Lucky for us, there are groups out there that are working to help consumers discern "green lite" ads. The Environmental Working Group is an organization that uses the power of public information to protect public health and the environment. One of its projects is a safety guide to cosmetics and personal care products. Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database allows users to see which body products are safe (or unsafe) to use. The system pairs ingredients in more than 25,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind. It's pretty scary to look up the soap or makeup you use everyday to see which chemicals are in them and what their possible effects are.
Let's take a look at an example of a "green lite" ad: Physicians Formula Organic Wear Makeup. According to the ad, the makeup promises the following: the first 100% Natural Origin Makeup formulated with certified organic ingredients; 100% free of harsh chemicals, synthetic preservatives and parabens; contains EcoBlend, featuring OrganiSoy and Eco-Olive; and Eco-Conscious packaging. The model appears to be completely one with nature--so much so that she's turned into a plant! Meanwhile, the question: "How green is your makeup?" sits at the very top of the ad.
According to Skin Deep, Physicians Formula Organic Wear Natural Origin Tinted Moisturizer, Fair to Light Organics, SPF 15 scored a 3 out of ten (moderate hazard). That's pretty good, especially compared to products like Revlon's New Complexion One Step Compact Makeup SPF 15 in Carmel color that scored a 7. The database found 32% of foundations with lower concerns and 26% of sunscreens spf 15 and above with lower concerns than the Physicians Formula product. Furthermore, ingredients in this product are linked to the following: cancer; developmental/reproductive toxicity; violations, restrictions and warnings; and other concerns for ingredients used.
While the ad may not be a lie entirely, it certainly portrays the image of being the first (and hence, most) environmentally healthy makeup. And according to Skin Deep, that's stretching it. But isn't that how advertising usually goes? It's good to pay attention to environmentally healthy products, but it's important to keep an objective eye and to double-check the integrity of its claims.