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Herbal Essences Bio:Renew | Are they Greenwashing?

Herbal Essences Bio:Renew | Are they Greenwashing?

Herbal Essences Bio:Renew | Are they Greenwashing?

The new Herbal Essences Bio:Renew collection has launched and it sounds like a pretty good option for those who want to use more green and natural products. Marketed with Bio:Renew; a mix of antioxidants, sea kelp and aloe it is bound to leave your locks feeling luscious and hydrated. Unfortunately, once you dive into the ingredients of the Bio:Renew collection… you really don’t see much of a change in their chemistry.  So what is the Herbal Essences Bio:Renew collection all about?

Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Collection

The Herbal Essences Bio:Renew collection includes the following scents: Coconut Milk, Argan Oil of Morroco, Arabica Coffee and White Grapefruit & Mosa Mint. I received the Argan Oil of Morroco Shampoo + Conditioner and the Cucumber + Green Tea Dry Shampoo free from Bzzagent. However, I am only going to talk about the Shampoo + Conditioner in this post.

This will probably be the last item I receive from Bzzagent because I’m not going to be saying a whole lot of positive things about it. Although I do have to make a kudos to Herbal Essences for listing their ingredients on the website with a clickable link to why each ingredient is added to the product. I just think the selection of ingredients needs to be curated better and a better description about each chemical needs to be provided. But hey, at least they are on their way to being more transparent!

Today I’m going to talk about why I think that Herbal Essences is one of those brands that markets in a clever way to make it seem like they aren’t Greenwashing… but how they can seem like a more natural and green choice. 

Herbal Essences Argan Oil of Morroco Bio:renew


What is Greenwashing?

When you first start out on your green beauty journey, you’re likely to encounter some brands that you might think are green + organic but aren’t. Unfortunately it is all too common for brands to claim that they are natural + green when they are far from. As there is essentially no measure set in place to say that companies cannot. When companies make the claim that they are natural, organic or environmentally-friendly but it isn’t true it is called Greenwashing.

Greenwashing:

“disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image” – What you find when you Google Greenwashing

Greenwashing is quite abundant in many of our personal care and household products and it’s a real shame that you can’t trust a label that says “natural” or “eco-friendly” most of the time. So let’s get back to why I believe that Herbal Essences may be Greenwashing customers…

Herbal Essences markets the Argan Oil of Morroco products with these claims:

  • Crafted with bio:renew, a signature blend of essential antioxidants, aloe and sea kelp – we’ll get into this in just a minute
  • Herbal Essences with bio:renew brings your hair back to life in just 21 days – there’s no literature to back up this claim
  • Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo has 0% parabens, gluten and colorants – this is true
  • Shampoo that is color safe, nurtures and repairs hair – debatable with their over abundance of surfactants
Image From the Herbal Essences Website

What is Bio:Renew?

Bio:Renew seems to be a fancy description to say that the ingredients have a signature mixture of natural products which are beneficial to your hair. It’s hard to really say whether the bio:renew blend is actually beneficial because there is absolutely no literature on it, nor studies that Herbal Essences seems to reference. It is a bold claim that throwing a few natural products together can really benefit your hair… when you’re just stripping it away with SLS + SLES at the same time, no?

Out of twenty-two ingredients in their Shampoo, only four are green (highlighted in green on their website that is.)

These ingredients are:

  • Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil
  • Histidine
  • Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice (Aloe)
  • Ecklonia Radiata Extract

So let’s take a look at the ingredient lists from the Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo + Conditioner, shall we? The colour coding is based on EWG Skin Deep from their 1-10 rating system. 1-3 is green, 4-6 is orange, 7-10 is red. The higher the number, the more you want to avoid it.

Ingredients in the Argan Oil of Morocco Shampoo

  1. WATER/EAU. 
  2. SODIUM LAURYL SULFATE. Used as a surfactant. Could be an eye & skin irritant. It is toxic to aquatic organisms.
  3. SODIUM LAURETH SULFATE. Used as a surfactant. Could be an eye & skin irritant. It is toxic to aquatic organisms. Health Canada has flagged it as a moderate human health priority. 
  4. COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE. Used as a surfactant. Could be an eye & skin irritant. Suspected to be an environmental toxin too. 
  5. GLYCOL DISTEARATE. A naturally occurring fatty acid. Herbal Essences states that it is used to “Keep the product together.” 
  6. DIMETHICONE. A silicon based polymer which is used to condition and moisturize. 
  7. FRAGRANCE/PARFUM. Used to scent the product, no idea what is within it. 
  8. ARGANIA SPINOSA KERNEL OIL. Argan Kernel oil derived from the African Argania Spinosa tree. Used as a moisturizer and conditioner. 
  9. HISTIDINE. An amino acid, used as a hair conditioner. 
  10. ALOE BARBADENSIS LEAF JUICE. Aloe Vera gel, used as a moisturizer. 
  11. ECKLONIA RADIATA EXTRACT. Australian Sea Kelp Extract, used as a conditioner + antioxidant. 
  12. SODIUM CITRATE. pH adjuster. 
  13. COCAMIDE MEA. Derived synthetically from Coconut oils, used to help foaming and cleaning.
  14. SODIUM XYLENESULFONATE. A sodium salt used to help product consistency according to Herbal Essences.
  15. CITRIC ACID. Balances pH.
  16. SODIUM BENZOATE. Preservative. 
  17. SODIUM CHLORIDE. Inorganic salt (table salt) used to help product consistency.
  18. GUAR HYDROXYPROPYLTRIMONIUM CHLORIDE. Used for hair conditioning. 
  19. TETRASODIUM EDTA. Preservative. 
  20. POLYQUATERNIUM-6. Used to condition hair – limited data available. 
  21. METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE. Preservative commonly linked to allergic reactions. 
  22. METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE. Preservative. High concentrations could be neurotoxic. 

