Red Flags That Your Natural Makeup Brand Is Greenwashing You

Red Flags That Your Natural Makeup Brand Is Greenwashing You

As consumers become more aware of the impact of their purchasing choices on the environment, natural makeup brands have risen in popularity. But unfortunately, not all of these brands are as environmentally friendly as they claim to be. Greenwashing is a growing problem in the makeup industry, leaving consumers confused and unsure about which products are truly sustainable and which ones are simply using eco-friendly language as a marketing ploy. In this article, we will explore what greenwashing is and how to spot the red flags that signal it's happening with your natural makeup brand.

What is Greenwashing and Why is it a Problem in the Makeup Industry?

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by companies to make their products seem eco-friendly, often with the intent to sell more products. However, the claims made are frequently misleading or exaggerated, and the products themselves may not be as green as they appear. The makeup industry is particularly susceptible to greenwashing due to the increasing demand for natural and sustainable beauty products. The result is that many natural makeup brands exaggerate their claims or fail to follow through on their promises, harming both the environment and their customers.

One of the most common ways that makeup brands engage in greenwashing is by using vague or undefined terms such as "natural" or "organic" on their product labels. These terms have no legal definition, and companies can use them even if their products contain only a small percentage of natural or organic ingredients. This can mislead consumers into thinking that they are buying a product that is better for the environment than it actually is.

Another issue with greenwashing in the makeup industry is that it can distract from more significant environmental concerns, such as the use of plastic packaging or the impact of the beauty industry on water resources. By focusing on vague claims of "naturalness," companies can avoid addressing these more pressing issues and continue to engage in environmentally harmful practices.

How to Spot Greenwashing in Natural Makeup Brands

Greenwashing can be difficult to spot, but there are some key red flags to look out for when purchasing natural makeup products. In particular, be wary of:

1. Vague or misleading claims: Some natural makeup brands may use vague or misleading language to make their products seem more eco-friendly than they actually are. For example, a product may claim to be "all-natural" or "organic," but upon closer inspection, you may find that only a small percentage of the ingredients are actually natural or organic.

2. Lack of transparency: A truly eco-friendly makeup brand will be transparent about their ingredients and manufacturing processes. If a brand is not willing to disclose this information, it may be a sign that they have something to hide.

It's important to do your research and read product labels carefully when shopping for natural makeup. Look for certifications from reputable organizations, such as the USDA Organic seal or the Leaping Bunny logo, which indicates that a product is cruelty-free. By being an informed consumer, you can make sure that you're supporting truly eco-friendly brands and avoiding greenwashing.

Another thing to keep in mind is that natural makeup isn't always the most sustainable option. While it may be better for your skin and the environment than conventional makeup, it still requires resources to produce and package. Consider using makeup sparingly and opting for products with minimal packaging to reduce your environmental impact.

Red Flag #1: Misleading Claims on Packaging

Brands that use misleading buzzwords like "organic," "natural," or "eco-friendly" without properly defining them are likely engaging in greenwashing. These labels may have little meaning, so look for definitive proof of their claims.

It's important to note that some brands may use vague or ambiguous language on their packaging to make their products seem more environmentally friendly than they actually are. For example, a product labeled as "biodegradable" may only break down under very specific conditions that are not present in most landfills. To avoid falling for these misleading claims, look for certifications from reputable organizations that have strict standards for environmental claims.

Red Flag #2: Lack of Transparency About Ingredients

Brands that are vague about their ingredients or use complex language to obscure them are also likely greenwashing. Look for clearly labeled and well-defined ingredients or certifications to support the brand's claims.

One way to ensure transparency about ingredients is to look for third-party certifications. These certifications, such as USDA Organic or Fair Trade Certified, require brands to meet specific standards and undergo regular audits to ensure compliance. By choosing products with these certifications, you can be confident that the brand is committed to sustainability and transparency.

It's also important to be aware of greenwashing tactics that brands may use to make their products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. For example, a product may claim to be "natural" or "green," but upon closer inspection, the ingredients list may include harmful chemicals. Always do your research and read ingredient labels carefully to avoid falling for greenwashing.

Red Flag #3: Vague or Unsubstantiated Marketing Language

Brands that use language that is vague or unsubstantiated are likely engaging in greenwashing. Words such as "eco-friendly,” "sustainable,” or “natural” that aren't backed by data or certification may not have any real significance.

It is important to look for specific details and evidence to support these claims. For example, a product labeled as "sustainable" should have information about the materials used, the manufacturing process, and the product's end-of-life disposal. Without this information, it is difficult to determine if the product is truly sustainable or if the brand is simply using greenwashing tactics to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

Red Flag #4: Lack of Certification or Third-Party Verification

Brands that don't back up their claims with certifications or third-party verification may also be greenwashing. Ethical and sustainable certifications from organizations like USDA organic, EcoCert, or CertClean can help you validate a brand’s sustainability or eco-friendliness.

However, it's important to note that not all certifications are created equal. Some certifications may have lower standards or may not be relevant to the specific product or industry. It's important to do your research and understand what each certification entails before relying on it to validate a brand's sustainability claims.

In addition to certifications, third-party verification can also be a valuable tool in identifying greenwashing. Third-party verification involves an independent organization reviewing a brand's sustainability practices and verifying their claims. Look for brands that have undergone third-party verification from reputable organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade USA.

Red Flag #5: Inconsistent Brand Values and Practices

Brands that say one thing and do another may also be greenwashing. If a brand claims to be eco-friendly but doesn't have any tangible efforts in place, like reducing waste or packaging, be wary.

Another red flag to look out for is when a brand's values and practices are inconsistent. For example, a brand may claim to be environmentally conscious but have a history of violating environmental regulations or using harmful chemicals in their products. It's important to do your research and look beyond a brand's marketing claims to ensure that their values and practices align with their environmental claims.

