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April 30, 2021 7 min read

We are certainly green and hope that you are, too!  (If not, you will soon be!)

At ANTIDOTE, we aren’t just going green, we were born this way!  We are thrilled that personal health and wellness have become increasingly important to everyone - now more than ever.   

As consumers have become more ingredient savvy and more aware of the damage that what we use in our shower can have on the planet, companies have been faced with a choice: adapt or fade away like a bad dye job. 

When it comes to beauty, people are beginning to understand the relationship between the products we use and how we look and feel. Beautiful hair starts with a healthy scalp, but most traditional hair products out there are at odds with this truth. 

So what does it really mean to go green as a consumer in the hair industry? Why does it matter? Which companies are genuinely using best practices and which ones are hiding behind buzzwords like “botanical essences?” 

In this article we’ll unpack what green beauty is and what it’s not, and teach you to develop an eye for the products that will actually help you go green.

What Is Green Beauty?

Here at ANTIDOTE, we’re guided by the idea that what’s good for the environment is also good for you. Green beauty is a movement that has injected sustainable, earth-friendly practices and ingredients into the products that we put on our bodies and in our hair.

It’s an approach to taking care of yourself and looking good without damaging your health or the environment.

Green beauty today is inspired by ancient practices. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine practices reflect this sentiment that we are connected to the planet we live on. Native American people have lived harmoniously with the environment for thousands of years. 

So why now? What’s driving this trend? 

The Trend Towards Sustainability

Sustainability wasn’t always as popular as it is today, but it sure has been gaining traction lately.

Whether it was the outcry over animal testing, new ways of packaging and water use, or understanding gender, the beauty industry has been challenged to evolve in many ways over the years. 

Today, toxic ingredients and environmental impact are hot topics. It’s empowering to invest in companies that aren’t hurting the earth, and the more we know, the smarter consumers we can be. 

An article recently published in the Washington Post notes that the green beauty movement started to really gain traction in the early 2000s when the word “clean” started popping up in skin-care line advertising.

The shift away from words like “natural” and toward “clean” triggered more scrutiny from consumers, and slowly ingredients like sulfates and silicones began to score bad reputations.

When it comes to regulation of ingredients, the US is lagging. In 2003, the EU banned chemicals that cause cancer and birth defects. Today they’ve banned around 1,300 chemicals from cosmetic use, while the US has placed restrictions on a mere 11.

Why Green Beauty Matters For You

Over 60% of what you put on your skin gets absorbed into your body. Because the US doesn’t regulate most of the ingredients that the beauty industry uses, it’s up to us to stay informed.

It’s up to us to choose who we give our money to.

It’s up to us to advocate for our health.

The benefits of going green are plenty, but here are just a few. 

  • Reduced exposure to toxic ingredients
  • Lower chance of irritated skin
  • Less build-up on your scalp
  • Supporting low impact businesses
  • Greater awareness of the cosmetic and medicinal uses of different plants
  • Reduce water pollution

As consumers, we have power. How and where we shop has an impact on the health of the planet, and therefore our own health as well.  

Let’s look at some statistics from the NPD Group and Mintel that give us a sense of where we are in how we view clean products today.

  • 45% of people actively seek organic ingredients
  • 30% will not buy a product containing sulfates
  • 42% say that “green” products are better for the environment
  • 32% say that products give them general peace of mind

People are certainly beginning to get privy to what’s good for them and what’s not. At ANTIDOTE, we want to be a part of your process as you continue to learn and empower yourself.

Since there aren’t federally regulated standards for going green in the beauty industry, we’ve compiled a list of qualities that you’ll find in products that meet our personal standards. And we’ve compared them to characteristics of traditional products so you can train your eye.

How To Tell If Your Products Are Actually Green

Use this list to help you develop an eye for which products really mean it when they claim to be “green.” 

  1. Foam (good) vs. Bubbles (bad)

Traditional products use sulfate cleansers that bubble up when they come into contact with water. Bubbles are fun, but these sulfates are used in dish detergent. 

They completely strip your hair and scalp of all it’s moisture. According to studies collected by Healthline, "The highest risk of using products with SLS and SLES is irritation to your eyes, skin, mouth, and lungs. For people with sensitive skin, sulfates may also clog pores and cause acne."

“Green” products use gentler, non-sulfate cleansers that foam up when put into contact with water, but don’t create bubbles. So you get a clean scalp without sacrificing all of those beneficial oils. 

  1. Natural oils (good) vs. Silicones (bad)

 The natural oils used in green products mimic the natural oils that our bodies produce for healthy hair. Natural oils penetrate deep into the hair to restore strength, flexibility, and shine. It takes time for the hair to absorb these healthy oils.  Check out our recent post on the best oils for scalp and hair.

Traditional products use silicones to add instant volume and shine. But the result is dry, weak hair that’s prone to breakage. The silicones sit on top of the hair, suffocating it and preventing it from absorbing any oils. 

All things in moderation are okay, but you don’t want to use products with silicones in the long term. 

  1. Safe Preservatives (good) vs. Formaldehyde-Releasing Preservatives (bad)

A common misconception is that any product with preservatives is bad for you. That’s not true. 

Any product that contains water requires a preservative. However, green products use gentler preservatives that are proven to be less irritating. Vitamin E and Grapefruit Peel Oil, for example, help to preserve formulas while also being good for your skin and hair. 

The controversy lies in the use of formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. Some studies have linked the use of these preservatives in cosmetics to cancer and allergic reactions.Canada has restricted the use of them, and the EU requires any product to clearly label “contains formaldehyde.” 

So don’t be afraid of preservatives, just know which ones have proven to be safer. 

  1. Shorter shelf life (good) vs. Long shelf life (bad)

 Because green products use gentler preservatives, their shelf life tends to be shorter. This is okay. If you find a product that has a longer shelf life, it may be because it contains formaldehyde-releasing preservatives. 

  1. Straightforward Labels (good) vs. Buzzwords (bad)

 Don’t be fooled by buzzwords. Because of the lack of regulation, anyone can pretty much say anything when it comes to beauty products. If it says “made with lavender,” it may contain just a dash of lavender and a ton of other toxic ingredients. 

But all you have to do is read the label and see for yourself. 

Another great way to get an idea of the company's environmental thoughtfulness is to check out their website. Do they proudly display their ingredients on their website? If they do, that’s probably because they’ve worked hard to source safe, sustainable ingredients. 

Other buzzwords that all anyone is free to use regardless of certification or industry standards are:

  • Organic 
  • Eco-Friendly
  • Nontoxic
  • Fragrance-Free
  • Natural
  • Green
  • Clea
  1. A Word On Price Differences

Natural ingredients are more expensive and harder to work with. They cost more than traditional ingredients, so the products are going to cost more too. 

On average, green products cost about 25% more. It’s up to you to decide what the value of the cost is. For us, we look at buying green products - in any area of our lives - as an investment in our health, our environment, and in our future.  For us it's a "pay now" or "pay later" choice.

How To Go Green With Your Hair Routine Right Now

Green hair care products can be a little hard to find. That’s because their companies represent about 10% of the total market. 

The good news is that there are ways to make finding them easier. Here are some ways you can find all the best and safest products. 

No matter the brand you choose, when you become a consumer of clean beauty products, or when you choose to carry green products in your salon, you join a community of environmental advocates. We know that change starts with us, and that the choices we make every day can be a form of fighting for the kind of world we want to live in. 

What does going green mean to you? What are some small changes in your life that you’d like to make?

We’d love to hear from you.

Leave us a comment below! 

Abigail + David

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