HERBAL ESSENCES BIO RENEW ARGAN OIL OF MOROCCO

Ingredients in the Argan Oil of Morocco Conditioner

  1. WATER/EAU.
  2. STEARYL ALCOHOL. A naturally occurring fatty acid used for conditioning. 
  3. BEHENTRIMONIUM METHOSULFATE. Used as a surfactant/ cleanser. Data on this ingredient is limited.
  4. BIS-AMINOPROPYL DIMETHICONE. Used as a conditioning agent, no data listed.
  5. ARGANIA SPINOSA KERNEL OIL. Argan Kernel oil derived from the African Argania Spinosa tree. Used as a moisturizer and conditioner. 
  6. HISTIDINE. An amino acid, used as a hair conditioner. 
  7. ALOE BARBADENSIS LEAF JUICE. Aloe Vera gel, used as a moisturizer. 
  8. ECKLONIA RADIATA EXTRACT. Australian Sea Kelp Extract, used as a conditioner + antioxidant. 
  9. FRAGRANCE/PARFUM
  10. CETYL ALCOHOL. Used to moisturize hair.
  11. BENZYL ALCOHOL. Used as a preservative. 
  12. DICETYLDIMONIUM CHLORIDE. Used as a surfactant. Has limited data.
  13. DISODIUM EDTA. Used as a preservative. 
  14. CITRIC ACID. Balances pH. 
  15. METHYLCHLOROISOTHIAZOLINONE. Preservative commonly linked to allergic reactions. 
  16. METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE. Preservative. High concentrations could be neurotoxic.

So the ingredients aren’t that bad… are they?

Although not many of the ingredients rate highly on the EWG Skin Deep website (which is good.) These aren’t Eco Certified ingredients. Herbal Essences lists the Argan Oil, Histidine, Aloe Vera and the Sea Kelp in green on their ingredient list but there is no green certification to back up whether it was sourced sustainably. In fairness, they don’t market their products as being completely green or natural, but I do believe it is misleading to state that there is a green aspect behind it. On the bottle, beside the crafted with Bio:Renew title they add a little graphic with leaves. This could lead customers to believe that they are buying a green product as it looks fairly similar to other eco certifications.

My real question is, how can the lovely bio:renew aspect really be absorbed into the hair when the shampoo has three different surfactants with a higher concentration than any of the bio:renew ingredients? I cannot see how the bio:renew part of the shampoo is really very useful in this instance. Luckily, for the conditioner there is only one surfactant that comes before the bio:renew ingredients making it much more likely to benefit your hair.

SWAP IT OUT HERBAL ESSENCES BIO:RENEW

Does the Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Collection work?

Personally I try to avoid SLS + SLES in my shampoo and conditioner as much as possible because they have been linked to skin irritation – and after testing this product I can verify that it made my scalp very dry and itchy. (This was before I read the ingredients, I wanted to give an unbiased opinion of the way the products work.) I usually use the Carina Organics collection which have no SLS + SLES within them. I have not had a problem with any dandruff… until I tried this.

The scent is very strong and if you are sensitive to fragrances you will want to avoid this at all costs – it smells faintly natural, but in the way that Live Clean products smell natural. You know? They have a weird scent to them that you can tell is synthetically produced. The fragrance ingredient even comes before the bio:renew ingredients on the list for the shampoo. Fragrance is something I also try to avoid although if it was at the end of the list I would be less concerned. If you want to learn more about why fragrance should be avoided, check out my post on “Free From Chemicals + What They Mean.

Over all, the shampoo cleaned very well. There is no doubt about that, but I honestly cannot say that my hair felt more soft. I believe that Herbal Essences is heading in the right direction with the transparency to say why chemicals are used in their products, but I don’t think that their marketing techniques are very honest.

What is your stance on Greenwashing? Do you believe that Herbal Essences is Greenwashing? 

