Want to learn more about brands you think are eco friendly, but aren’t? Read on!
By Diane Small
Recently, Dr Bronner’s exposed the truth about ‘fake’ organic brands. That is to say, brands that claimed to be organic based on their ingredients, packaging and marketing, but which actually either a) carried only a few organic ingredients mixed with highly chemical ones or b) actually had no organic ingredients at all.
This kind of ‘greenwashing’ is more common than you think, and here at Eluxe we’re getting rather tired of correcting brands telling us they’re ‘eco friendly’ when actually they’re anything but.
We’ve already unveiled 5 other brands notorious for their greenwashing, but after a quick survey of staff, friends and family, we’ve found 8 more brands to add to that list.
Some results you may have suspected, while others may shock you. Buyer beware!
8 More Brands You Think are Eco Friendly, But Aren’t
Of those brands you think are eco friendly, Kiehl’s ranks high. Its ‘old worlde’ packaging, claims of purity and even organic ingredients all mislead customers into thinking the products it peddles are natural. In fact, this is far from the reality–almost all of Kiehl’s creams, serums and potions is chock-full of nasties.
Take Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream for example. At the top of its ingredients list is phenoxyethanol, a preservative that is a skin irritant and a neurotoxin. Not a good start. Moving down the list, we find two parabens, associated with cancer; chlorphenesin, a neurotoxin that is restricted in Japan; disodium EDTA, a harsh chemical which enhances the penetration of other ingredients; triethanolamine, which was proven in animal studies to cause sense organ problems, even at very low doses, and sodium hydroxide, which has been shown to destroy healthy skin cells within one hour.
Given this long list of potentially harmful chemicals, Kiehl’s claims that the cream’s use of an all-natural Australian desert plant with superb water retention properties seems rather meaningless by comparison, no? Oh, and guess what? According to PETA, they also test on animals!
The Brazilian shoe company co-designs with big names, including Karl Lagerfeld and notably Vivienne Westwood. Until fairly recently, Melissa branded itself as an ‘eco-friendly’ company because it uses ‘vegan leather‘ comprised of recycled PVC for most of its shoe designs.
According to Inhabitat, the shoes are made from MELFLEX plastic, a flexible form of PCV. They claim Melissa shoes are “totally cruelty free and devoid of animal products”, and go on to mention that “the Brazilian-based company is totally rad in its recycling of 99.9% of factory water and waste, and they also go the distance by recycling overstock styles into next season’s collection. Even better? Melissa Shoes employees are paid above average wages and benefits. What’s not to like in these plastic fantastic accessories?”
Well, quite a lot, actually.
Research shows that heavily toxic and dangerously carcinogenic PVC is never, ever safe, especially for children, and recycling it actually releases more toxins from this carcinogenic material into the atmosphere.
On their website, Melissa list several countries that have online shops where you can buy their shoes, but there are some notable exceptions: most of the EU. Perhaps this is because PVC is banned in most EU countries? For example, Sweden has been working on discontinuing all PVC uses since 1995, and in Spain, over 60 cities have been declared PVC-free. Germany has banned the disposal of PVC in landfills as of 2005, is minimising the incineration of PVC, and is encouraging a full phase out of all PVC products.
Melissa used to have all their social and environmental ‘credentials’ listed on their site. No longer. No wonder.
This brand, owned by cosmetics giant Estee Lauder corporation, claims their production processes involve some forms of natural energy and renewable resources, and that their skincare is formulated with organic and natural ingredients, which is true–some of the ingredients are.
However, almost all Origins products we checked contain potent chemicals that are known irritants and have no established benefit for skin; what was especially worrying is that the skin creams with sun care protection also contained highly irritating ingredients, some of which are phototoxic.