Red Flag #6: Non-Recyclable, Excessive, or Wasteful Packaging

Brands that use excessive packaging or non-recyclable materials may also be greenwashing. Sustainable brands should prioritize recyclable, compostable, or renewable packaging materials.

Additionally, some brands may use misleading labeling on their packaging to make it seem more eco-friendly than it actually is. For example, a product labeled as "biodegradable" may only break down in specific conditions that are not present in most landfills. It's important to do research and look for certifications from reputable organizations to ensure that a brand's packaging truly aligns with sustainable practices.

Red Flag #7: Minimal Efforts to Reduce Carbon Footprint

Brands that have not made tangible steps to reduce their carbon footprint may also be greenwashing. Look for brands that practice responsible manufacturing practices, like using renewable energy sources or making efforts to measure and offset their carbon emissions.

One way to identify if a brand is making minimal efforts to reduce their carbon footprint is by checking if they have any sustainability certifications. These certifications can indicate that the brand has met certain environmental standards and is committed to reducing their impact on the planet.

Another red flag to watch out for is if a brand only focuses on one aspect of sustainability, such as using recycled materials, but neglects other important areas like reducing water usage or minimizing waste. A truly sustainable brand should have a comprehensive approach to sustainability and be transparent about their efforts in all areas.

The Importance of Supporting Truly Sustainable Makeup Brands

It’s essential to support genuine sustainable beauty brands. By doing so, you promote the practices of eco-friendly manufacturing. That said, making sure that they are certified by a trustworthy certification body before choosing your next purchase can go a long way in helping you support the right brands.

One of the benefits of supporting truly sustainable makeup brands is that they often use natural and organic ingredients. These ingredients are not only better for the environment, but they are also better for your skin. Natural ingredients are less likely to cause irritation or allergic reactions, making them a great choice for those with sensitive skin.

Another reason to support sustainable makeup brands is that they often have a smaller carbon footprint. These brands prioritize reducing waste and using renewable energy sources, which can significantly reduce their impact on the environment. By supporting these brands, you are helping to reduce the overall environmental impact of the beauty industry.

Alternatives to Greenwashed Natural Makeup Brands

Fortunately, many sustainable beauty brands prioritize values like transparency, environmental responsibility, and sustainability. These are the core characteristics of a genuinely eco-friendly product. Researching and supporting such brands will guarantee that you are making the right choice with your purchase.

Some of the best sustainable beauty brands include:

  • Beautycounter
  • Ilia Beauty
  • Kjaer Weis
  • RMS Beauty
  • W3LL People

These brands use natural and organic ingredients, avoid harmful chemicals, and prioritize sustainable packaging. By choosing to support these brands, you can feel confident that you are making a positive impact on both your health and the environment.

Tips for Making the Switch to Ethical and Sustainable Beauty Products

Switching to sustainable beauty products requires some careful considerations and important decision-making. Do your research by looking for brands with a proven track record of ethical practices and sustainable values. Also, ask yourself if the sustainability claims of any product align with your values first before making the purchase. An easy transition is to start with the products that you use daily, like skincare or makeup, and slowly integrating more sustainable products.

Another important factor to consider when making the switch to ethical and sustainable beauty products is the packaging. Look for products that use recyclable or biodegradable packaging materials, or even better, brands that offer refillable options. This not only reduces waste but also helps to minimize the environmental impact of the beauty industry. Additionally, consider supporting local and small businesses that prioritize sustainability and ethical practices in their production processes. By making conscious choices, we can all contribute to a more sustainable and ethical beauty industry.

How Consumers Can Hold Natural Makeup Brands Accountable for Greenwashing

As consumers, we have the power to hold natural makeup brands accountable for their actions. Always research products before purchasing, demand transparency, and support only brands that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. Leave honest feedback on social media and other platforms to help other consumers decide.

Another way to hold natural makeup brands accountable for greenwashing is to look for third-party certifications. Certifications such as USDA Organic, Ecocert, and Leaping Bunny indicate that a product has been independently verified to meet certain environmental and ethical standards.

Additionally, consumers can also consider making their own natural makeup products at home. This not only ensures that the ingredients are truly natural and sustainable, but it also reduces packaging waste and supports a more DIY approach to beauty. There are many online resources and tutorials available for making your own natural makeup, from lip balms to eyeshadows.

The Future of Ethical and Sustainable Beauty in the Makeup Industry

The makeup industry has a moral obligation to support sustainability and ethical practices, from supply chains to manufacturing and circulation. Embracing sustainability requires significant commitment, and it will take time to achieve. However, with time, ethical and sustainable operations will undoubtedly become the norm, making greenwashing nothing more than an insulting relic of the past.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the impact their purchasing decisions have on the environment and society. As a result, they are demanding more transparency and accountability from the makeup industry. Brands that prioritize ethical and sustainable practices will have a competitive advantage in the market, as consumers are willing to pay a premium for products that align with their values. In the future, we can expect to see more innovative and sustainable solutions, such as refillable packaging and biodegradable ingredients, as the makeup industry continues to evolve towards a more sustainable future.


This article has revealed the seven red flags of greenwashing, shed light on why it's a big issue in the makeup industry, and offered tips for detecting such practices in natural makeup brands. By being responsible with our purchasing choices, we can help inculcate eco-friendly operations and move towards a greener economy.

It is important to note that greenwashing is not limited to the makeup industry. Many companies across various industries use misleading marketing tactics to appear environmentally friendly. As consumers, it is our responsibility to do our research and hold companies accountable for their actions. By supporting truly sustainable and eco-friendly brands, we can make a positive impact on the environment and encourage others to do the same.

© Brave in Bloom, 2023