Here at Beauty Lies Truth we're all about exposing the lies swirling around the beauty industry. After all this is a #beautybullshit free zone! Greg Starkman of Innersense is a #truthbeauty champion and he's back, this time to teach us how to become smarter and more discriminating consumers. We're thrilled to share his insights on cosmetic labeling and just how tricky it can be to buy the safest products. Xoxo Alexis
Discover the Truth in Cosmetic Labeling; What “Free-of” Really Means
By Greg Starkman, Owner of Innersense Organic Beauty
When watching a magician perform a trick, it always provides some entertainment while also capturing and keeping your attention. It’s the “sleight of hand”, the set of techniques used by a magician to create an illusion. People are truly fascinated by the illusion created with any good magic trick because it’s the seemingly impossible feat made real right before their eyes. It’s also this same illusion that creates an impression leading one to believe something as true yet it is actually the opposite: false.
Good marketing is like a good magic trick. It’s influencing the consumer to believe in a claim through influential wording, imagery and packaging. When reading a package label disclosed with, “made with 100% natural ingredients”, one assumes the product is 100% natural. Not the case, as with the magician’s “sleight of hand”, or in this case, “sleight of words”. This misrepresentation is a big problem as it misleads consumers. It’s also an opportunity for consumers to educate themselves by learning to read between the lines and discover what they are truly reading. Here are three beauty industry secrets to help you discover the truth in cosmetic labeling:
1. Play on Words:
As the demand for environmental friendly and healthier products grows, marketers are working overtime to attract consumers through “sleight of hand” wording. We are now seeing personal care products making “free of” claims such as “free of sulfates”, “free of parabens” and “free of harsh ingredients”. These words and descriptions give the impression such a product is toxin-free, clean, safe and all natural. While I appreciate the efforts of these companies to remove toxic ingredients, they do not go far enough. At closer inspection, you will see these products are using petro chemical compounds, resins, silicones and plastics. Your will also see PEG's, MEA's, DEA's and TEA's. These ingredients function as surfactants which are foam boosters and viscosity thickeners. All of these ingredients contain toxic impurities, such as ethylene oxide and 1,4-dioxane.
2. Play on Companion Products:
Although I would like to call out products specifically, our attorney will not let me. Here is a perfect example of marketing “sleight of hand”. As you can see this shampoo label is marked as “silicon free” and the accompanying conditioner label is marked as “sulfate-free”. Can you assume both of these products are “silicon free” and “sulfate-free”? This is where the “sleight of hand” comes in. When reading the ingredients list on the shampoo label, sulfates are listed! And, when reading the ingredients of the conditioner, silicones are listed. Now for all intents and purposes, the manufacturer has not lied. It has skillfully used words with companion products to give the impression of a healthier, natural product.
3. Consumer Trust
Another marketing “sleight of hand” example includes the back panel of this package label. This product is marked as “sulfate-free”, “paraben-free”, “vegan” and “sustainable”. All these words describe a product in demand by the consumer, and leaves the impression the product is all natural, clean and safe. However, note the 4th through 6th ingredients are silicons and polyquaternium (PolyQuats), which are petrochemical ingredients. The manufacturer of this product relies on consumer trust to take their marketing words as truth. Consumers have an opportunity to ask themselves a very important question: Why purchase a product that makes a “free of” claim yet still continues to use toxic ingredients that are known pathogens and carcinogens, and is also harmful to the environment?
Marketers count on consumers to skip the fine print. With fast-paced lifestyles, we are programmed to scan key points and trust the rest of the product based on that key-point scan. However, these keys points don’t always giving us an accurate, full picture. It’s “the rest” that takes extra effort to investigate, whether it’s reading the fine print, or having the education and knowledge to decode the marketing label.
Without stricter regulation of the beauty and cosmetic industry, consumers today need to be their own advocates. Remember these old adages, “if it looks too good to be true, it is”, and “knowledge is power.” There are many things you can do to make a difference in the beauty and cosmetic industry. We encourage consumers to use online and cell phone app resources such as the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and their Skin Deep database, and the Think Dirty App. Another resource includes company websites. They should be providing detailed ingredient information to help consumers like you make better and informed purchase decisions. Ultimately you vote with your dollars; companies will manufacture products where consumer demand exists. When you make educated, thorough and informed product choices, you’re helping to improve the beauty and cosmetic industry not only for yourself, but also for the environment and future generations.
Greg Starkman is co-founder and owner of Innersense Organic Beauty, which manufactures organic, toxin-free, cruelty-free and sustainably sourced hair care and skin care products. To help consumers make informed choices, all ingredients are fully disclosed on Innersense Organic Beauty product labels. His unwavering commitment to the integrity of Innersense products and company culture is a reflection of his own personal values.
Innersense Organic Beauty is a proud Certified Green Company and Compact Signor of both Safe Cosmetics & Truth in Labeling Acts, Member of the Organic Trade Association and Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC, which maintains a commitment to social and environmental sustainability). Learn more about Innersense Organic Beauty by visiting their website at www.innersensebeauty.com