By Darrell Owens
Founder and Formulator of Your Best Face Skincare
In my own line, when I look across the range of products I make, the natural ingredients I use (organic when I can source them)…and especially their concentrations, I become frustrated with green-marketed brands out there when I know I make better products with greener formulas than they do. As you know I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t built my 13-year-old brand around green hype…my focus has always been to make cutting-edge products with safe, effective ingredients, and I love natural options. Overall, I am highly frustrated with the majority of brands touting themselves as “Green Beauty.” I’m frustrated with them for two very different but important reasons.
Greenwashing & Safety Concerns
Many of these green brands create lovely products but often times they’re either green washing (only including a smattering of natural ingredients) or they’re not formulating around science — they’re formulating around hype, mystique and the hope that everyone is so afraid of an ingredient name they cannot pronounce (even if that ingredient is the scientific name for a specific, natural compound) so as to give themselves an edge in the marketplace.
They also quite often let marketing versus safety drive their formulation decisions and produce products which will not stand up against harmful fungus and bacteria — putting their customer at risk…all while riding the coat tails of preservative scares and decades-old misinformation.
Made-up Benefits Putting Skin at Risk
Something I see more and more of from green brands are product claims and statements that, again, are coming from a place of marketing and not science. Most notable of recent is seeing green brands claiming to provide “Botanical SPF” while violating FDA law and describing skin care cancer prevention benefits their products cannot deliver. Sadly these brands will go so far as to include ingredients (while sometimes natural) which will INCREASE skin’s sensitivity to UV damage, speed aging and increase the susceptibility of skin cancer.
So… I stay away from the hyped up terminology and just focus on making great products. I still use only natural preservatives where needed, I select and use containers that actively protect safety and effectiveness of my products, I favor natural ingredients and will always continue sourcing organic options where they make the best sense and improve overall quality. There are brands which genuinely center everything they do around green formulas and kudos to them if they’re thriving, because I suspect they’re more frustrated than me as every day they’re competing with brands making the same claims as them but with nothing to back it up…and worse, giving green beauty a bad rap. I’m personally glad I make formulation decisions based on my love for natural ingredients, but I’m also glad I don’t play in the space and market myself around the green beauty term because right now it has become convoluted and seems to be constantly struggling with credibility among consumers and the FDA.
The industry as a whole plays on fears…even at its core, beauty products exist more or less because of our fear of aging. So, it doesn’t take much of a leap for a brand to develop a marketing strategy that plays into fears of the unknown, fear of chemicals, etc. Every brand at some point has to cast itself in a way that tells a story, connect at an emotional level with consumers and differentiate itself. Focusing a brand strategy around green beauty CAN be a low hanging fruit approach… it’s a strategy that is easy to sell, a story that’s easy to tell and often difficult to pin down what’s real versus fantasy. It’s also a strategy many small brands have embraced because it allows them to compete with mass-marketed, major national brands which tend to produce cheap, chemical-filled products that don’t necessarily deliver any discernible benefits.
When it gets things right, green beauty aims to fill a gap in the beauty industry — good, clean products that naturally deliver great benefits. Unfortunately, along the way that gap has been filled in by brands that either don’t know what they’re doing, don’t care, or just want an easy way to sell their products.
Special Guest Author Darrell Owens is the founder and formulator of Your Best Face Skincare, an artisanal anti-aging line that I’ve written about and praised before. Mr. Owens has taken the unique position of using copious natural actives and natural preservatives without specifically branding his line as green, and this is a conscious choice on his part. I was curious to get Mr. Owens’ thoughts on the limitations and pitfalls of green beauty, and he shared them with me and gave me permission to publish his viewpoint.