Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Is Aveda really as green as they say?

In my never-ending quest to find hair and cosmetic products that are safer, I've been questioning a lot of the items that I currently use as well as trying to find information on potential replacements. Since I've always loved Aveda's products, I thought I'd do some research on the Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety site, but some of Aveda's stuff (okay, a lot) isn't on there.

Which means I need to find out the ingredient listings to their products and look up suspicious ingredients individually, which I'm happy to do. Of course, how do I find out the ingredient list if I don't already own it? Well, I figured I should check the Aveda website. Well, none of their "earth-sensitive products" has the ingredients listed. Sure, it tells you what the key ingredients are, but it's relatively worthless since they are cherry picking what's listed and only including the happy sounding earthy ingredients and none of the ones I might consider a tad more questionable.

Since there are a lot of Aveda's products I would like to research, having the ingredient list online would be incredibly helpful. I wouldn't necessarily expect this of most companies (like Lancome where you have to inquire on each specific product), but since it's Aveda, I figure maybe I'm just not seeing it or looking in the correct spot.

When you visit the Aveda site, a window pops up inviting you to "chat live with an expert". Okay, I think, now I'm getting somewhere. Engage:

[Customer Service Person name and exchange abbreviated for privacy and boringness.]
Welcome to Aveda Online. How may I assist you?

Deanna: Hi. What's the ingredient list for Smooth Infusion Glossing Straightener?

AA: Let me give you the contact information for the dept that can provide you with that ingredient list. Consumer Communications can be reached via phone toll-free, at 1.800.328.0849 M-F between 8am-5:30pm Central Standard Time or via email at

AA: They have access to all of the up to date ingredient information and would be happy to help.

Deanna: How come your website doesn't include the ingredient listings for your products? I'm surprised since Aveda generally touts the ingredients of its products.

AA: It does list the key ingredients. I am sure Consumer Communications can best answer that for you. They will be happy to provide you with any information you need.

Deanna: I'm sure they can. It's just really inconvenient. Thanks for your help, anyway!

Okay, so I'm not going to bug someone repeatedly about the dozens of products I want to research, I might as well set up shop in an Aveda store and do some note-taking.

I poked around their site a bit more and found a section on green ingredients, describing how they are "continually seeking to increase the use of naturally-derived ingredients in our products". Sounds good - can we know about them please?

They have an ingredient glossary, but again, it only lists the natural ingredients, accompanied by beautiful pictures that make me want to eat my computer screen. But, what about the questionable stuff?

They talk about phasing out parabens and EDTA, but in which products? They mention they are promoting sourcing GMO-free ingredients, but are these ingredients in any of their products? Who knows.

Let's look at what I could find on the cosmetic safety database, products that I currently use? Their Control Paste Finishing Paste with Organic Flax Seed sounds harmless enough, no? I'm sure there's a flax seed somewhere in there but it's also chock full of parabens and registers a 9 on the skin deep database (on a scale of 0 - 10 which 0 being harmless and a 10 being high hazard). How about Aveda Hang Straight Lotion? Again, a crapton of parabens and rated a 7 (high hazard).

To give them some credit, perhaps the cosmetic safety database isn't up to date and they've since changed some formulas, but unless I camp out at a store or contact customer service, I wouldn't know one way or the other. The message I'm getting is that their products are earth friendly and they are eliminating some of the more nasty chemicals. They state a lot about their green ingredients, but why not list them on the site?

All in all they claim that their products must meet a threshold - that more than 50% of the molecular weight comes from natural sources. Which leaves a lot of wiggle room there for less "earth-sensitive" ingredients.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love Aveda, and it will be a sad day when I have to drop their entire product line for dubious ingredients. But the obfuscation of their ingredients is concerning and I am wondering how much of their corporate message is really just greenwashing?


Jenni said...

Great investigating, CC, we need to write them a lil Beth Terry note to say WTF!!!! I hate feeling I've been greenwashed!

The Nurturing Pirate said...

Good points Crunchy. I'd also like to point out that their statement "that more than 50% of the molecular weight comes from natural sources" doesn't really "wash" (pun intended) with me, since it only takes a very small percentage of endocrine-disrupting parabens to have an effect. Kind of like the level of estrogen needed for a birth control pill to work is *very* small.

In the end, I find that the best solution is to minimize and streamline my product use. Anybody reading this who knows me would laugh. Even before I knew about all this, I didn't use a lot of product - and my wild hair shows it! :-)

Celeste Perron said...

Funny, I was just wondering about this this morning as I washed my hair with Shampure. If I'm honest I already know the answer (that the scent is too strong to be essential oils alone) but I just allow myself a little denial because i love the way it makes my hair look. Anyway, it's technically my husband's shampoo--I'm supposed to be using Dr. Bronner's and a vinegar rinse, but it's so much easier to reach for "his" Aveda.

