Green Goddess: How to be a More Conscious Cosmetics Consumer

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So you want to buy some moisturizer. You’ve done your research, read all the reviews, and have finally added the perfect product to your Amazon cart. It’s in a recyclable glass container, it’s natural and organic, and it even has that little pink bunny symbol you think certifies it is cruelty-free. It’s perfect and sustainable. But when it shows up on your doorstep that afternoon—because you chose same-day delivery, obviously—it’s in a box three times its size, suffocated in bubble-wrap with two layers of plastic packaging. How’s that for sustainable?

It’s hard, we get it. You’re a conscious consumer and you want what’s best for the environment as well as a product that’s inexpensive and actually works. You know the basics like recycling and choosing natural products, but what if you could do more? Here’s how.

Natural vs. Organic

These labels are not necessarily synonymous with better. The term “natural” hasn’t been defined by the FDA and is often slapped on labels to make products appear healthier. According to the USDA, to receive a 100 percent organic seal, “the product must contain only organically produced ingredients.” However, labels such as “made with organic ingredients” or “contains naturally derived ingredients” may only refer to one ingredient in a list of many. If you’ve got your labels on lock, take the next step and research where and how the company sources their natural ingredients. Look for supply chain information and pledges to Sustainable Development Goals. Just because something is natural, doesn’t mean it’s sustainable.

Cruelty-Free vs. Not Tested on Animals

Animal testing is legal, but isn’t required in the United States. If the bottle reads “cruelty-free” or “not tested on animals,” it may only refer to the final product and not the development stage. These statements are not regulated by any government agency, so take the next step and look for symbols. That cute leaping bunny is a pledge the company won’t test on animals at any stage, even in other markets such as China, where the government requires all cosmetics to be tested on animals. The PETA pink bunny symbol is similar, but without as many stringent conditions. Labels are tricky, sometimes false, and often just used for good PR. Do yourself and the bunnies a favor by reading the fine print and company FAQs on animal testing, and if the product is sold in China and not in Europe, always take a second look.

Recycled vs. Compostable

Get to know your recycling center. Where you live affects your ability to recycle certain products, so choose options that lower your footprint. If possible, purchase products that are both recyclable and made from recycled materials. The best option is compostable packaging. Michael Robinson, a packaging guru, and director of open innovations for L’Oreal, recommends going with your gut. “If you pick up a heavy, fancy jar and think, ‘How can I recycle this?’, you probably can’t. As a consumer, you have to be woke. You get woke by learning.”

The little things add up and as a consumer, you can make a difference. A recent report by Grand View Research predicts the organic personal care market will reach $25.1 billion by 2025. The industry is changing and you have the power to dictate what luxury looks like. Opt to buy in store over delivery, DIY when possible, and for those tough jobs—laugh lines are sexy, BTW—know your ingredients and where they come from.

Image by Anna Brones.

xx Meg Callahan

This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Nine.