Let’s talk a little bit about brand trustworthiness and transparency..
The internet has had a massive effect on our ability to question and communicate issues with our beauty products.
Conventionally, this wasn’t always such an issue – before the rise of internet reviews, the natural beauty movement, and easily accessible research for ingredients (largely due to the rise of online beauty culture), honest marketing wasn’t a priority for most companies.
Once people began trusting the word of online beauty gurus and internet reviews, transparency became much more of a necessity.
Then, once again, companies found a way to get around this.
They began to pay individual beauty gurus and online beauty culture heads to advertise brands in the same way they used to market products via television.
Slowly, a multimillion-dollar industry grew around paid influencers (enter Instagram models and YouTube stars).
Greenwashing and false marketing began to grow again and is still making a rise today.
Now, in the midst of a second wave of the beauty industry’s lack of transparency, we are being forced to examine why brand reliability is important, and how the consumers can demand it of companies.
First Thing’s First: What Exactly is Greenwashing?
Before we get into brand transparency, it’s important to fully understand one of the main driving forces behind why this transparency is needed: greenwashing.
Organic, all-natural products tend to sell very quickly. When a brand identifies itself as being a natural, non-chemically based beauty brand, it can raise the price of its products.
It can create entire marketing campaigns based around clean beauty and environmentalism.
Really, greenwashing isn’t a difficult thing for many companies to do – the guidelines laid out for what constitutes a natural beauty product are so broad that they almost don’t even exist (in many cases, a company will have only one natural beauty ingredient and call itself a natural product).
Formally, greenwashing is a term that refers to a non-natural or non-ethical company branding and marketing itself as such.
This process not only is deceptive to the consumer – it also drastically invalidates companies that aim to produce and sell natural ingredients by diluting their message and making them seem untrustworthy.
Transparency as a Means to Combat Greenwashing
Often, when you see an all-natural brand trying its best to ensure that it remains trustworthy and transparent, you can take it as a sign to mean they aren’t greenwashing.
These brands will usually advertise their ingredients, discuss their active ingredients (as well as what they do), and disclose any shortcomings they plan on fixing.
A general rule of thumb to remember when you’re trying to detect greenwashing is this: if it sounds too good to be true, it just might be.
Transparent companies will let you decide for yourself how amazing their product is by letting the product speak for itself (instead of creating overblown marketing campaigns with pictures of the mountaintops to hide the fact that the company uses parabens and tests on animals).
They will make sure you know exactly what you’re buying before you buy it.
Knowing Your Ingredients
Nobody wants to spend their hard-earned money on a product marketed to them via false advertising campaigns and half-truths.
Even if greenwashing was completely eliminated from the beauty industry, people would still want to know what they’re buying and how it would impact them.
For many companies, non-transparency is merely an attempt to make money.
However, there is little thought that goes into the experience and aftermath for those who are actually using the product.
Those who buy products from all-natural companies may be doing so for many potential reasons – they may want to clean up the environment, they may want to end animal cruelty, they may be vegan – and to deceive these people, thus forcing them to unknowingly violate their own commitments to a natural lifestyle, is insulting and wrong.
Even worse, people might be actively trying to avoid harsh chemicals and find more gentle products for potentially sensitive skin.
When brands aren’t transparent, their mistakes can cost those particular consumers weeks of repairing skin reactions, inflammation, and irritation.
By creating an information barrier, companies are hurting their consumers and, largely, getting away with it.
Another point – albeit mostly annoying rather than extremely harmful – is the influencer-driven problem of identifying false results from beauty products.
In this day and age, many people have bought at least one beauty product online thinking it would achieve a different result than it actually did.
In skincare, it isn’t uncommon for people to see advertisements for moisturizing products in the form of rave “reviews” from paid influencers.
When bought, however, those products will crease, dry out, and create results that aren’t even worth half the money you spent during the transaction.
Thanks to apps like Facetune and the ability of social media stars to heavily filter images, cosmetic transparency may be one of the most important elements of transparency for the digital age.
Saying No to Dishonest Brands and Supporting Brand Transparency
Fortunately, there is an end in sight to the fight to maintain transparency – it all begins with the consumers.
People have the ability to seek out transparency by vetting companies and doing individual research without succumbing to the marketing tactics of influencer culture.
It’s important to add that, although this article heavily condemns the negative effects of influencer culture, it isn’t always such a bad thing – influencers can be extremely helpful for natural, up-and-coming brands to market themselves.
However, when paid by the wrong companies, any marketing tactic can be harmful in its own way.
That’s why it’s important to support brands that have commitments to transparency and maintain natural, ethical business practices to bring their products to you.
Each person has the ability to vote with their wallets in favour of natural brands and to say no to the companies that utilize greenwashing and false advertising as marketing ploys.
Together, we can create an ethical beauty industry culture that normalizes transparency and natural ingredients.
Once we do that, companies can focus on what they should be doing: creating the best product possible that suits your cosmetic needs effectively!