Wendy said...

My cousin just graduated from Aveda's beauty school and I've often told her how I don't think they're as green as she says. And I totally agree with The Nurturing Pirate that 50% natural sources is ridiculous.

Personally, I go to Vitamin Cottage and if they sell it there, it's good enough for me. (They're pretty picky and there's a lot of stuff that they won't sell, but that places like Whole Foods will.)

Elisabeth said...

Ah, I love a good ingredients scandal!
I used to use Aveda in high school and loved their products. Then I stopped using them when I figured out that they mostly greenwash (10 years ago anyway - I haven't looked into them again).
I once got sick pleasure out of telling an Arbonne rep thanks, but no thanks because they tout themselves as natural, but aren't (or weren't then), and made it a huge pain in the ass to get ingredient information.

LatigoLiz said...

I got the same weird vibe from Arbonne...good thing I only bought a handful of things. WAY too expensive and I didn't really "need" most of it.

Similar with Sensaria (Shelton-based). I loved their Rosemary Mint shampoo, but they quit making it and my friends quit selling their products anyway. Might need to look and see what they do have now.

I just don't trust MLM companies.

CitricSugar said...

When Burt's Bees was bought by Clorox, I went looking for a new shampoo. Thinking Aveda was a likely candidate, I stopped by to check out their selection. The clerk told me all about their natural ingredients (though no specific exclusions) but when I looked at the fine print on the back of the label, I found parabens and nasties. I kept on walking....

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

I would love to find a NW company who is actually all natural and will not cost me an arm and a leg. I checked New Seasons and most of the green shampoo's were not as natural as they say. One out of the dozens was using aluminum for packaging. So I have yet to switch to a natural shampoo/conditioner. Anyone have any good shampoo/conditioner they love?

Crunchy Chicken said...

Surviving - I haven't written about this yet, but for the last 8 days I've been using a Camamu shampoo bar and no conditioner except for the occasional vinegar rinse.

It is a Portland product and I've been really impressed so far. There are a couple stores in the NW where it is sold so check it out and see if you can find it. Since we have really soft water around here, the shampoo bars work well.

I actually made some of my own Lemon Chamomile Shampoo bars (cold process soap) last weekend, but it will be 4 weeks before they cure and I can try them out. I'll report back on that for those interested.

Deoxy144 said...

I sent your post along to my sister, who works at an Aveda salon. If she has any input, I'll let you know. Maybe she can at least let the higher-ups know that they hath disappointed the Great Crunchy!


Lee said...

Most of the molecular weight of these products is usually water.

So something could be 60% water, 40% cancer-causing-never-degrading-plastic-filled-styrofoam-eating-evilness, and it would still rate as OK by Aveda's own measurement.

Sounds like full blown neon greenwash to me.

I use the Beth Terry approach. If it comes in plastic, and touts itself with "green" claims, you can be pretty sure it will trash the planet very effectively, and will probably make your body sick as well.

I don't know much about cosmetics, but these days I'd suggest less is best. Besides, making your own from ingredients in your kitchen cupboard is a lot of fun!

I'm a cosmetics junkie - I love them! - but are under no illusions that anything I put on my face or in my hair that comes from the cosmetics counter is good for me OR the planet.

mudnessa said...

I find that A LOT of companies don't put all their ingredients on their website. I usually look at the specifics for the product on or or some other site that sells the stuff that does list the ingredients.

I think it was a few years ago I actually looked at the ingredients of a few Aveda products I had and decided not to get more when I finished them. I am currently making my own lotion but still struggling with shampoo and conditioners.

Kristijoy said...

Camamu makes the best soap!! I gave up no-po awhile back when I found their shampoo bars. Their shop is near one of the co-ops I frequent but all the co-ops and our big natural grocery, New Seasons carries them.

On Aveda, there are so many Aveda spas and salons here...but no news is good news, if they don't have their info readily available, to me, that means they are hiding how green and healthy they are not. It feels like they are hiding something and I bet its SLS fragrances parabens the whole 9 yards.
good luck on the sleuthing.

KristaR said...

Cocoon Apothecary in Ontario, Canada (this is local for me, but not quite local for you) has some great organic face and body care products that rate 0 to 1 on the Skindeep database. Full ingredient listings are available on the website. They don't sell hair care products - hoping they will soon.

Sandy said...

Crunchy, I have long hair like yours. I found that using a shampoo bar was a problem because A) if I mush it around in my hair it gets all tangled up, and B)If I just lather it in my hands first then apply it to my hair I don't get enough soap. And I have no idea what to do about conditioner. Could you share some more tips with us?

swiggett said...

