I’m a believer in voting with our dollars to send companies a message about what we, as consumers, want and that message is ringing through loud and clear. Consumer demand guides retail decisions – plain and simple. With organic beauty brands popping up at what seems to be lightning fast speeds these days, its evident consumers are speaking and companies are listening. It’s undoubtedly exciting there are more organic options popping up on the scene at a steady pace, but it can also be very confusing and overwhelming for consumers to distinguish a truly organic brand from one that isn’t when labels and price points can be similar.
It’s all about ingredients. But how can we decide when we can’t locate the ingredients and when we finally do, are they really organic?
Back in February, Victoria’s Secret launched a brand new line of body care called “PINK” advertised as their new “organic, natural, 100% vegan” body care line. My first reaction to any new “organic” or “natural” line to hit the market is “what are the ingredients?” so I went to their website and I couldn’t find ingredients. Around this same time, my inbox began to grow with questions from family, friends, loyal readers and other bloggers who wanted to know if the line really was organic and if I had found the ingredients because they couldn’t find them either. For the next month, some of my nights and weekends were dedicated to trying to locate them, not just for myself – but for everyone who had been asking for them. The more obstacles I ran into, the more determined I became to find them. Below you’ll discover the many “hoops” I had to jump through to locate the ingredients and hope this saves you some time and energy.
[Note: If you are interested in just the ingredients, scroll down and you will find them.]
1). For starters I scoured the internet the good ‘ol fashioned way – Google. Nothing. No ingredients listed on the VS site, nothing listed anywhere.
2). Not wanting to waste my time and energy trekking to a mall, I decide to call Customer Service – the toll-free number on the VS website. I spoke with a very nice Customer Service Representative and told him I was looking for the full ingredient listing for all the PINK products. “Oh, okay – our new organic body care?” he said. He put me on hold for a good amount of time, came back to the line, apologized and indicated they had not yet been given the ingredients but instructed me to call back in a week. I thanked him. We hung up.
3). One week passes. This time I start with my local VS store. I call the store, asked if they were busy, they said they weren’t and I asked the friendly girl who answered to do me a huge favor. I asked her if it would be too much trouble to grab one of the new VS PINK body care products and read me the label. I told her that I was highly sensitive to certain ingredients (which I am) and that I needed to know what all the ingredients were before I decided whether I could buy the product or not. She said “sure, I’ll get the Soothing Body Lotion because it’s hypo-allergenic”. She returned a couple minutes later and after she announced she was back, she paused for a very long time. She said “it says it contains soy milk and mint….100% vegan and organic ingredients”. I said “okay, but is there an actual ingredient list where it shows everything that is in it?” Another long pause and some “ums” and “ehs”. “No there isn’t” she said. I asked “do any of the products have the actual ingredients listed on them?”, she replied “I’m not sure, I’ll go look”. She came back to the phone a few minutes later and indicated that the only products with the ingredients were the Shaving Cream and the Hand Lotion which she brought to the phone. She said “please don’t judge me, I’m an English Lit major and I can’t pronounce any of the words in these ingredients except water and glycerin”. “I’m so sorry – this seems crazy”. I told her not to worry because those words probably weren’t in English. We laughed and she suggested I call Customer Service. I thanked her. We hung up.
4). I called Customer Service and told the woman who answered that I was looking for a complete list of ingredients for their new PINK body care line. She said they didn’t have it but said I should call or go into to one of their stores. I told her that I just got off the phone with the store and they suggest I call Customer Service. The woman said “you’re sure the ingredients aren’t on the bottles?” to which I replied “not according to your store employee who had the bottles in her hand”. She put me on hold. She returned and said they did not have the list of ingredients but that she was going to transfer me to their Store Customer Service line (apparently I called the Web Customer Service line) to find out if they could help me.
5). Another woman answered the phone and I explained again what I was looking for. She seemed a little irritated, but took my name and number and said someone would call me in a day or two to tell me how long it would take to get the ingredients, because they had to request the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) from the manufacturer. I thanked her. We hung up.
6). 15 minutes later I receive a call from the same woman I just spoke to. She gave me the toll-free number for the Lab they work with and told me to call them and ask for the ingredients. I asked “just like that, I’m to call this Lab and they are going to provide me with all the ingredients? “Yes, we pay them to do this – they are required by law to provide our customers with this information”. I thanked her. We hung up.
7). I call the Lab and am greeting by a live person asking quickly “is this a chemical spill or an emergency?” “No” I replied. “Okay, how can I help you?” I explained that VS gave me this phone number to call to obtain the ingredients of their PINK body care lines. “Are you having a reaction to the products?”. “No – but that’s why I’d like the ingredients, to avoid having a reaction”. The nice woman asked for my name and phone number. I provided it. She said that I should email the list of products I wanted info about and they would email them back to me. I thanked her. We hung up.
8). I emailed the list of product names and item numbers to the Lab and called the next morning to make sure they received my email. They did receive it and the woman indicated they were working on the list and that I should have it soon. I thanked her. We hung up.
