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

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

By Diane Small

Ok, we were 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 publications, we here at Eluxe felt it was time to speak up.

We’re sure these names below are brands you think are eco friendly because they make green claims–however, these are often false, while 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 Really Aren’t

1. LUSH Cosmetics

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

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, many of their products are packed with harmful preservatives, including parabens and ‘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 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.

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 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, and in many of their products they use only tiny amounts of botanically-based ingredients. Most of their goods come in plastic tubs or containers, and most scarily of all, they  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.

To put this into perspective, Shell was a long-time sponsor of the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition and exhibition, with the aim of raising 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.

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 practice the same behaviour they preach against. 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.

brands you think are eco friendly but aren't

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.

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

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, which is derived 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 – the brand claims it can help eliminate them. But according to the Yummy Mummy Club:

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?

Here is why point #3 is so important: Bio Oil contains 29 ingredients, only four of which are plant extracts found in almost every body product on the market. The main ingredient, as mentioned, is mineral oil, and everything else is slip agents, fillers, fragrance or dyes.

As for the PurCellin Oil™ mentioned on the product’s packaging…well, that’s just a made-up trade name used for marketing, and 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 (now known by its more recent name cetearyl ethylhexanoate) – and a listed ingredient in Bio Oil. Nothing special, nor very ‘bio’!

brands you think are eco friendly but aren't



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Diane Small
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49 thoughts on “5 Brands You Think Are Eco Friendly…But Really Aren’t”

  1. 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/

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

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