Greenwashed or Just Lighter Green? What’s the Difference? 🌳

Green beauty has been around for awhile now and as more and more people continue to jump on the safer choices bandwagon (and it’s a damn good bandwagon to be on!), more companies than ever are scrambling to offer their own greener choices in the hopes of cashing in on this ever growing trend.

And while there are many brands that truly do set out to make cleaner and greener products, some of these brands are nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, pretending to be clean and eco, when they are nothing of the sort.

These brands use certain buzz words or catch-phrases to lure newly green shoppers into their giant web of deceit, failing to deliver on any of their green beauty & eco-friendly promises, while laughing all the way to the bank. They get richer, while you still pollute your body and the environment with toxins. 😡

This, my friends, is called greenwashing.

What is greenwashing? Essentially, greenwashing is when “a company, government or other group promotes green-based environmental initiatives or images but actually operates in a way that is damaging to the environment or in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiatives. This can also include misleading customers about the environmental benefits of a product through misleading advertising and unsubstantiated claims “{source}.

In layman’s terms, it’s when a brand claims to be green and eco-friendly but the only things remotely green or eco about them are that they use a few botanicals in their products or don’t test on animals. They use popular green words like “recyclable packaging” or “cruelty-free” or “paraben free” to make their products desirable to those looking for safer options. Greenwashed brands both prey and rely on consumers ignorance of these tactics. And sadly, many people are duped because they either aren’t educated on ingredients (or what “green” encompasses) or marketing ploys or they just don’t have time (or the desire) to read labels thoroughly.

This is where bloggers like myself need to do our due diligence to help inform the less informed.

Now, with that being said, and this is where it gets a little bit tricky and a lot bit subjective….

The whole definition or idea of what “green” is tends to vary from person to person. I wrote a post last year about different shades of green (read it here), and after being a part of the green community for the past 4 years, I can say that there is no “one shade fits all” of green out there, but a wide variety.

Now, before this gets too confusing, greenwashing is NOT the same as say a “lighter green” brand or product. The lighter green brands are ones who truly strive to make a difference in both the environment and our health. And while they may not be “perfect”, they offer much safer and cleaner options than mainstream & greenwashed brands.

Some examples of “lighter green” but still green brands include: Seventh Generation, Pacifica, Tom’s of Maine, and Nature’s Gate. While some greenwashed examples are brands like Origins, Aveeno, Garnier, and Lush.

And while there seems to be a common belief that a brand is greenwashed based solely on ingredients, I disagree. I don’t think it’s fair to demonize a brand that is committed to using sustainable, environmentally friendly and ethical practices, but maybe has a few not so clean ingredients in some of their products. To me, that is NOT greenwashed, but rather lighter green. Especially if the majority of their ingredients are clean and natural & their mission and philosophy lines up with what being green is. I don’t think we as a green community should be attacking the brands trying to make a difference. I also think that by condemning brands like Nature’s Gate or Tom’s (who actually helped to pioneer green beauty back in the 70’s!), we’re sending a message to newcomers to the green lifestyle that they need to make “perfect” choices and that by choosing a brand like Seventh Generation or Pacifica they aren’t being “green enough”. And that’s not the message I personally want to send!

I believe that we need to be more supportive of all green brands, regardless of “shade” and that if they use ingredients that are questionable to call them out in a respectful, NON-condemning manner. We need to accept that not everyone is at the same level of green & that any choice a person makes that is safer than mainstream products is a step in the right direction.

We need to focus on the true deceivers – the ones that use pretty green words & marketing ploys but still use ugly business practices. The ones that do nothing to reduce their carbon footprint, the ones that still test on animals, still use cancer causing ingredients, that still pollute our environment. THOSE are the real greenwashers. And those are the brands to take aim at, to call out and get them to see the need to change.

Who’s with me?