9). 20 hours later I receive another call from the Lab, indicating they do not have the ingredient lists for any of the products and that they have put in a request to the manufacturer which should take another 24-48 hours (not including the weekend). The woman who called gave me a confirmation number. I thanked her. We hung up.
10). One week later, I receive an email from the Lab with the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheets) that do not contain any ingredients. I call the Lab, ask them if they are sending ingredients separately and they tell me they do not have the ingredients, they only provide MSDS sheets and that I’ll have to get them from the manufacturer. I asked the kind woman from the Lab how I’m supposed to determine whether these ingredients are safe for me if I have no idea what’s in them. She said “I will ask the manufacturer if they will give them to me so I can give them to you”. I thank her. We hung up.
11). A couple days later, I receive more MSDS sheets, this time with the ingredients of just one of the products. I realize the two hour round-trip drive to my nearest Victoria’s Secret store is inevitable if I’m going to get the ingredients of all the products.
12). One week later, on a weekend, I trek into the nearest VS store, make my way to the PINK BODY table, nicely displayed with cool bottles and tubes, and scan packages for ingredients. I find ingredients on the back of every product except the Body Wash and Body Lotion (so I have no idea what the nice woman who answered the phone was talking about when I first called). I’m asked several times by friendly employees if I need help and I tell them I’m trying to find the Body Wash and Lotion ingredients and one girl stops to help me. We inspect the bottles carefully together, she can’t find them either and eventually moves on to help another customer. Finally, I flip a bottle upside down and realize that the Body Wash and Body Lotion both have round white stickers with just a single black arrow on the bottom of the white bottles. I peel and voila! – ingredients! I loaded the products into my arms and checked out scoring their ‘Buy 2, Get 1 Free’ deal.
13). Four weeks and $50.29 later….
Nourishing Body Wash, 11.8 fl oz ($12): Water (Aqua, Eau), Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Acrylates Copolymer, Fragrance (Parfum), Glycol Distearate, Glycerin, Coco-Glucoside, Lauryl Lactyl Lactate, Panthenol, Sodium Hydroxide, Glyceryl Oleate, Glyceryl Stearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Triethylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, Benzioc Acid, Benzyl Alcohol, Propylene Glycol, Methylchloroisothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool.
Soothing Body Lotion, 11.8 fl oz ($15): Water (Aqua, Eau), Octydodecanol, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Cetearyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Cetyl Alcohol, Glyceryl Stearate, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Zea Mays (Corn) Starch, Jojoba Esters, PEG-100, Glyceryl Oleate Citrate, Fragrance (Parfum), Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Allantoin, Hydroxyethyl Acrylate/Sodium Acryloyldimethyl Taurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, Bisabolol, Disodium EDTA, Soymilk, Xanthan Gum, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Tocopheryl Acetate, Polysorbate 60, Alcohol Denat., Avena Sativa (Oat) Meal Extract, Benzyl Benzoate, Citral, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal.
Energizing Body Lotion, 11.8 fl oz ($15): Water (Aqua, Eau), Glycerin, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Neopentyl Glycol Diheptanoate, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Myristyl Myristate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Glyceryl Stearate, Macadamia Ternifolia Seed Oil, PEG-100 Stearate, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Dimethicone, Fragrance (Parfum), PEG-20 Stearate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Ammonium Acryloyl dimethytaurate/VP Copolymer, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Peel Oil, Metha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Extract, Panthenol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Cetyl Alcohol, Stearyl Alcohol, Lecithin, Retinyl Palmitate, Octyldodecanol, Ethyl Linoleate, Ethyl Linolenate, Ethyl Oleate, Archidyl Propionate, Mica, Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), BHT, Disodium EDTA, Phenoxyethanol, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Alcohol Denat., Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate.
Nourishing Shave Cream, 6.7 fl oz ($10): Water (Aqua, Eau), Stearic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Laurdimoniumhydroxypropyl Decylglucosides Chloride, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Diglycerin, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Hydrogenated Polyisobutene, Fragrance (Parfum), Tromethamine, Myristyl Myristate, Polysorbate 80, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Soy Glyceride, Caprylyn Glycol, Cetyl Alcohol, Dimethicone, Isostearyl Behenate, Xanthan Gum, DMDM Hydantoin, Hydroxyethylcellulose, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Stearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Oil, Sodium Hydroxide, Benzoic Acid, Limnanthes Alba (Meadowfoam) Seed Oil, Persea Gratissima (Avocado) Oil, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, Sodium PCA, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Linalool.
Energizing Sugar Scrub, 8.4 fl oz ($10): Sucrose, Propylene Glycol, Sodium Methyl Cocoyl Taurate, Hydrated Silica, Shea Butteramidopropyl Betaine, Water (Aqua, Eau), Citrus Aurantium Dulcis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Fruit Extract, Citrus Medica Limonum (Lemon) Fruit Extract, Metha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil, Coffea Arabica (Coffee) Seed Extract, Cymbopogon Flexuosus Leaf Powder, Fragrance (Parfum), Sodium Cocoamphopropionate, Acrylamide/Sodium Acryloyldimethyltaurate Copolymer, Isohexadecane, BHT, Polysorbate 80, DMDM Hydantoin, Cocamide MEA, Citric Acid, Limonene, Hydroxcitronellal, Linalool.
