (quietly) practice the same behaviour they preach against! Sure, if they implement a few ‘green’ policies, that’s always welcome. But their overall eco-record has to be considered too.

Which is why Westwood joins our list of brands you think are eco friendly…but aren’t.

Vivienne Westwood dress


4. Korres

It’s a hugely popular brand that’s readily available around the world. But Korres claims of being a ‘natural’ brand is based on half truths. Once owned by chemical giant Johnson & Johnson (makers of carcinogenic talcum powder), the brand was bought out by a a Morgan Stanley-backed private equity firm and a Chinese cosmetics distributor, paving the way for expansion into China according to WWD.

The good news about the brand is that despite this acquisition, it will remain cruelty free – they claim they will bypass China’s animal testing laws by selling only online in mainland China.

Complex chemicals

However, while some formulations are approaching 90 percent plus natural and naturally-derived ingredients, other products contain a lot more in terms of nasty chemicals. For example? Here are the ingredients from their Yoghurt SPF 50 Sunscreen Face Cream:

Aqua/Water/Eau, Diethylamino Hydroxybenzoyl Hexyl Benzoate, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Dibutyl Adipate, Tricaprylin, Glycerin, Distarch Phosphate, Ethylhexyl Triazone, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Propylheptyl Caprylate, Bis-Ethylhexyloxyphenol Methoxyphenyl Triazine, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Titanium Dioxide, Alpha Tocopherol, Aluminum Hydroxide, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Betaine, Caprylyl Glycol, Cellulose Gum, Cetyl Alcohol, Epilobium Angustifolium Flower/Leaf/Stem Extract, Glyceryl Stearate, Helianthus Annus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Honey, Hydrogenated Lecithin, Lecithin, Parfum, Pectin, Phenoxyethanol, Phenylpropanol, Sodium Carboxymethyl Beta-Glucan, Sodium Gluceptate, Sodium Metabisulphite, Sodium Phytate, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Stearic Acid, Tocopherol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Vp/Eicosene Copolymer, Xanthan Gum, Yogurt

Sorry, but how can a cream containing all those chemicals possibly call itself ‘natural’? Not only that, but the cream contains Ascorbyl Palmitate, which is derived from palm oil – one of the biggest environmental disasters the planet faces today. Many vegans consider palm oil based products not to be vegan friendly or even cruelty-free, since palm oil is pushing the orangutan to extinction. The presence of yoghurt here means the brand isn’t vegan, anyway.

5 Brands You Think Are Eco...But Really Aren't

5. Bio Oil

The last of the brands you think are eco friendly, but aren’t is Bio Oil.

Given the name and the fact that all kinds of natural oils for the body and face have gained popularity in the beauty world lately, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this common drugstore brand was based on something wholesome and good for your skin.

Unfortunately, that’s not at all the case. The base for Bio Oil is, in fact, mineral oil, a.k.a. paraffinum liquidum. In case you didn’t know, this comes from petroleum. It’s a known irritant of skin, blocker of pores, and can even harm the lungs if droplets are inhaled.

Many women buy this when they’re pregnant to avoid stretch marks and scars. In fact, the brand claims it can help eliminate them. But according to the Yummy Mummy Club blog, that’s not the case. They say:

Bio Oil claims (with a published study) that it “. . . is efficacious in improving the appearance of scars. After 8 weeks 92% of subjects showed an improvement.” But what they don’t tell you about the study is that:

1.  There were only 36 subjects tested—not at all a large enough sample to find any true results.

2.  They do not state exactly what the improvements were—was it a 2% improvement or a 99% improvement?

3.  What was it tested against? Yes there was a placebo but did they test it against other products of similar formula?

Made up benefits

Here is why point #3 is so important. Bio Oil contains 29 ingredients. Only four are plant extracts that you’ll find in almost every body product on the market. The main ingredient, as I mentioned, is mineral oil. Everything else is slip agents, fillers, fragrance or dyes.

As for the PurCellin Oil™ the product’s packaging lists, well, that’s just a made-up trade name used for marketing. The people that sell Bio Oil are rather coy about identifying which ingredient in their product it is. But a check of the patent literature shows that this ‘magical oil’ is listed as cetearyl octanoate. Nothing special, nor very ‘bio’!

brands you think are eco friendly but aren't



To see more brands you think are eco friendly but aren’t, click here.


Diane Small

45 thoughts on “5 Brands You Think Are Eco Friendly…But Aren’t”

  1. The Body Shop are not ethical. Although they campaigned against animal testing they are now making products specifically to sell to China. Their stance on animal rights, and human rights is well known!