Moreover, for ‘natural’ products, there are certainly a LOT of chemicals, though the brand claims these are not ‘harsh’, whatever that means. For example, these are just some of the chemicals listed on the ingredients list for A Perfect World SPF 25 Age Defense Moisturiser:
Octisalate, Avobenzone, Octocrylene, Butyloctyl Salicylate, Ethyl Macadamiate, Methyl Trimethicone, Butylene Glycol, Lauryl PEG-9 Polydimethylsiloxyethyl Dimethicone, PEG-100 Stearate , Glyceryl Stearate, Ascorbyl Tocopheryl Maleate , Oryzanol, Ergothioneine, Potassium Cetyl Phosphate, Cetyl Alcohol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Linoleic Acid, Squalane, Sodium Hyaluronate, Caprylyl Glycol, Dehydroxanthan Gum, Silica, Ammonium Acryloyldimethyltaurate/VP Copolymer, Sodium Stearate, Sodium Dehydroacetate, Phenoxyethanol
In particular, Octocrylene, which is one of the top 3 ingredients in this particular product, can be absorbed into the skin, and studies have shown that it could promote the generation of harmful free radicals when exposed to light. As free radicals can damage DNA, there is concern that this ingredient might have actually contributed to a rise in cases melanoma in sunscreen-users compared to non-users. However, researchers say further studies are needed to determine the true health impact of this ingredient.
So for those who are vegan or who just care about animal rights, even though Origins says they contain no animal ingredients, you should know that parent company Estee Lauder still tests on animals in China, and that includes doing animal testing of the Origins range – yep, it’s sold in China. As an added bonus, the company’s CEO, Ron Lauder, supports right-wing Israeli extremists with funds generated from the group’s cosmetics. How could this brand be ethical?
We were shocked to see this brand, owned by the notorious Nestle, at Sustainable Luxury 1.618. I personally asked what on earth this company was doing at a sustainability show, and was basically told that because they have a recycling program for their coffee pods, the brand is ‘green’. Ha! Quite a claim from a company that makes a product that is, by its very nature, hardly eco-friendly. While their coffee may be quick to make, let’s not forget that for centuries, no electricity has been necessary to make a good brew: hot water and a coffee press were enough.
Even the scoop espresso makers, so popular in Italian coffee bars over generations and still the main way to make coffee in many proper cafes today, only require loose coffee and a metallic scoop. Nothing disposable here, and what’s more: the grounds can be used to fertilise acid-loving plants, like gardenias, for example.
In Britain alone, almost 200m–yes, that’s right, 200 million— coffee capsules were used last year, and almost all ended up in landfill. Why? Because it’s a hassle to recycle them. Sure, Nespresso say they will collect its aluminium pods for recycling – but only when you order more from its website. Otherwise you can recycle at its UK stores – a long trip if you don’t live in London, Birmingham or Manchester, and hardly convenient even if you do.
It’s hard to take Nespresso’s claims to sustainability seriously when its parent company has one of the worst ecological track records in history and is currently destroying Indonesian rainforests to harvest palm oil for its chocolate and other products. Not only that, but they’re notorious for bottling free tap water and selling as bottled water, and they also push governments to privatise their water supplies, selling this precious natural resource to Nestle so they can produce profitable drinks instead.
But the entire concept behind Nespresso’s coffee pods, now being pushed by the company into restaurants around the world, is dubious–I mean, given that espresso has been made for a century without pods at all, wouldn’t it be better for the planet if these completely unnecessary pods didn’t exist in the first place?
Yet another brand in the Hall of Shame that’s under the Estee Lauder umbrella (although it ‘operates independently’) is the hair care label, Aveda.
Aveda’s business practices are definitely more eco-friendly than most: it was the first beauty company to use 100% post-consumer recycled PET packaging; it manufactures with 100% certified wind power, and has signed up to the CERES Principles, a 10-point code of corporate environmental conduct created in 1989.
However, most people buy the brand’s products believing they are ‘organic’ or ‘pure’–but the reality is often not quite that.
While there are indeed some natural ingredients many items in the Aveda range, others are as chemically nasty as anything on a cheap drugstore shelf. For example, their Aveda Control Paste Finishing Paste, carries high health concerns for allergies and immunotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and occupational hazards, among other issues. A quick look at the ingredients list confirms that this is one product to avoid:
Aqueous (Water, Aqua Purificata, Purified) Extracts: Althaea Officinalis (Marshmallow) (Organically Grown), Camellia Oleifera Leaf Extract, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Extract, Organically Grown), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, (Coconut), Peg-25 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tribehenin, (Rapeseed), Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Peg-6 Caprylic/Capric Glycerides, (Coconut), Glycerin, (Coconut), Cetearyl Alcohol (Coconut), Dipalmitoylethyl Hydroxyethylmonium Methosulfate (Palm Oil), Fragrance (Parfum), Citral, Geraniol, Linalool, Farnesol, Benzyl Benzoate, Benzyl Salicylate, Citronellol, Eugenol, Limonene, Hydroxypropyl Guar, Disodium Edta, Chlorphenesin, Methylparaben, Isopropylparaben, Butylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Potassium Sorbate, Phenoxyethanol, Annatto (Cl 75120), Mica, Titanium Dioxide (Cl 77891)
Moreover, the abundant palm oil that’s present in many of the brand’s products is sourced from Indonesian rainforests, meaning not only are ancient trees being cut down to fulfil demand for palm oil there, but many species of animal, most notably the orangutan, are being displaced.