Soothing Hand Cream, 2.5 fl oz ($8): Water (Aqua, Eau), Cyclopentasiloxane, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glyceryl Stearate, Glycerin, Cetyl Alcohol, Butylene Glycol, Squalene, Acrylates/Beheneth-25 Methacrylate Copolymer, Dimethicone, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Caprylyl Glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Dimethiconol, Chlorphenesin, Fragrance (Parfum), Acrylates/C10-30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Sodium Stearoyl Glutamate, Avena Sativa (Oat) Starch, Bisabolol, Disodium EDTA, Soymilk, Sodium Hydroxide, Alcohol Denat., Avena Sativa (Oat) Meal Extract, Sodium Hyaluronate, Benzyl Benzoate, Limonene, Hexyl Cinnamal, Citral.
Lip Butter (Color: Ripe), .26 oz ($8): Cocoa Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil, Euphorbia Cerifera (Candililla, Candelilla Cera, Cire de Candelilla) Wax, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Ricinuc Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Flavor (Aroma), Prunus Armeniaca (Apricot) Fruit, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Wax, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax, Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Tocopherol, Vitis Vinefera (Grape) Seed Oil, Citral, Geraniol, Limonene, Linalool. MAY CONTAIN (+/-): Titanium Dioxide (CI 77891), Mica, Manganese Violet (CI 77742), Iron Oxides (CI 77491/CI77492/CI 77499).
QUESTIONS + OBSERVATIONS
a). How can a product be “organic” if it doesn’t contain organic ingredients?
b). If some of the ingredients are organic, why aren’t they identified as such in the ingredient listings? If none of the ingredients are organic, why does all the marketing material and every Victoria’s Secret employee I spoke with call the line “their new organic line”?
c). Why are the ingredients listed on the packaging different from the ones in the Material Data Safety Sheets and the CTFA (Cosmetic, Toiletries and Fragrances Association) Declaration?
d). All bottles indicate “Free of Parabens, Sulfites, Petrolatum, Mineral Oil and Paraffin“. This is good news (the parabens, mineral oil and paraffin part), but note that “sulfites” is not the same as “sulfates“, which is most commonly what we are told to avoid in personal care products. What the difference? Sulfites are naturally-occurring compounds that nature uses to prevent microbial growth. They are found on grapes (and in wine), onions, garlic, dried fruit and more (plants). Though some people are allergic to sulfites, the larger issue when it comes to personal care products is sulfates. Sulfates are synthetic surfactants used to create foam in detergents that can cause allergic reactions in people and have been known to harm marine life.
e). Victoria’s Secret has been on PETA’s cruelty-free list since 1991.
f). The word “organic” is not in the name of the line, but it is the way Victoria’s Secret employees refer to it and it is the way the products are marketed. During my numerous phone calls and my store visit, all Victoria’s Secret staff referred to this line as their “organic line”. They also have a new line which they refer to as their “natural line”, called “Naturally”. No one who I came in contact with has been able to confirm and/or verify that a single organic ingredient exists in any of the products.
- The packaging is hip, young and fresh (something lacking with many organic products on the market) and the bottles are made from between 46-80% post consumer material.
- The PINK line is an improvement from the rest of their body care ingredients that do contain parabens and synthetic perfume.
- Consumers who already shop at Victoria’s Secret now have an alternative if they’re looking to avoid parabens and knock-your-socks off fragrance. (These products have a much milder aroma, though still synthetic perfume and its unknown whether or not they contain phthalates).
- The Lip Balm – the majority of the ingredients in this product are plant names and are what you would expect a “natural” product to contain.
It may or may not be a surprise to you that there is no governing body regulating ingredients in personal care products in the U.S. There are ingredients in these products that exist on “Ingredients To Avoid” lists, like the Ten Synthetic Cosmetic Ingredients To Avoid list from the Organic Consumers Association or The Formidable 15 – Toxic Ingredients To Avoid In Skin Care, published by Natural Solutions Magazine who worked closely with Whole Foods Market Premium Body Care team to develop the list last year.
LOOK FOR CERTS
Want to go a step further? Look for products with organic certification like those from the USDA or Soil Association (UK) who have high standards when it comes to allowable ingredients in organic skin/body care.
If you are looking for a line that simply doesn’t test on animals or use animal ingredients and uses recycled packaging – then this may be a line for you to try. If you are looking for a product “packed with natural, organic ingredients…” – based on the ingredient listing on the packaging, it doesn’t appear these fit that description. The word “packed” suggests there are probably more natural ingredients than synthetic ones and when consumers read the word “organic”, they are likely expecting to find the majority of ingredients to be organic – or at least some of them.
Is PINK BODY a step in the right direction for Victoria’s Secret? Yes. Does it have a way to go before it’s considered an organic product? You decide.
Photo credit: here