The attractively-designed brown shampoo bottle rested at the edge of my bathtub, a more chic, yet complementary component to the usual shower suspects in my bathroom: homemade soap in a bamboo dish, homemade toothpaste in a glass jar, and my favorite shampoo & conditioner in a less-than-flashy container. I picked up the brown bottle, which belonged to my houseguest brother, and read the label. The Body Shop. I thought back fondly to my high-school days in the 90’s, when The Body Shop was a grossly-anticipated stop in any gal’s weekend mall tromp. The brand has always been known for its natural ingredients and environmentally-conscious persona. I turned to the bottle’s back, a habit of this ingredient-conscious adult, something I never would have done (nor been educated about) in my younger years. Here is what was staring me in the face:
FULL INGREDIENTS: Water, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Cocamide DEA, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Polysorbate 20, Piroctone Olamine, Sodium Chloride, Phenoxyethanol, Panthenol, Propylene Glycol, Dimethicone Propyl PG Betaine, Honey, Guar Hydroxypropyltrimonium Chloride, Citric Acid, Sodium Salicylate, Methylparaben, Glycerin, Fragrance, Disodium EDTA, Linalool, Zingiber Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract, Butylparaben, Ethylparaben, Limonene, Birch Bark, Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract, Propylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Citral, Citronellol, Oakmoss, Benzyl Alcohol, Eugenol, Geraniol, Isoeugenol.
Without knowing anything about the names of these ingredients, a quick scan shows that “Honey,” “Officinale (Ginger) Root Extract,” and “Salix Alba (Willow) Bark Extract” are the only obvious plant ingredients. Others, like Cocamide DEA (a chemically-modified version of coconut oil), are often touted as “natural” [and assumed safe], but are just the opposite, instead acting as possible carcinogens. Then there are ingredients such as “Fragrance,” which are a hidden concoction of toxins, and “-paraben,” which are known hormone disruptors.
This shampoo discovery prompted me to check out out the ingredients of some other products from The Body Shop (part of L’Oreal) using EWG’s Cosmetic Database. Some products, namely soaps and lotions, weren’t “that bad,” in levels of toxins (ingredients scoring a “3” or lower). However, foaming products like shampoos, cleansers, and body washes contained things I’d never want on nor in my body.
This, in itself, isn’t news. Companies have been using toxic chemicals in beauty products for decades. The problem lies in the fact that The Body Shop markets itself as a “natural” beauty brand, yet only SOME of their products could be considered as such. (To read the full list of ingredients that The Body Shop uses in its products, view the Brand Summary in EWG’s Cosmetic Database.) Consumers are under the illusion that purchasing from this brand is a safe bet, but the ingredients tell another story.
As I admitted, I held positive memories of The Body Shop, thoughts formed in my youth–those tricky marketing gurus. I decided to investigate some of the top “natural” beauty brands, brands backed by huge companies and trusted by many a consumer, to see if their products matched their image. Read Part 2 of this series, where I’ll show you which major brands aren’t as natural as they seem.
In the meantime, what measures can you take to avoid being scammed?
1. READ, READ, READ, READ, READ THE LABELS. Know some of the top toxic offenders and don’t buy products containing them. I love this simple list (and printable wallet guide!) from EWG.
2. Support the Safe Chemicals Act. While the Safe Chemicals Act is targeted at overall environmental toxins, it could surely keep some of the worst offenders out of our personal care products.
3. Spread the word. Films like Unacceptable Levels and Toxic Baby are incredible projects meant to help make the public aware of how much we’ve been duped. Share these films’ trailers, tell your friends about the marketing scams that are out there, and STOP BUYING these toxic products.
Do you suspect that your favorite beauty product might not be what it seems?