As part of the Estee Lauder family, a portion of Aveda’s profits go to the owners of the group. In 1993, Ron Lauder co-founded a think tank called the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. The Israeli Education Ministry has described the center as “a research institute whose leanings are extreme right-wing and even fascistic.” Nice. Much of the focus of this Estee Lauder-funded group perpetuates war in the Middle East.
The bottom line? This is one brand whose ingredients are often far from sustainable, despite what they claim.
I know several people with skin allergies and eczema who have turned to this brand to solve their maladies, with little success. And no surprises: despite Aveeno’s claims that their Active Naturals carry ingredients “derived from nature and uniquely formulated by Aveeno to deliver real skin results”, more often than not, these ‘natural’ ingredients are just part of a chemical mix.
Let’s look at their Daily Scrub, for example.
The product contains a long list of ingredients, but those that I personally would consider dubious include: Sodium laureth sulfate, polyethylene, lauryl glucoside, PEG-16 soy sterol, carbomer, phenoxyethanol, glycol distearate, cocamidopropyl betaine, methylparaben, butylene glycol, fragrance, laureth-4, sodium hydroxide, and tetrasodium EDTA.
Cure skin allergies and irritations? Despite their neutral beige packaging and promises to deliver all the goodness of nature, Aveeno’s products are more likely to cause them.
It sells itself as an Argan oil based product that restores hair and skin through the power of nature. Its website uses interviews with women who talk about social volunteering, renewable energy and animal rights. But all of this is just greenwashing the fact that unlike many brands that use Argan oil, such as Kahina Giving, this label doesn’t at all help women in North African countries. In fact, MoroccanOil isn’t Moroccan or even North African: it’s actually an Israeli company.
But appropriating Moroccan culture (through its packaging and marketing) isn’t the only unethical thing this brand does. Whilst Argan oil has been used by Arabian women for centuries because it’s wonderful for both the skin and hair, MoroccanOil only contains a teeny, tiny, weeny percentage of pure Argan oil – in some products, it’s as low as 4% – and the other, say 96% is pretty much water and nasty chemicals, such as Cyclopentasiloxane, Dimethicone, Cyclomethicone. All of these are cheap silicones that make hair smooth in the short term, but dry it out in the long run.
There’s also Butylphenyl Methyl Propional (fragrance), D & C Yellow 11, D & C Red 17, Coumarin, Benzyl Benzoate, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone – all of which can cause allergies – and more artificial fragrance. It seems to me that all of these chemicals are unnecessary, given the wonderful benefits real, pure Argan oil can provide.
In short, there’s just no justification for buying anything from this product line. You’d be better off buying pure Argan oil products created by the likes of Kahina Giving or Josie Maran instead – they’re cleaner, richer, and way more ethical.
8. The Honest Company
This one kinda breaks our hearts. We had huge, high hopes for Jessica Alba’s apparently all natural grooming products, house cleaning and baby care store. But then we found out she wasn’t actually all that ‘honest’ about the ingredients of her products. For example, she labelled her premium Infant Formula as “organic” – but it’s actually far from that.
A lawsuit brought against the company alleges the product contains 11 synthetic ingredients that are not allowed by federal law in organic products, including sodium selenite and taurine – yep, the key ingredient of energy drink Red Bull. For infants? Hmmm….
But that’s not all. Honest Co uses sodium coco sulphate in its laundry detergent and some shampoos, and apparently, that ingredient has high levels of sodium laureth sulphate, which is a harsh detergent than can harm skin.
The worst thing about the whole debacle is that rather than apologising and maybe promising to change the formulations, Jessica has taken a PR approach favoured by politicians (and we all know how ‘honest’ they are!), defending her choices and denying any wrongdoing.
