As I was walked past this sign in New York City, I stopped dead in my tracks and thought, “you’ve got to be kidding me.”
Kiehl’s is marketing their brand and their products as natural. I’d say that’s a pretty far cry from the truth.
If you go to Google, this is what you’ll see as their brand description:
While Kiehl’s didn’t originally make my first list of 22 Greenwashing Brands, it’s definitely going to earn a place on the next list.
Greenwashing: when a brand makes trumped up claims about how natural, organic or eco their formulas are, and what’s in the bottle doesn’t match up.
Is Kiehl’s Really Natural Though?
Let’s just look at this one product, Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado, to get an idea of how not-natural this brand really is.
First if you go to Kiehl’s website and click on the product’s ingredient tab you’ll see a lovely description of three botanical ingredients, but nothing else. That’s already a tell-tale sign that something fishy is up.
I think Kiehl’s doesn’t disclose their ingredients on their website because if they did you might gasp and run for the hills.
Lucky for you I found the full list and have posted it below. Now let’s review…
Kiehl’s Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado Ingredients:
Water, Shea Butter, Butylene Glycol, Tridecyl Stearate, Isodecyl Salicylate, PEG-30 Dipolyhydroxystearate, Tridecyl Trimellitate, Avocado Oil, Isocetyl Stearoyl Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Dipentaerythrityl Hexacaprylate/Hexacaprate, Sorbitan Sesquioleate, Magnesium Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Sodium PCA, Ozokerite, Methylparaben, Tocopheryl Acetate, Disodium EDTA, Isopropyl Palmitate, Copper PCA, Ethylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Propylparaben, Zea Mays/Corn Oil, CI75130/Beta-Carotene.
Avocado oil is the 9th ingredient listed, which means you aren’t getting much in the formula.
Plus, I counted 4 parabens, among other non-natural chemicals I’m not excited to see. Like the highly skin irritating/neurotoxin Phenoxyethanol.
Me thinks Kiehl’s is doing a bit of greenwashing! Don’t you agree?
Their product information video shows a woman, in a lab coat (super authoritative) with a huge amount of makeup on talking about how you can see that the cream contains “naturally-derived avocado” by the green color of the cream.
Wait a second, back up…
Bogus Ingredient Virtues
Any plant-based ingredient that’s naturally derived is basically a synthetic chemical and no longer the wonderful botanical it once was.
Instead, “naturally derived” is a way of getting cheap, stable chemicals into a formula and charging the customer more for their perceived value.
Saying the green color is an indicator that the product has (synthetic) avocado oil in it, is just bogus.
However there is a colorant in the formula. You’ll see it as beta carotene, the last ingredient.
If you go to Kiehl’s product page, it extolls the virtues of beta carotene as an antioxidant.
Chances are if it’s the last item listed in the formula, the percentage of it is so minimal it is essentially ineffective!
I will give them a minor amount of credit for mentioning that it is used impart color also.
Just for an added bit of hilarity I had to share their “Kiehl’s Insider Tip” for applying the eye cream:
“Tap delicately around eye area until you feel the quick-burst release of hydration.”
Oh come on!
Every eye cream pretty much can do that. It’s not that they are saying anything wrong, but it just continues to prove that their copy writers may be getting a bit overzealous in their sales verbiage.
Does Kiehl’s Test On Animals? Yes they do.
We might as well just lay it on the line right now that Kiehl’s isn’t technically cruelty-free. Though they don’t profess to be. So while that’s not lying, it does kind of suck.
According to PETA, Kiehl’s (owned by L’Oreal) is still testing on animals.
I couldn’t find any official Kiehl’s animal testing policy, but L’Oreal says:
L’Oréal no longer tests on animals any of its products or any of its ingredients, anywhere in the world. Nor does L’Oréal delegate this task to others. An exception could only be made if regulatory authorities demanded it for safety or regulatory purposes.
Pay special attention to that last line – it’s the trickiest.
I wrote an exposé about the companies like L’Oreal who are still conceding to animal testing in order to sell in China.
Charity and Recycling Initiatives: AKA Redemption of Sins
Kiehl’s does claim to support numerous worthy causes. They also have a thriving recycle rewards program for customers to earn store credit.
That’s all commendable, but does it make us turn a blind eye to the rather deceptive marketing practices? For me, not so much.
Need more proof?
I get it, maybe you think that one eye cream is not a good representation of the entire brand.
So here are the ingredients for a few more randomly selected products. I was going to highlight all the chemicals I don’t thing are great, but um, I’d pretty much be highlighting the entire list.
Now you look at them and decide for yourself.
(Use our Toxic Ingredient Glossary to help you along.)
A truly natural and organic Avocado Eye Cream To Try
Whenever I write these posts, I get comments asking what people should buy instead. So in anticipation of that this time, here’s a great alternative: Nourish Organic Renewing and Cooling Eye CreamWhat’s better than the fully disclosed ingredient list of real botanicals?
- It’s USDA Organic certified
- It’s cruelty-free with no animal testing
- It costs LESS than Kiehl’s eye cream
Basically this organic eye cream is a no-brainer swap out!
So let’s hear from you…were you surprised to learn about Kiehl’s deceptive natural claims and greenwashing? Will you make different choices because of it? Let us know in the comments below!
My disclaimer: The information presented is my opinion based on *a lot* of research. When a company gives incredibly strong suggestions to the consumer that they are green/natural (through packaging ploys, sales material, or even making full ingredient lists hard to find), I take issue. You might disagree with my perspective on what constitutes greenwashing. That’s cool. There’s no real definition for it anyway. I just ask that keep your comments classy and constructive. Do your own research on each brand’s ingredients and decide for yourself what is good enough for you. This series is not as much about shaming as it is about bringing to light subjects allowing us to be more informed consumers and hopefully encourage brands to be more truthful in their marketing practices and formulations.