I've used Aveda in the past, and loved it. Then, I started reading the labels, and was less happy (this was maybe 5 years ago?). And then, they did away with the shampoo and conditioner that I really liked, replacing it with something that was utterly filled with ingredients I avoid. I may have actually had a bit of a mourning period at the loss of Aveda. (I do take my hair a bit too seriously. It is around iliac length.)

Lisa Z said...

Aveda used to be a small-ish company, owned by Horst Rechelbacher here in Minnesota. Revlon bought the company when Horst was ready to "move on"--he now has another line of products, can't remember the name but I think it's Intelligent Nutrients (not sure about the green-ness of them). When Revlon bought Aveda, they changed the products and the rules for salons that sell it. Can't trust big business...

Jennifer said...

Thanks for doing this research. I love the idea of Aveda and love the results but I to have suspicions that they're hiding something.

knittinandnoodlin said...

Thanks for peeking into this. I walk past an Aveda every day and I am always tempted to stop in for the free massage...but now I am a little more wary.

I was no-poo, oil-cleansing my face, and moisturizing with coconut oil for a long time. Then I let myself slide back into bad habits and *poof* here I am using product again. Ick.

Those things don't work for everyone...but there are lots of etsy sellers that create natural bath/body/beauty products that really work if you really want to be sure what you're getting. I think anything produced commercially is suspect...and frankly, I don't have the time to spend following which corporation bought my favorite "natural" product line. (Clorox bought Burt's Bees?!?!? The horror!)

Easier to either make it myself or support someone else who is making it. =)

Kim from Milwaukee said...

The smell of Aveda products gives me a headache, so I've always been suspicious of them, and the prices are way too high.

I'm loving my shampoo bars from Chagrin Valley with ACV rinse. I have long hair and somehow the ACV really works as a conditioner. Not sure how, because I've always used commercial conditioners, but it does. I made a homemade conditioner of coconut milk, jojoba oil, aloe gel, and vit E that I use before bed if my hair feels dry. Works great.

Eco Yogini said...

Aveda was my introduction to greenwashing. seriously. I LOVED their products... and happen to still have a bottle of color conserve shampoo- wanna know the ingredients?

Aqueous (water-aqua-eau) extracts aqueous; (lists 9 extracts),
ammonium lauryl sulfate, disodium laureth sulfosuccinate, lauramidopropyl betaine, cinnamidopropyltrimonium chloride, babassuamidopropyl betaine, dimethicone PEG-7 cocoate, guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride, quaternium-80, amyk salicylate, isoamyl cinnamate, lycopene, lecithin, tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, tocopherol, sucrose palmitate, stearamidopropyl dimethylamine, glycol stearate, glycol distearate, polyglyceryl-10 oleate, polyquaternium-7, cistus ladaniferus oil, fragrance, linalool, citronellol, limonene, glycerin, citric acis, sodium gluconate, methylisothiazolinone, methylchloroisothiazolinone.

ummmm. ya. can you see the really big bag chemicals in there? Fragrance, parabens, SLS, PEGs....

they may have wind farms and use post consumer recycled plastic for their containers (although recycling is limited) and take back caps to recycle...

but their ingredients are far from crunchy. :(

Patty said...

Great investigation, I was meaning to look all this stuff up myself but I just never had the time. Thanks so much for your research!

Crunchy Chicken said...

Ok, Aveda finally responded to my inquiry and sent me a list of all their products that are paraben-free.

I can't say much about the rest of the ingredients, but if anyone wants the list, email me and I'll forward it to you.

Greenpa said...

Yeah, they're not perfect, the scum. And all their competitors do SO much better!

just sayin' :-)

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - Your biases are showing as a familial ex-employee.

All I'm asking is that they make their ingredient list easily available. And, yes, their competitors are doing better as far as information accessibility goes.

Just one example for hair and skincare - John Masters Organics lists the ingredients on their website for all their products.

Gabriel Cosmetics lists all their ingredients on their website.

I would argue that the ingredients in these competitor's products meet or exceed what Aveda is doing. Yet Aveda has a ton of marketing behind their products and are known to most of us, but they are pushing more of their corporate message than what's actually inside.

It's annoyingly frustrating. Just sayin'.

Greenpa said...

Crunch. Well, hush ma mouth. :-) Good for you. I stand nicely corrected. And MAN you have a long memory.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Well, you know that my intel runs deep.

Terilee said...

I like to check out products with Skin Deep - it's a website database with 10's of thousands of company's and products listed and rated 1 thru 10 on how 'toxic' they are. Grab any cosmetic or personal hygiene product you have and punch it in... you'll be amazed!

Carol-Leah said...

Aveeno tests their products on animals. Deal breaker for me.