If it were just one mess up, we’d be inclined to let it slip, but the truth is, this company has made several ‘mistakes’ in claiming their products are all natural and free of harmful ingredients. Consumer trust levels? Plummeting…
All images by the company’s websites unless stated. Main image: Pixabay
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44 thoughts on “8 More Brands You Think are Eco Friendly, But Aren’t”
Is there a plan to publish a current listing now that some companies have updated their formulations? Thanks!
Yes Anne, this article is 5 years old – it’s time for an update! Stay tuned!
old article maybe but still IMPORTANT. I am this close to tossing ALL of my aveda cosmetics – on in particular: mineral tinted moisture due to aluminum. I am against ANY FORM of aluminum on or in my body if I can. Even the “safe” types of aluminum. Goodbye Aveda.
L’Oréal owns and manufactures Kiehl’s. Because of Kiehl’s clever marketing I too was fooled into ignorance and didn’t even bother until recently to look at their ingredients. Propylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Methylparaben, Disodium EDTA and other nasty ingredients. Lesson learned, no matter what always read the label/ingredients!
Dead on! Thanks for your comments, Marcus!
I very much appreciate this article. However, as a (former) fan of Aveda & Kiehls, I would love to know some suggested alternative brands to turn to instead! That would be a big help 🙂
That’s a great point, Sarah! For hair, try Weleda, Rahua, Tabitha James Kraan or Saach Organics. For skin, try Osea, Oskia, Lavera or Dr Hauschka 😉 Good luck!
Also Clinique and Shiseido on the list ?
Those two are totally, totally not ethical or eco friendly! Could definitely add them to the list.
Any skincare brands or makeup brands will you recommend to me?
Yes, absolutely! Pai Skincare, Ooh Oils, Supermood, Subtle Energies, Moroccan Naturals…just take a look in the Beauty section in Eluxe, or check out our shop at http://www.eluxeexclusives.com
What about Dermalogica?
Ah, good one to add to this list! Like Clinique, it sells itself on being ‘dermatalogically tested’ but it’s actually a meaningless term (because most brands are) and it’s also filled with nasty chemicals like SLS and parabens.
I have been using Aveda shampoos for years and this article won’t change that. They are the only kind that don’t make my hair fall out as I have horrible food allergies and am very sensitive to many ingredients. I have tried making my own and nothing has ever worked like aveda. Sorry but their products keep my hair on my head and I appreciate that. I don’t care if they source their damn palm nuts from the moon or rinse their hands in the tears of virgins prior to working. They keep me from looking like a naked molerat.
Must feel nice to know that even if the planet goes to hell in a handbasket, you’ll still have nice hair, Melisa…. 🙁
Taurine, while found in some energy drinks, is actually good for you and is found in breast milk.
Yes, you are right – it does occur naturally in breast milk. Thing is, it’s normally extracted from bull semen – yes, that stuff people glug down from energy drinks is literally bull semen. And most vegans ain’t down with that!
I hate energy drinks myself, but taurine coming from bull semen in commercial products is a common myth, and it’s not true. I researched it previously because I was curious myself. You can find several good articles explaining the details, but this is my favorite:
Great articles! Your magazine is just fabulous! You should check this luxury skin care brand at imfabulouscosmetics.com
all of Aveda’s palm oil is sustainably sourced from brazil.
Can anyone advise on a makeup product that does not test on animals at any time and does not contain palm oil?
I just purchased some Aveda, and feel a little duped (I should have researched, I know). The cleanser contains palm oil and from what I can gather they test on animals or are at least supported by Estee Lauder..and lets not start me on this company’s ethics!!
I was just reading through these comments because I am trying to help my friends and family switch to safer products and if you haven’t found anything yet… you should check out Beautycounter. I am a consultant and I am super impressed with the transparency of their company. (not trying to sell to you… I’m not even leaving you my link or anything) I just want to help people find companies like Beautycounter that ARENT trying to dupe us all.
I am happy to share that you can go to Beautycounter/deneacewilkins and order toxic free skin care and makeup line. They are truly toxic free. They have great sunscreen as well which is what drove me to try their products in the first place.
Their mission is to get safe products into the hands of everyone. Not necessarily Beautycounter products but safe products nonetheless Beautycounter is a great option.
The name Beautycounter stems from the fact that they counter congress to get safer laws regulating the skin care and cosmetic industry.
