In the modern world, it is typically assumed that 'green' indicates 'natural' and 'organic'. But the truth is, green in green cosmetics or any green products is not truly known because there is no exact definition, and still needs further clarification. The most intuitive definition of a green cosmetic is its association with environmental friendly packaging methods, production and the use of organic or natural components.
Supply Chain & Raw Material
Just because an ingredient is derived from natural plant sources, is it automatically sustainable? Not necessarily... The renewable factor of the origin is just as important as the natural factor of the product. A sustainably harvested ingredient should not be disruptive to surround environments. (No deforestation or exploitation, as well as no child labour or slavery.)
Sustainable v. Non-Sustainable
Some examples of the common sustainable sources used nowadays include:
Natural Oils: E.g. palm, coconut, argan and avocado oil. Glycerine, a derivative of palm oil, is a common byproduct.
Agricultural Plants: E.g. soybeans, corn used to produce oils and alcohols. Green cosmetics emulsifiers, surfactants and biocatalysts are derived using these plants.
Bacteria: E.g. deinococcus bacteria, a bacterium studied by Deinove in France for its chemical production properties, used to create aromatic ingredients and pigments for the cosmetic industry.
Common Unsustainable or Toxic Elements Found in Popular Brands:
BHA and BHT: Preservatives, most common in lipsticks and moisturising creams. The European Commission has released evidence that BHA and BHT disrupt the endocrine system.
Petrochemicals: From petroleum or natural gas, extracting these raw materials puts the whole ecosystem at risk, and transforming petroleum into chemicals is a very polluting process.
VOCs: Compounds released from air fresheners, cleaners, disinfectants etc. releases small amounts of formaldehyde, known as human carcinogen - which elicits various health concerns.
GMOs: Scientists state that using GMOs encourages unsustainable farming methods.
DBPs: Often found in nail products. Considered toxic to human reproduction, enhances the ability of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations.
Top Green Brands
When shopping, make sure to:
Do your research: Get to know companies that sell organic and natural beauty and uphold a strong ethos when it comes to the environment (e.g. Content Beauty, Whole Foods Market, and Planet Organic)
Look for logos which certify organic brands (e.g. Soil Association)
Seek out the COSMOS logo, which is a globally harmonised standard for organic and natural cosmetics
Euronews - Living
Written by: Vivian Gu