Don’t Be Fooled by Greenwashing (33+ Brands to Watch Out For!)

Common Signs of Greenwashing

What in the world is greenwashing? Also known as cleanwashing. You may have heard this term before, especially if you’ve been switching to more natural products. It’s something that a LOT of people fall victim to, so listen up!

Greenwashing is when companies mislead consumers by claiming that their products are safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly, and natural, when in reality they are NOT.

Let’s look at the popular brand Aveeno, for example. You see the calming, green packaging and they use terms and phrases like:

  • Active Natural Total Soy Complex (sounds fancy)
  • Made with soy extracts and ingredients sourced from nature (oOoO0Oo)
  • Gentle enough for everyday use (amen!)
  • High-quality, natural ingredients (wow, perfect!)
  • “We strive to bring you active natural ingredients and more sustainable formulas, our first focus is on ensuring safety and efficacy” (can they DO no wrong?!)

Sounds legit, right? Wrong, unfortunately! Aveeno also uses ingredients like:

If you look into any of these ingredients, you’ll find that they are not considered safe or natural. They have a variety of harmful effects including hormone disruption, irritation, or are considered toxic or carcinogenic to the body.

Honestly, greenwashing irritates me SO much! Companies are preying on innocent consumers that are trying to do better for their health but may not know any better. It’s so misleading and wrong! 😡

How can companies get away with this, you ask? Well, there are basically zero laws or regulations around a lot of claims like “natural.” They can literally concoct a formula up in a lab and put a label on it that says natural and nobody is going to check. So it’s up to YOU to be the judge of that!

P.S. I have a whole podcast episode about greenwashing if you’d like to take a listen!

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Common Signs of Greenwashing

If you see some of these terms on the front label of a product, that should automatically trigger you to be skeptical, in my opinion! A lot of these terms are unregulated and can be used by anybody with no real meaning:

  • Botanical
  • Chemical-free
  • Dermatologist recommended
  • Earth-friendly
  • Extracts
  • Gentle
  • Green
  • Herbal
  • Mineral
  • Natural
  • Naturally essenced or fragranced
  • Oil-free
  • Organic (if you see the term organic, look for a certification to make sure it’s actually organic! Learn more about that here)
  • Paraben-free
  • Plant-based
  • Plant-derived
  • Pure
  • Raw
  • Sensitive
  • Sulfate-free

Another reason a lot of people fall prey to greenwashing is that they see one good quality about a product and assume that means it’s ALL good. Just because something is paraben-free, for example, doesn’t mean that the rest of the ingredients are good! Always keep that in mind.

Green Beauty Ingredient Glossary

Major Brands that Greenwash

I encourage you to do further research if you use any of these brands! They all fall on different parts of the spectrum as far as greenwashing goes. Some of them still carry products that can be considered truly natural and safe and may just have a few products that push it.

And again, everyone is entitled to use whatever products they want! Just because I won’t personally use these brands, doesn’t mean that you should take this verbatim. Figure out where you want to draw the line and what ingredients you are okay with using yourself 💪 I personally am not comfortable with some of these brands and their marketing and how it stacks up to their ingredients.

  • Alba Botanica
  • Arbonne
  • Aveda
  • Aveeno
  • Babyganics
  • Banana Boat Baby
  • Bare Minerals
  • BioClarity
  • The Body Shop
  • Burt’s Bees (bought out by Clorox!)
  • Clairol Hair Food
  • Covergirl Natureluxe
  • Herbal Essences
  • Johnson’s Natural
  • Josie Maran
  • Kiss My Face
  • Love Beauty and Planet
  • Lush Cosmetics
  • Melaleuca
  • Monat
  • Moroccan Oil
  • Mustela
  • Neutrogena Pure & Free
  • Nivea Pure & Natural
  • OGX (formerly known as Organix)
  • Origins
  • Pixi
  • Raw Sugar Living
  • Seventh Generation (owned by Unilever!)
  • Simple
  • St. Ives
  • SunBum
  • Tarte Cosmetics
  • Yes To

You might be shocked by some of these! That’s why greenwashing is so sneaky. Most people just simply don’t know any better. Just do a quick search on the Think Dirty app or EWG on some of these brands and you’ll find some not-so-good ingredients!

How to Avoid Being Greenwashed

So now that you know some terms to look out for and some brands that are common culprits, how can you continue to spot greenwashing and avoid it? Here’s some advice:

  • Don’t just assume something is truly natural because there’s a pretty sticker on the front label that claims so
  • Be skeptical and ask questions! Who owns this company? Are they owned by a big corporation? Where do they source their ingredients? Are they trying to hide something? Are the ingredients hard to find? etc.
  • Always head straight to the full ingredient list on the back of the product because that tells the FULL story
  • Research, research, research ingredients until you know what’s “safe” or up to your standards to use
  • Support smaller, independent, or local brands as much as possible

So say it with me now:
“I, [insert your name here], pledge to be skeptical and never fall for greenwashing again!”

There ya go! Now if you need a little help getting started or finding TRULY non-toxic products, check out some of the ones I use and love. No greenwashing here! 🌿

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Written by: Becca

Becca is a blogger, wife, and dog mom living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Having seen firsthand the benefits of switching to a natural lifestyle herself, she's passionate about helping women make the switch to clean beauty products, organic skincare, and a holistic way of life (without the stress of being perfect about it!).

15 comments on “Don’t Be Fooled by Greenwashing (33+ Brands to Watch Out For!)”

    1. I used to do a series on Instagram about greenwashing so a lot of them came from there. Otherwise, I’ve been keeping a list for a while and will likely keep adding to this! A lot are brands that I get asked about a lot like “is xxx brand clean?” so after I look into them and see if they are truly non-toxic or not. Or if I see a brand advertising how natural it is and the ingredients aren’t so great.

      Thanks for reading!

  1. Great article! Do you know anything about the perfumes from Good Chemistry that Target launched earlier in 2018? Wondering if there’s some greenwashing going on there or if it really is clean.

    1. I don’t know too much about them, but judging from the price and ingredient list, I think it’s still synthetic fragrance and I would personally avoid it. Even though it’s vegan, phthalate-free, etc. I’m still seeing Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Ethylhexyl Salicylate in the ingredient list which are not clean to me. Check out this post I have about finding natural perfumes!

  2. Parabens are not bad for you, this is a myth- parabens are one of the most rigorously tested ingredients in dermatology that are used to keep products safe to use and prevent mold and bacteria growth.

  3. I would also add Melaleuca brand to the list. Almost every one of their household products smell horrible, like they use the cheapest trashiest fragrances. Growing research on fragrances being allergenic and disrupting to hormones…

    1. Unfortunately they use ingredients like fragrance, phenoxyethanol, polyquats, PEGs, and polysorbates which are not clean or low tox.

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