You can purchase my absolute favourite Natural Shampoo, Carina Organics from Well.ca!  or if you’re on the hunt for an Argan Oil Shampoo, Acure Organics offers one as well which isn’t filled with nasty ingredients! (make sure to use ebates and receive cash back on your order!)

*This post contains products sent to me for review and affiliate links. All thoughts & opinions are 100% my own!

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  • I’m not sure how I feel about this. I like the concept of Greenwashing. However I don’t think I would be purchasing these products. They don’t sound 100% honest to me and I just really don’t like strong scents.

    -Leta | The Nerdy Me

    • Glad that this post helped! It’s a shame what companies can claim and get away with! The scent is verrry strong lol. Thanks for reading, Leta!

  • Wow thanks so much for such a thorough review! Greenwashing is so frustrating and has made me so skeptical of most so called “green” products. That’s such a bummer that the surfactants are higher than the actual “green” ingredients. The fact that it irritated your scalp is even worse! Like you said it’s a step in the right direction that they’re being more transparent with their ingredient choices but there’s still plenty of room for improvement!

    Mili | Sharmtoaster

    • Yes, making the move slowly… Hopefully they’ll be able to actually place a green certification of some sort on their products soon!

  • I’ve never heard of greenwashing before and it’s so interesting to now know about! I wouldn’t have thought that it would be legal for companies to do that – it’s basically false advertising! I’m so sad that this irritated your scalp, my friend has this product and loves it so I guess it would be good to test it first! Really interesting post, I loved reading it xx

    |Georgia Megan|

  • great post!

    xx Sera | STARDUSTBOHEMIAN.COM

  • Whoa. I never heard of the term Greenwashing before, but I knew of the act, and far too many companies take this liberty.. Thank you for such an informative post for those who do not know what it is.
    Frick. I’ve never liked Herbal Essences myself..
    Angie | Chocolate & Lipstick | Beauty, Fashion & Lifestyle Blog

    • It’s so rampant with advertising, unfortunately. You’re right that way too many companies make false claims… Unfortunately when people are unaware the products sell and the advertising works!

  • Thank you for another really in depth, informative review! Greenwashing is such a bummer – it makes it that much harder to find products that are “actually” green rather than just marketed that way.

    Kathryn • simplykk.com

    • Thanks for reading Kathryn! And yes, it clogs up the market for products that actually ARE green, natural or organic.

  • They totally are! And they have done it a few times in the past already. It is sad that bio and organic aren’t protected, so many companies add it to words to lure us into believing they have a good product for us.

    Linda, Libra, Loca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

    • I know! Last year I tried the Naked collection from them and it was the same thing…Clever advertising. It really is a shame that they can use those words so freely.

  • Incredibly detailed review! Honestly didn’t think much about greenwashing. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.jeannieinabottleblog.com

  • Rosy Flynn

    Oh my goodness, I feel like such a dummy, I’ve NEVER looked into ingredients and just believed I was buying natural and organic when they claim it is, also, I really suffer from a dry scalp and itchy head… I could cry at how long I’ve been doing this to my head 🙁 Thank so so ,much for this review.

    Rosy | Sparkles of Light Blog
    My Instagram | Instagram

    • Don’t feel dumb! We trust companies to be honest with their advertising and it’s very easy for them to market it in such a way! Seriously, give an SLS + SLES free shampoo a try and see if it helps with your scalp! I was shocked to see the difference.

  • Bernadette

    It is a shame that some brands slap on the word natural to their products. I’m sure there are so many people out there that don’t know the products include non natural ingredient, especially if they are just beginning to use beauty products. This post was very informative! Great job!

    http://www.themakeupaficionado.com

  • SamanthaSeries

    I have been looking more into ingredients for products lately and it’s such a good habit to have. But sometimes it is overwhelming so I love that you really break the ingredients down! You must put so much work into these posts. It’s too bad about the greenwashing but hey that’s marketing nowadays. You just have to be more aware as a consumer. I also like to avoid anything with SLS in shampoos/conditioners, luckily I have three on rotation now that are pretty good!

    Samantha Series

  • Pingback: Herbal Essences Bio:Renew Dry Shampoo | Review - Lindseyginge | Green Health, Beauty & Lifestyle()

  • I absolutely love how in-depth and informative your post is. I remember learning a lot about greenwashing when I studied enviro studies in uni, but with my busy schedule, it’s hard to research products and always make the best choice. I think greenwashing is a huge problem in the industry, and kudos to you for making it more transparent.

    Katherine || The Green Bows

  • Georgia Owen

    Oooh a very interesting read. It’s ridiculous how many brands utilise ‘greenwashing’ and how people go on about how “organic” their shampoo or make up is and they’ve nothing to back it up with. These products sound intriguing but I’ll think I’ll give them a miss – great review!

    //teandtwosugars.blogspot.com xx

  • Herbal Essences has to be one of my favourite budget friendly brands as it smells sooo good! xx

    Jenny | Krystel Couture – Morphe 350 & ILEX London Giveaway. x

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