September 30, 2013

burt’s bees & origins: a dirty little secret

burts bees and origins

Hello blushers! Tomorrow is the start of breast cancer awareness month and because I take the boob health of all my blushers very seriously I wanted to turn a spotlight on two brands that don’t seem to – burt’s bees and origins.

burt’s bees:

Despite being acquired by Clorox in 2007, burt’s bees continues to stand behind their brand position as a 100% natural company who will ‘never compromise what is best for your experience and well-being, and will always be true to what we define as natural’ … did you catch that loophole? What “we define as natural”.

here’s the issue: In 2012 the FDA reviewed 400 lipsticks to test for levels of lead – keep in mind that the acceptable level of lead in water is zero – and found up to 7.19 parts per million (ppm) in the samples tested. Usual suspects like Maybelline, L’oreal, Revlon, and Cover Girl were no surprise, but burt’s bees lip shimmer was. It was amongst the 20 worst offenders with 2.81 ppm.



amy poehler

Well sh*t…


origins was estee lauder’s answer to the strong demand for natural products back in the 1990’s. Their approach was to position the brand as one that is “powered by nature. proven by science”, and their brand promise to ‘ingredient purity’ was to formulate products with “natural and certified organic ingredients. And formulated without parabens, phthalates, propylene glycol, mineral oil, PABA, petrolatum, paraffin, DEA and animal ingredients”.

don't have time for lies

here’s the issue: it’s a green washed brand. Yes, they’ve removed a lot of the harmful toxins included in the mainstream brands, but my issue is that they’ve removed the buzz word toxins like “parabens” and “phthalates” and continue to use ingredients like methylisothiazolinone -an ingredient so toxic that Canada has banned its use in cosmetics and the EWG listed “biochemical or cellular level changes, endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, cancer” amongst its concerns for this brand.

A 2002 and 2006 study published in The Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and The Journal of Neuroscience respectively, even showed in vitro neurotoxicity and that chronic exposure had toxic effects on neuron cultures.

Paula Begoun, author of Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me, had this to say about the brand:

Almost every skin-care product contains potent irritating ingredients that have no established benefit for skin; no products to address needs of those with acne or skin discolorations; no AHA or BHA products; although sunscreens provide the right UVA-protecting ingredients, they also contain irritating ingredients, some of which are phototoxic; the foundations contain irritating ingredients, as do most of the lip color products;

But what has disappointed me the most is that Dr. Andrew Weil, a world-renowned leader on holistic health, has lent his name and image to this brand. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that clever marketing tactic made me want to throw my hands in the air and yell

martin freeman

Vote with your dollars blushers, and the change you want to see in the marketplace will happen.

  • Susann

    very interesting..

  • Ana

    The visuals in this are very funny although let’s be honest it is a very serious topic, I don’t use origins and Burt’s bees is a brand that I would only use occasionally and selected products. There are so many issues when it comes to green washing, I still often find that despite much research before buying or accepting a sample sometimes there are brands which have controversial ingredients I look at each one case by case and weigh up if there are other brands that I like more and have cleaner ingredients. Xx

    • Hi Ana
      I agree this is a very serious topic, one of which has particular importance for me, however I’m the kind of person who likes to make a point through the use of humour – without taking away from the overall message of course. I work in marketing and have spent years feeling frustrated at these blatant lies, but now -to me- it’s laughable. With access to so much information consumers are wiser than ever before and are not as easily fooled by marketing buzz words like “natural” and “from the earth”. That’s why I always say to vote with your dollars – companies are fueled by profit and it’s my hope that eventually they will get the message – and not the message to green wash. Like you, before I buy or try anything I research every single ingredient – I work too hard to throw away my money on false advertising.

      Thanks so much for reading and saying hello! xo

  • Caitlin

    Great blog post! Very informative!

  • Margie

    How discouraging that these companies get away with putting everyone at risk by using carcinogens in their products while misleading us with “natural” claims. I stopped using Burt’s Bees some time ago, good thing!!
    Well researched post showing us how important it is to do our own research on all personal care products.
    Ps… it’s a pet peeve of mine that cosmetic companies have jumped on the pink ribbon bandwagon while they are guilty of pushing the very toxins that can contribute to causing breast cancer.