  2. Pingback: The Ugly in the Beauty Industry: Skincare Edition – The Bigger Picture Magazine

  3. I think the only thing that is difficult for me to fully stand behind as a statement, is the comment made about Lush’s packaging. I’m not necessarily saying it’s not correct, but rather that is not the most representative comment that could be made. As I read in a comment from the author, the shop they visited and based this statement on, is in Paris. I live in The Netherlands, but also all shops I went to abroad do not use any other packaging than the brown paper bags or the wrapping paper (which both are recycled, and, if I’m correct, also recyclable), or the black tubs and bottles for the non-naked products, which they will recycle again once you return them, and they even stimulate this, by rewarding you with a free face mask for every 5 tubs. I am not saying the author is lying about the Paris shop, as I believe them when they say this is what happens there, and I am indeed disappointed to know that and do think that it should change, however, I do believe it would be honest to mention that that is most likely to be the exception that vice versa. It would be honest if that were included, so that the whole comment does not have to be excluded, as it still is a Lush shop acting debatable, but it is worth mentioning that nearly all other shops do not.

  4. So maybe you can help steer me towards a store that is eco friendly according to your standards then rather than decrying these retailers……

    1. Hi Glen! We do indeed have several such articles that can point you to eco brands and shops. In fact, that’s pretty much all Eluxe ever does! This article is definitely the rare exception. Just check out any of our fashion or beauty pages for suggested brands and stores 🙂

  5. Although your article might be accurate for most of these brands it’s actually widely inaccurate on Korres. The brand partnered up with Johnson & Johnson for distribution in the US (meaning, J&J used them as a supplier and acted out on just distribution on their behalf) however the two have not been affiliated since 2014.

    As far as a lot of the ingredients you listed there are concerned, a wide range of them can be derived by natural products (perfume and glycerin included). In addition, glycerin, although not a moisturizer it is a surfactant which act as a prep for your face in order to absorb any moisture so, by combining it with other ingredients it can act as a moisture lock on your skin- although it’s actual use when isolated is to dry out oils.

    Not sure if the information here is outdated due to the article being old or simply not enough research but since it comes up pretty high in google I thought I should point these things out here.

  6. last time I went into lush they didn’t put my items in plastic…..and be a smart person and just refuse the little recyclable paper bag that can also be composted btw

  7. And what about when, for example, your options are between safe synthetic mica versus its natural counterpart which is often sourced using child labor and heinous wages?

  8. I worked at LUSH manufacturing for 2 years – and all your claims are straight up false. Stop spreading this BS propaganda.

    1. Cosmetics To Go, the company that essentially became/spawned Lush, was the supplier for The Body Shop. Much of the information in this article is incorrect or misleading, and doing some reading of your own from Lush – who are extremely transparent – will fill you in on what is/is not correct in this article. Sounds to me that this shop at which she shops is not following company guidelines, and this should not be used as the standard for judging the entire brand. Also, Lush is light years beyond MOST other brands, and this article is really reaching to make them look negative, but it just doesn’t hold up. P.S. Natural doesn’t always mean better! See: https://uk.lush.com/ingredients/synthetic-mica Cheers!

  9. Thanks for your post and it is very interesting.. but I’m more confused than ever.
    Do you know if there is such a thing that is 100% natural and good without any trace of “bad”?? Is that even realistic to expect that?
    What would you recommend us consumers using then? I’d really appreciate your follow-up article on this since your standards seem very high… (not trying to be sarcastic here… just really wanting to do the right thing by the environment, but feel very lost… etc.. )

    1. Hi Singse

      You are right – no brand can ever be without a trace of ‘bad’! But many people think these brands are green because they market them as such. The Body Shop’s products are chock full of harmful chemicals. Lush is improving their formulae, but still sell stuff in plastic tubs – the fact that you can fill them yourself doesn’t change that – and their products are also far from natural – they contain loads of chemical fragrances and preservatives. There are way more natural beauty brands on the market! 🙂 As for Stella, she is at least consistently vegan, but her clothes and bags are often made from petrol based sources. Ditto Westwood – in fact, there’s nothing eco about her brand AT ALL – she uses tons of leather too, so it’s not even vegan friendly. Bottom line: any brand we feature in Eluxe will be more ethical and eco than these five 😉

  10. Katie MacKinnon

    In the UK Lush don’t put any of their products into plasic bags at the counter, I think that’s just in America. When I was in the US staying with my boyfriend’s parents I ordered a few things from Lush online, and was surprised when they arrived wrapped in plastic and packed with polystyrine. In the UK Lush orders comes wrapped in paper and packed with popcorn! I think your packaging laws must be different or something.

