By Dr. Michelle Hure
With all the buzzwords out in the media that aim to lure consumers to the “green” side of cosmeceuticals and personal care products, it’s no wonder people are confused.
The majority of these claims are either marketing ploys with no real basis or fearmongering tactics meant to emotionally sway consumers’ pockets.
I find myself addressing this misinformation on a daily basis with my patients and on social media. Let’s break down some of these marketing gimmicks, so you’re informed.
The main descriptors to watch out for include “clean,” “natural,” “organic,” and “green.” While these terms would seem wonderful to have in a skin or personal care product, there is no regulatory definition or standard for what constitutes them in the skin care world.
As a result, some companies use the term loosely or misleadingly to sell their products at a premium.
Many companies that promote this type of marketing use fearmongering tactics to convince consumers that other products are unsafe, even though there is little to no evidence to support these claims. This creates confusion and anxiety among consumers who may feel pressure to purchase “clean” products without understanding the science behind them.
In fact, their ingredients can be harmful or irritating to many. For example, essential oils, which are commonly used in these products, commonly cause allergic reactions or skin irritation.
After all, poison oak is natural, but I’d rather not slather it all over my face. So often, the harvesting of these natural ingredients and essential oils can also wreak havoc on the environment.
Staying on the environmental angle, these companies need to be examined closely. Aside from the claims that the product is somehow better, many also falsely claim that their manufacturing process or packaging is superior.
This “greenwashing” deceives consumers into thinking that products or companies are environmentally friendly or sustainable, when they are far from it.
Greenwashing has a negative impact on companies that are genuinely committed to sustainability, creating a false sense of competition and difficulty in differentiating themselves in the marketplace.
This erodes public trust in actual green companies, leading to skepticism about the legitimacy of environmental claims in general and ultimately hindering progress toward a more sustainable future.
Perhaps the most dangerous trend I see on the market is the ever-growing “free from” lists on “clean” products that claim to save consumers from the dangers of chemicals such as parabens, sulfates, phthalates, formaldehyde, etc.
While some of these ingredients are dangerous, others have been substituted for subpar or even more damaging ingredients. Fearmongering regarding well-known ingredients results in inadequate preservation, leading to health concerns—the latest case of bacterial growth in eye drops that led to blindness and even death in consumers being an example.
Ultimately, beware of these misleading marketing ploys, as they lack regulation, advance the misconception that clean/natural/organic/green products are always safe, and usually charge a higher price tag.
Dr. Hure is a double board-certified physician practicing medical, surgical, cosmetic dermatology and dermatopathology at Orange County SkinLab, her award-winning solo private practice clinic near the Los Rios District. She is a native Californian and proud to call San Juan Capistrano home, along with her two young daughters and husband.