Labeling 101: Misleading Marketing Claims , 4 Comments

From the clean box design of Apple gadgets to eye catching wine bottle labels to the unique wrapping we get from the creative sellers on Etsy, we’re suckers for things wrapped in pretty packaging. However, when it comes to the beauty aisle, no matter how pretty the perfume box or the foundation compact, we are not suckers. You see, cosmetic companies have very few rules when it comes to product packaging, which is great for them – they can cover their labels with marketing claims (true or not), use misleading buzz words, and add as many or as few ingredients as they choose. This is not so great for you.

Just the other day I decided to walk through the beauty aisles of Target as an average consumer. I threw out all I knew about the lack of regulations on the skincare and cosmetic companies, and went on a hunt for healthier products.

Product One: The Nature Claim

What first caught my eye was a beautiful white and green display, which to me, shouted, “natural, clean and fresh.” There, among several different products within this “nature luxe” collection, was a liquid foundation with the tag line, “luxury touched my nature.” Right there on the front of the package it said that the product acted as a sunscreen and was made with silk. Sounded natural enough to me.

This product did list many of its ingredients on the back and many of them did seem non-toxic: cucumber water, titanium dioxide, and jojoba oil. But when I went home and cross referenced it with the EWG’s Skin Deep database, I learned that it scored a 9 out of 10 and was labeled as a HIGH health concern for its neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, bio-accumulation and irritation to the skin, eyes, and/or lungs.

 

 

Product 2: The Sensitive Claim

As I walked further down the aisle, I realized that perhaps I needed to find a mineral powder, because I had heard so many people on TV and in magazines saying this natural, mineral makeup was the way to go. I quickly spotted several mineral powders and settled on a loose powder foundation that claimed to be “sensitive skin certified” with sun protection from a “non-chemical sunscreen.”  The only ingredient listed on the back was titanium dioxide, which I had recently heard was a safe and natural ingredient for protecting your skin. Perfect.

However, when I checked on this product in the Skin Deep database, I found that it had scored a 7 and was also labeled with HIGH health concerns for its endocrine disruption, bio-accumulation, organ system toxicity, and irritation. Irritation? Wait, didn't it say it was sensitive-skin certified?

 

Product Three: More Natural Claims

Then I came to a brand name, that for me, I’ve always trusted to be on the healthier spectrum of the beauty aisle. And their box didn’t prove this thought wrong. Part of the “active naturals” collection, this Tinted Moisturizer provided a sheer tint, sun protection, and contained natural light reflecting minerals. It even claimed it was a “total soy complex.” I couldn’t be sure exactly what that meant, but it had a little icon of a soybean and I know soy is highly regarded in the health food arena. I was sold by the front of the box packaging alone. Did I mention it was packaged in a very earthy looking box with images of green botanicals?

Boy was I wrong. Plug it into the Skin Deep database and it scored a ten. A TEN! (and as a personal side note, I was shocked to read on their Skin Deep profile that, according to PETA, they conducted animal testing.)

 

The lesson learned is something we’ve all known for decades: you can never judge a book by its cover. This is so very true with cosmetic and skin care products. There are very few regulations that these companies have to adhere to, so they really are free to tell you what you want to hear. Before my Sally B’s days, I guarantee that I would have used all three of these products. Heck, I might HAVE used something very similar. 

 

[we can make scary words look pretty, too] 

 

While you might not have a computer handy while shopping, here are a few tips so you don’t get swindled into buying something not healthy:

  • Look for product warnings. If the manufacturer has to warn you to keep out of your eyes or that it’s not suitable for children, you might not want to use it all 
  • Look beyond the label. Often times compact packaged makeup has limited label space, so they have a “peel here” for more info type of packaging. If you’re able to, absolutely “peel here” to read more before buying 
  • Look for red flag ingredients, like “fragrance." While we don’t expect anyone to remember all those long, scientific, mumbo-jumbo sounding names, keeping a few handy is always a good idea. If you see one red flag ingredient, you can only assume there are more where that came from.
  • If you're not entirely convinced, snap a picture. Most cell phones today have a camera attached, so snap a quick picture of the product or make a note of the name, so you can do more research when you get home. 

We understand that it's not easy finding the right products for you, especially of the non-toxic variety, so if you ever have a question about an ingredient or a product please do not hesitate to get in touch with us!