This article is the reason I’ve switched to using Arbonne’s cosmetics and skincare products, and help others who are searching for clean alternatives to what is on the shelves! All of our products are certified vegan, we do not test on animals or contain animal bi-products, we are gluten-free, dairy-free, and toxin-free, and (to address your question directly) there is no palm oil in our cosmetics or skincare! Our products go through rigorous testing to ensure they are pure, safe, and beneficial, AND we’ve been “green” before it was trendy! Hope this helps! 🙂
Aveda got back to me when I emailed for them to specify about animal testing . They don’t source or ask anyone to do on their behalf. They are also not sold in mainland China so currently they do not test . If required by law refers to if a country decided to change their law and test the product when it got there. Aveda has been the #1 pick from vegnews an all vegan publication for best hair care the last two years . Mind you Aveda doesn’t advertise in the magazine.
As for palm oil Estee Lauder has a recent address on their site regarding it. Has a lot of good info. How and where they source from and how they are switching over to other types, etc.
It may be true that Aveda does not sell in China, but their parent company, Estee Lauder does. And Estee Lauder DOES test on animals. Not only that, the parent company is cynically and hypocritically takes women’s money to support its Pink Ribbon Campaign, whilst packing its products with some potentially carcinogenic chemicals; strongly supports the aparthied state of Israel and oppression of the Palestinian people. In short, if you buy Aveda products, or any Estee Lauder brands including MAC, Origins, Tom Ford, etc, you are indirectly supporting aparthied, war and animal testing, whether you like it or not.
well i still love melissa shoes regardless
PVC contains some of the deadliest materials known to man. Are ‘nice shoes’ really worth it, Patience? 🙁
Aveda has been produced without parabens since 2010 so this must be a really old container of Control Paste! Please check out the ingredient listing on a fresh container! Better yet, actually call Aveda for correct information. Moreover, Aveda and Origins are not sold in China due to the government requirement to test on animals. These brands do not test on animals but may use ingredients that were tested on animals in the past…this is true of most cosmetic brands as every thing was tested on animals at one point in history. This is an ugly fact that can’t be erased. Aveda has won several PETA awards for being the best cruelty free brand.
In fact, according to Aveda’s website, the Estee Lauder Companies Inc. purchased Aveda in 1997, and it is well known that this parent company DOES test on animals. Furthermore, on their own website, Aveda say: Aveda does not conduct animal testing, nor ask others to do it on its behalf, except when it is required by law (my italics). So yes, they MAY test on animals. Moreover, they ARE indeed in China: http://www.aveda.com.hk/
Actually, a product being in Hong Kong does not mean they are in China. Hong Kong is a part of China, but the laws are a little different there. Just so you know.
Thank you for posting this, Maureen! I was just about to say the same thing about the Aveda ingredients. I work in an Aveda salon and knew for sure seeing this list of ingredients in the control paste that it must’ve been old. Just got to my salon and sure enough, there are no parabens in it. I think the author of this article should make sure all of their info is up to date before claiming false information.
I also forgot to add that I wouldn’t assume they get their rapeseed oil from GMO sources, or palm oil that is destroying forests… Aveda works very closely with the communities that they source from and actually create jobs for the people in the areas that they work with. For example, all of their Holiday gift sets are boxed in this amazing sustainable green paper box packaging that is handmade from women in Nepal. They create thousands of jobs and income for these women by giving them the opportunity to sell the paper they already make. They make a HUGE deal and gain tons of donations from Earth Month every year and work with a different organization each year, and focus on making water available to people in need of clean water. This past year they were teamed up with the Environmental Defense Center, which does amazing things for the planet and helps protect it. You can check out more information on their website: http://www.edcnet.org
That may be true Ashley, but what their parent company, Estee Lauder, does in Israel is despicable. They are strong supporters of the oppression of the Palestinian people and illegal expansion of Israel. Estee Lauder also tests on animals and uses animal ingredients in many of their products. Supporting Aveda puts money in Estee Lauder’s pockets-that’s something an ‘ethical’ company like Aveda should have thought about before agreeing to be bought out by such a nasty parent company.
Aveda products do contain ~silicones~which are ~not~a good ingredient for the hair and skin.
They have reformulated their Shampure line to be without silicones as of 2019! Progress 🙂