Peace & love,

Brie xo


*This post is not intended to shame or offend anyone (except maybe the greenwashers), but rather to hopefully share a different perspective on a topic that is a hot spot for me. I am extremely passionate about green beauty & eco-living, and I personally strive to be as dark a shade of green as I can, though it’s not always possible. I don’t personally judge anyone else’s choices and I happily support ALL shades of green & applaud and encourage your decisions. 💚

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  1. Great post, Sabrina! I definitely think greenwashing can be really sketchy. On the one hand, though, I think it’s better to encourage brands to offer better choices (by voting with our dollars, so to speak) than it is to simply scare tactics people (not that you’re doing that, of course, just my thought). I think people in GB community can be such fear mongers, at times, and almost shame people who buy cheaper options or don’t know that a brand isn’t clean. There’s a better approach to helping people. That said, I do think marketing products as green when they’re not (like Neutrogena Naturals or some BS) is annoying and takes advantage of consumers. It’s good we can help educate others on this so we can all make better choices, things can become more available, and down the line, more affordable.

    • Thanks so much, Tianna! 🙂 This is definitely a tricky, albeit necessary topic to discuss & it can get a tad heated at times. I was actually inspired to write on it after a recent thread on GBI regarding greenwashing because I felt there were some brands being unfairly lumped into that category. I am all for holding GB brands ( & brands claiming to be) accountable for using unhealthy ingredients, but I think some people only look at ingredients and ignore every other aspect of the brand, you know? And it seems, like you mentioned that they tend to target the more affordable brands & that kind of pisses me off, because some people can’t afford the higher end (although much cleaner) brands. For me, I’d much rather see someone buying a Tom’s of Maine deodorant over Secret or Andalou Naturals over Garnier or Oil of Olay any day. In a perfect world, we’d all be able to afford the best of the best in GB, but until that day comes, if ever, all we can do is the best we can. Sorry, I get a wee worked up over this topic lol. I’m done now. 🙂 Thanks again for your input, I always value what you have to say.

      Brie xx

  2. I agree with you in some level but I feel the need for people to be informed that there are bad and good ingredients in both mainstream and green beauty brands. I use to be a 100% green beauty blogger than my skin dramatically changed and I became highly sensitive to many irritating plant ingredients as well as oils and essential oils plus not to mention green makeup which also contributed to my deteriorating skin health. I have had to visit well renounned dermatologist as well as naturopath and conducted my own research on whether all mainstream beauty products are truly harmful to our health or not. The answer I have found is our bodies do not have the capabilities to absorb ingredients from beauty products the same way when we consume or breath through our mouths. I just wish that green beauty companies will stop using fear tactics to get consumers to buy their products. There are also lots of biased based opinions that being spread around in the green beauty community and suddenly people turn on you if you disagree with them. I support green beauty but I just don’t support their political tactics. I know I am not well liked in the community anymore but that’s fine with me . I stand by what I believe.

    • Hi, Ophelia! I agree with you completely that consumers need to be informed on ingredients in all products they use, regardless of whether they are green or mainstream. My whole rant was geared at the green community for bashing brands that they feel aren’t “green enough”, which is just annoying and unnecessary. I’m sorry that you have been attacked in the gb community – sadly, there seems to be a lot of that going on lately. 🙁 I personally support anyone’s choices whether they are to be 100% “green” or just somewhat green – you do what you feel most comfortable with and what works for you. I actually had the opposite issue with my skin – the mainstream products were destroying it and the green products have turned it around. But, everyone is different. Just because a product contains essential oils or butters or whatever doesn’t mean it won’t cause issues for some people. I also agree with you on the fear mongering tactics…also annoying. I’m trying to be more mindful of my wording on certain things so I don’t come across that way and use my own personal experiences more. Because the last thing I want to do is make anyone feel like they are doing something “wrong”, you know? Keep standing by what you believe gorgeous! 🙂 ❤️

      Thanks again for reading & your comment!

      ~Brie xo

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