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Are Yves Rocher telling the truth?

Are Yves Rocher telling the truth? Are we being Greenwashed?
*Updated 31.07.12 - Yves Rocher have been stripped of the leaping bunny logo*

A while ago I was approached by someone representing the brand Yves Rocher. "I thought you might be just the person to work with as I can see that you are interested in natural and free from products - Yves Rocher have a wide range of organic and natural products and pride themselves on their botanical ethos". You're probably familiar with the brand name as it is successful in Europe and USA. Sadly, they fail to list full ingredients on their website so I asked for clarification on the following.

Do you have Vegetarian or Vegan approval? What is your policy on Animal Testing? I was wondering what your ingredients policy is? For example, do your products contain any of the ingredients listed below: Sodium Lauryl Sulphate (SLS), Sodium Laureth Sulphate (SLES), Parabens, Mineral oil and petroleum derived ingredients, Polyethylene Glycol (PEG), Artificial Fragrance or Parfum, DEA or TEA (di- or tri-ethanolamine), Formaldehyde (Formalin/ formal and methyl aldehyde DMDM Hydantoin and Urea-Imidazolidinyl), Triclosan, Phthalates (DBP/DMP/DEP) and Lanolin 

I have been waiting for a reply and completely forgot about it until this week when an email finally arrived. The following has been copied straight from the email so if the grammar looks out of place the writer have translated French to English.

"According to the European directive, "products launched on the cosmetic market cannot damage the human health when they are applied in normal or predictable conditions of use". We study all the raw materials entering into our products composition and we realise series of tests on our finished products before their launch on the market. These tests are realised on cell cultures then on human volunteers to confirm that these products are tolerated well. Moreover, our products are no more tested on animals since 1989. 

All our products are conceived from plants directly: we select among more than 1,100 ingredients from plants origins that are studied by our laboratories, each best adapted to the specific cosmetic profits of every product, while defining their just concentration. Also, we always give priority to components from natural origins in our formulas, as long as the efficiency and specifically the safety - of these natural materials are guaranteed. In case they were not entirely guaranteed, we prefer using synthesis ingredients. Finally, we do not use neither aldehyde, triclosan nor lanolin in the formulation of our products. Only two of our products still contain Diethylphtalate used for alcohol distorting: those products are Eau de toilette Plaisirs Nature flavour "raspberry" and the Perfumed Deodorant of the So Elixir Purple perfume (launch 09/2012)" 

I'm not completely against synthetic ingredients as they can serve a purpose like preservation but I would still like to know what they are. I decide to do further research and the EWG database came up making for interesting reading. If you are not familiar with EWG Skin Deep it's a resource you can use to search ingredients or products, if listed you can gather information on potential hazards or health concerns. Straight away I can see that parabens, mineral oil and parfum are listed ingredients for the brand. I found a blog post by Skincare Junky reviewing one product which contained several ingredients that I choose to avoid (Ethylparaben, Propylparaben, Butylparaben, Methylparaben, Alcohol Denat, Urea, Parfum).

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate how important it is to read labels and understand ingredients. When you can't physically get hold of a product then I would urge you to search online, then make contact with the brand to ask questions. From personal experience, a brand who is open to transparency will be more than willing to share their ingredients as they will be proud of their formulations. I do not doubt that Yves Rocher use botanical natural plant extracts but there are potential fillers (synthetic ingredients) that may be a concern if you have allergies and/or sensitive skin. Please be assured that when I'm approached by brands I do research them. I have to do this not only for the sake of my audience but I can not take personal risk due to my allergies. I hate wastage so would rather not receive products that I can't test for myself. If a product arrives with questionable formulations then I'm also not keen to pass on to friends/family.

Yves Rocher is not a brand I will be recommending. This brand joins the list of others that I classify as "Fake Natural Skincare" in other words I believe they are greenwashed. For anyone unfamiliar with the term Greenwashing it is "Practice of making misleading or deceptive claims to demonstrate friendliness toward the environment, often through suggestion of preserving natural resources, preventing pollution or otherwise reducing carbon footprint" (source-www.greenwashingthefacts.org)

Sarah x