    1. As someone who works at LUSH, I can say they we definitely do not wrap anything in plastic at the counters! At least as long as I’ve been shopping from/working at LUSH we haven’t in California. Even everything that comes in shipments is 100% recyclable! As for what you might have thought were polystyrene packing peanuts were actually a compostable packing peanut they use that’s made from starch! https://www.lushusa.com/Stories-Article?cid=article_go-with-the-ecoflo

  11. Chere, you are quite awesome! We consumers are very lucky to have an eco, green, non-toxic advocate telling the truth and pushing change for the better, for our lives, with such passion. Thank you so very much!

  12. Lush doesn’t claim to be 100% natural. You are spreading a lot of false info. Lush has a we believe statement on their walls, catalogs, websites and even some of the reusable totes . That “we believe statement” talks about the use of safe synthetics. Lush does say they use fresh, natural ingredients in all their products- because they do us natural ingredients. They ALSO use safe synthetics. Lush also uses such minimal amounts of parables that legally it doesn’t even need to be listed on the ingredient label (lots of the so called natural products do in fact have parabens but Law only requires it to be listed if it surpasses a certain amount.) lush just happens to be honest and transparent enough to tell you every single thing in each product. The perfume you mention because “fake” also untrue. They are a blend of essential oils. They aren’t going to make it easier for companies to steal their product inventions and fragrances (because it happens frequently) so they the perfume are in fact the essential components of essential oils in the product. Which is why 98% of the time “perfume” is listed in green.

    1. That’s a bit misleading, Brittany. A quick look at their website and you can see that Fragrance is one of the first three ingredients in most products, and it is NEVER, EVER in green. The essential oils used ARE listed – not such a big secret after all! http://www.lushusa.com/bath/bath-bombs/which-came-first%3F-%28spots%29/07211.html The worst thing about these (very obviously) chemical fragrances is that unlike other products like perfume that contain them, with Lush’s products, you are literally soaking in that crap! Parabens are illegal in the EU, so I assume their products here don’t have them, but why should European customers benefit from safer cosmetics than others? All cosmetics companies – not just Lush – have to change their formulations to comply with EU law. So why don’t they just cut out the parabens for the American market, too? Lush also uses a LOT of SLS (a strong, irritating detergent) in their shampoos and soaps. There’s no need for that when there are plenty of much gentler alternatives out there https://eluxemagazine.com/beauty/top-5-organic-shampoos/. Whatever the brand may say about not being fully natural, the impression their marketing strategy gives is quite another one – the footer on their website exclaims things like Naked Packaging (though it’s far from that, read above), Freshest Cosmetics (whatever that means!) etc. to give the impression (and in marketing terms, impressions are everything!) that the company is ‘natural’. Plus, if you ask someone to name an all natural brand, they will likely answer Lush. And that’s a shame, because by using SLS, Fragrance and parabens, they are far from that. Their green cred is way, way lower than other brands like Rahua, Odylique, Green People, etc. and it’s just wrong that people don’t recognise that.

    1. Hey Blanche! The answer to that could fit into a book! Or…a website! 🙂 Please search through our fashion and beauty sections – you can find loads of absolutely amazing brands, all of which are ethical and sustainable

  13. Does anyone know what year this entire article was posted in? I am trying to cite this for a paper I am writing.
    If anyone can please let me know, that would be really helpful.
    Thank you!

  14. Some of the statements made about LUSH cosmetics is simply not true. I know this first hand, as I have been a customer for many years and have also worked for the company previously for two years. Firstly none of the products are packaged in cellophane bags. All bath bombs and naked products are packaged in a compostable little bag. I remember long days standing in the LUSH kitchen washing out old black pots, returned by customers, so we could use them again for future packaging.

    Secondly none of the packaging requires the customer to put anything into a tub. The freshly made face masks are the only thing packaged into a tub on site and this is done by staff.

    Also the 33% of products not suitable for vegans only contain honey. A great natural product with many benefits for your skin and health. The honey used is in fact badger friendly and the bee’s are in no ways harmed by the process.

    Yes, Parabens and SLS is still found in some of their products, but they have been researching new formula’s and recipes and add new paraben/sls-free versions to their range every year.

    No company is beyond scrutiny, but it is naive and ignorant to call out companies who are putting a substantial effort into changing the norms of body products and cosmetics. Why judge, when we can encourage them to do better.

    1. Thanks for your comment Carla. However, I can tell you from first hand experience that at the shop near my house in Paris at least, the bath bombs are cello wrapped and there are tubs surrounding a bunch of products that are on ice that you can scoop into small or large tubs. I am sure different stores have different policies. The reason Lush is on the list is because they claim to be 100% natural and eco, etc, but the chemicals they use in their products are pretty harsh: not just parabens and SLS, but the fragrance and parfums are so strong and artificial they can be smelled from blocks away – this is not ok for a brand that calls itself ‘natural’ in our opinion.

