an open letter to “green beauty”

whew. okay, i’ve had this written since july 2020 and never pressed “published” out of fear. here it goes.

disclaimer: this is my opinion, not fact. i am not perfect – i am or have been guilty of everything i discuss. this is vulnerability, and i am open to hearing different sides and learning.

dear green beauty –

i’m writing because i love you and care about you… and because i’m disappointed. disappointed not just in you, but in myself. the green beauty community of 10 years ago is nothing like it is now, and i see the good and the bad in that. change and flexibility are important, but i’m disappointed that we’re falling short of what i think we could be.

the good? the sense of community, the push to be educated consumers, the creativity explored, the knowledge shared, the acceptance and vulnerability.

the bad? the fear-mongering, the inaccessibility, the gate-keeping, the misleading and over-the-top marketing tactics.

how did we get here?

from many converging paths, surely. everything from fear-mongering bloggers, like me, to money-grubbing businesses who saw fear-based vulnerability as opportunity.

so let’s lay it out.

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  1. fear-mongering

    let me first say – i did this and i’m not proud. i started this very blog because i bought into the fear-mongering so hard that i actively pushed it out to literally thousands of others. it’s toxic and problematic. once upon a time, i really thought using dove was definitely going to increase my risk for cancer and i needed to stop shampooing my hair. before anyone gets upset or confused – please stop for a second and hear me out. i am not saying no-‘poo is wrong or less-than – i personally don’t use conventional shampoo and don’t see myself ever doing so, but let me be clear that it’s because my scalp does so much better now and i really enjoy herbal-infused products. it doesn’t mean that someone that doesn’t like herbal-infused products is the enemy or is wrong.

    plenty of people see true beneficial results from switching to “green” products, including myself. i personally don’t see myself returning to “conventional” products. but you? keep doing what is working for you and your family! know that “going green” doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s okay. that being said, if anyone ever wants to try out a “crunchy” formula with me, i’ll be here.

    the other side of this is fear-mongering to the point you’re telling consumers untrue things that is putting their health at risk. my biggest complaint with the green beauty industry here is preservatives. preservatives are outright demonized to the point we have businesses formulating without them, resulting in consumers receiving nasty petri dish products. personally, i’ve seen two companies insist that they’ve “preserved” products containing water with *honey*. that’s not only false, it’s dangerous. i get on a soapbox about this topic HERE, if you’re interested.

  2. inaccessibility

    there are so many ways this impacts green beauty. for one, so much emphasis is put on “sexy” and trendy ingredient lists, which ultimately can drive prices sky-high. why has everything become a “luxury” item and experience? sure, luxury has always had a place and always will; that’s fine. but since when is that the standard? second, we have all seen the exorbitant price tags that don’t match sourcing, fair wages, or formulations. yes, there is a really nice-looking shea butter blue balm that’s been claimed as basically an entire life-changing experience, but i promise you it’s not worth $180 for 50 mL. again, luxury has a place, but why are we ignoring everyone we’ve excluded in doing this? this isn’t to shame those that have the privilege of enjoying luxury items – enjoy your products.

    my point here is green beauty has swung so far sideways from its original humble inception that it’s no longer widely accessible to the masses. is that fair? is this acceptable? i personally don’t think so. where are the accessible options? why is this now so exclusionary? speaking of being exclusionary, this tangentially leads me into my next point.

  3. inclusion (lack thereof)

    we can’t ignore the lack of BIPOC presence in the green beauty space. we can’t ignore the deep-rooted colonialism wearing a “unique ingredient” mask (at best). sure, many companies are finally taking action and many people are finally making space for those important voices to be heard, but we have a lot of work to do. green beauty has somehow become white women marketing to white women and we can absolutely do better. we need to do better. if you have no idea where to start, i’ve posted a non-exhaustive list of companies to support here. please add more in the comments and i’ll update as needed.

    another aspect of a lack of inclusion is gate-keeping of knowledge. this is more prolific in the herbalist community, but with so many overlaps between herbalism and green beauty, i thought it important to acknowledge. learning how to formulate and create safely isn’t some top classified secret to be kept. learning which herbs can help for certain things and which to avoid shouldn’t be an opportunity to money gouge and withhold valuable and helpful information. and this doesn’t even touch how this is yet another form of colonization, by the way. while i’ve tried to help by posting all my formulas and reference articles for free with 0 affiliates or sponsors, there’s more work to be done.

  4. problematic marketing

    let’s keep this two-fold for now: one, misleading marketing; two, over-the-top marketing. let me explain.

    misleading marketing has many faces. it can be business owners parading as almighty sources of infinite knowledge and experience, of which in many cases they are not. it can also be businesses telling you that “clean” is better and then shaming you into redirecting your funds to them.

    secondly, the over-the-top marketing that has become the standard needs to go. the product descriptions dripping with superlatives that really mean nothing is, at best, smoke and mirrors. using a face mist can be lovely, sure; but it most certainly will not magically transport you to hawaii and cause you to hear the wind in the palm trees as the ocean laps in the distance. soap is freaking soap; it’s not a divine connection to the spiritual realm worth the price of weekly groceries.

  5. false sense of sustainability

    ok – this one is tricky since it’s intrinsically linked with current technologies, sourcing, climate conditions, etc., but my main issue is that green beauty is not inherently sustainable but it’s marketed as such. take for example that there are herbs that are not sustainable to harvest at the mass-production demand levels we have, like echinacea, chaga, or dragon’s blood resin. but it’s not just herbs – it’s product packaging and shipping, too. what, in my opinion, sucks the most is there are no real “sustainable” alternatives to cosmetic packaging that are widely available or accessible. with technological advances we can hold out confident hope there will be. so what can we and/or businesses do? reduce the impact. choose materials that are recycled and recyclable, for example. it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than inaction.

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so, my dear green beauty. i’ll leave this here. i’m keeping my butter balms and tinctures, but i’m walking away from the smoke and mirrors.

XO, ALEXRAYE

10 thoughts on “an open letter to “green beauty”

  1. Hi, love your blog! And this was well written, as someone who’s just transitioning to natural hair/skincare and healthy eating I’ve been seeing a lot of this out there, glad to see how conscious you are of it it makes me trust the work you put into this blog! I am curious about a few things if u don’t mind answering me, but I really love science and nutrition and am planning on changing my major, not sure what yet.. but just curious if you’d recommend going for a science degree and what could you do with it? I just see you don’t have any adds or affiliates so I’m wondering what do you do for a job? I get overwhelmed researching so I feel it’s best to reach out to people who have similar interests and got degrees.. anyway hope to hear back!

    1. Hi love! Thank you for the kind words. Sorry it took me so long to reply. Admittedly I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. I have a Master of Science but my main job is in the corporate world for a major airline. Now that I’m thinking about it, almost no one I know works in the typical areas their degrees were for, so I don’t really have great guidance haha. Life, right?! But from looking back on life so far, I’d say absolutely study what you love but unless you’re set on doing that forever, make your degree a little less super specific so you have more room to make career changes in 10, 15, 20 years. What else interests you outside of nutrition? There’s so much out there ❤

  2. You echoed all my sentiments in this industry dear. It can be exhausting sometimes sincerely. It’s like fear mongering over facts. I think the key note for upcoming Brands in the industry is really to carve out your space and stay true to yourself

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