The more I have researched cosmetics, the more I have cottoned on to the sly marketing dodges that big beauty companies use to push their overpriced, cheap, nasty products onto our bathroom shelves. Here are a few of their sneaky tricks.
‘Natural’ does not have a legal definition. One may safely, and legally, say that crude oil is ‘natural’. After all it comes out of the earth – doesn’t it? But would you use it as a moisturiser? Come to think of it, you probably do. There are many well-known brands that cultivate an image of being ‘natural’ but it’s worth looking closely at the labels. My Aveda shampoo contains: undisclosed fragrance, PEG-7 Dimethicone C8-C18 Ester, Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Methylchloroisothiazolinone and Methylisothiazolinone. Ooh! It’s just like a summer meadow. My Phyto Plage hair ‘protecting’ spray is pretty much a toxic soup of Parabens, PEGs and Octinoxate. The Body Shop’s Almond Body Butter contains the usual rubbish: Parabens; Fragrance; Benzyl Alcohol and so on, whilst their White Musk Bath & Shower Gel scores a perfect 10 on the Cosmetics Database (10 being the highest hazard).
A brand may trumpet one of its products as ‘Parabens Free’ – and that single item is indeed free of parabens. But then we make a mental leap and assume that all of their products are ‘Parabens Free.’ Wrong. We’ve been suckered again.
Fragrance may disguise a multitude of sins. Because perfumes are held to be trade secrets manufacturers can use hundreds of different ingredients in their formulations and not disclose a single one of them. Here is what the cosmetics database says: “The word ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.” Choose products that declare that they contain ‘100% naturally derived fragrance’ or use unfragranced products.
Anyone may use the word ‘organic’ on products. Check the label to see how many and what proportion of the ingredients are actually organic. For example ‘organic avocado moisturiser’ may contain a drop or two of organic avocado oil, along with several million drops of Mineral Oil, Petrolatum, Propylene Glycol, Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Fragrance, Propylparaben, Methylparaben, Triethanolamine, Peg-40 Stearate and Benzyl Alcohol – to name but a few of the usual suspects. I don’t know if there is a marketing term for this practice. But it’s bollocks.
Selling the dream
When it comes to beauty we all love to believe that price equals quality. Yes, I know that you weren’t born yesterday, neither was I. But after all, do I buy cosmetics simply because they work? No. If that were the case my entire beauty routine would consist of moisturising with coconut oil, brushing my teeth with baking soda, rinsing my hair with vinegar and washing my armpits with plain soap. I love coming home from Content Beauty or the Organic Pharmacy with another glamorously packaged product. But did you know that when the price of cosmetics is increased, the sales go up? The cost of a beauty product is dictated by the market at which it is targeted, not by the quality of its ingredients.
Blinded by science
The product is ‘scientifically tested’ – by who? The manufacturers, that’s who. Are the ‘scientific’ tests peer reviewed? No they are not. May we see them? No, we may not. ‘Dermatologist approved’ simply means that a moisturiser won’t instantly burn your face off or bring you out in a rash of suppurating pustules.
“Better Than Botox”
Let’s get it right. A face cream cannot paralyse your muscles. If it could, and you put it all over your face, the result would be disastrous.
Pinkwashing is the practice of sticking a pink ribbon on product packaging. The aim is to make you feel good about supporting the ‘fight against breast cancer’, regardless of whether or not the product itself contains ingredients that may contribute to giving you breast cancer.
This article was originally published on The Good Glamour Guide.