  15. a concerned Lushie

    I work for a Lush shop in the UK and the majority of the things you’ve mentioned either do not apply here (where Lush was founded) or are not properly explained. In the UK the ‘naked’ products: bath bombs, bubble bars, are delivered to our stores in cardboard boxes (which we recycle). When purchased by a customer we put the item into a recycled & recyclable paper bag and seal it with a sticker. The soaps are cut into chunks and when purchased, wrapped in greaseproof to protect them. (still no plastic bags!) If you buy a ‘naked’ product that is put into a black pot then you should know that these pots are post consumer recycled, so they aren’t just made from leftovers in a factory, they are made from recycled pots. We recycle them in store and offer a free face mask as a reward for returning 5 black pots. The clear bottles for shampoos and toothy tabs can be recycled at home along with plastic drinks bottles etc. We don’t offer plastic bags at all, if you purchase a large gift they are put into a cardboard box with handles.
    The ‘animal product’ that stops a percentage of our products from being vegan is honey, so it’s not as horrific as you want it to sound. Animal testing isn’t illegal in the EU. Animal testing on finished products is illegal. So we couldn’t test a shampoo, but could still test all the individual ingredients on animals. There’s an EU regulation called REACH that is threatening Lush’s ability to buy raw ingredients without them having been tested on animals by someone. That’s what we’re fighting against.
    Also, on the Lush website they are very clear and honest about ingredients. The natural ingredients are listed in green, and the safe synthetics are listed in black. A lot of the time the ‘parfum’ that you think is so terrifying is listed in green which means it is natural. There are so many natural ingredients that smell very strong (esp. when concentrated) that it doesn’t surprise me at all that you can smell it outside the shop! Where safe synthetics are used, there is a valid reason. I had a lengthy conversation with a customer who wondered why we use sodium lauryl sulphate in our shampoos as a lathering agent. I did some research at home and discovered that tests have been done (outside of Lush) that suggested that the natural alternative was an irritant to more people that sodium lauryl sulphate.

    Just thought I’d go into further detail for those who instantly believe everything they read on the internet.

    1. I disagree with you. How do you explain Lush using quite a bit of SLS in most of its products, or since when glycerin soap become eco friendly. Also, Packaging in plastic or cello bags ( after purchase) is eco friendly and paper is not? at least paper is biodegradable. i like lush , but whole misleading marketing irritates me. SLS is a very dangerous drug that causes cancer!!!

    2. Actually, your comment is full of inaccuracies: first animal testing of cosmetics IS illegal in the EU https://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/cosmetics/animal-testing_en. Secondly, as for the ‘parfum’ from Lush’s products, sorry – there is no way even high concentrations of natural oils can smell up a city street like that, and since Lush refuses to reveal what they’re using as their fragrance, we have no idea whether those are natural oils or not. But even if they ARE using 100% concentrated essential oils, those can be highly irritating to skin, so it’s best to list those who may be allergic. Finally, the fact that their soaps and shampoos are packed with SLS is inexcusable. There are loads of wonderful shampoo brands that are much gentler and more natural that don’t use this detergent: https://eluxemagazine.com/beauty/top-5-organic-shampoos/

  16. Yes, I do think we owe it to the good people and companies to ‘out’ those brands! Another great article 🙂

  17. Design and social ethics

    Eden Diodati have been working pretty tirelessly to create a sustainable brand not just in donating profits to charity and philanthropy but in manufacturing luxury fashion through a non-profit organisation helping mentally and physically disabled women. This is almost unheard of in the luxury fashion world. They don’t make clutches so I question the writer’s accuracy and also the judgement to attack a start-up brand for having so offended you as to not “get back to you.” the “stingray” is merely an embossed pattern. I know the girl who founded it and she works really hard.

    1. Thanks for your message.
      We did already laud the company for their philanthropic work, but that does not make them an eco brand. Our writer was not offended the company did not answer her email; the point was she tried to clarify whether Eden Diodati’s gold, cobochon and leather (stingray or not) was ethically sourced and non-toxic, and whether the dyes used were eco-friendly–the inquiry was made initially we loved the brand and wanted to cover it. However, no info we could find would confirm the brand as being eco-friendly.

  18. Very interesting! I think there will always be an issue when we confuse ethical fashion with ‘eco’ fashion. For example, Eden Diodati focuses on one of the two main branches of ethical fashion–this being the social and NOT environmental, which ‘eco’ implies.

  19. A really interesting post. It can sometimes be difficult to see past the clever marketing and I will have to say I am genuinely quite surprised about Lush, a company that I considered to make products that are free of harmful chemicals.

    1. This article is pretty wrong about lush. It takes things out of context and doesn’t provide enough information. The bags aren’t cellophane they are made of cellulose derived from plants and the plastic containers they used are from 100% recycled materials and customers are rewarded with free products when they are brought back in. They aren’t perfect but this article is very biased.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top