Crystal infused fine fragrance with amethyst.

"Free From" Claims + Why It's Bogus

Let's unveil the truth behind the beauty industry’s "free from" claims.

You’ve seen it, we’ve seen it — “free from toxins, parabens, chemicals, preservatives” (😳), the list goes on. It doesn't give you any useful information whatsoever. It’s also free from intelligence, critical thinking, and an understanding of chemistry. It creates misplaced fear and confusion while also creating an unfair playing ground for the brands who want to ethically market their products.

Let’s cut through the marketing gimmicks and bullsh*t, and dive into what really matters — the ingredients that make up our cosmetics. Too often, brands focus on what their products don't contain, preying on our fears and insecurities, rather than proudly sharing what they do contain. Free-from claims are gross sales strategies to deceive you into believing their products are “safer” because they’re free from XYZ ingredient. Single ingredients are not inherently good or evil.

Making a purchase is an emotional journey. A certain scent can unlock a memory from your childhood where you felt extremely happy. The color or type of packaging may look luxurious, enticing you to buy it because it will make you feel sophisticated. Understandably, fear sells extremely well, which is why many brands and even influencers use this tactic for the clicks and likes. However, it's highly misleading, not to mention unethical.

While the "free from chemicals" may be our most favorite one and gives us a giggle each time, it adds to the erasure of scientific trust and panders to the "natural is better/safer" fallacy. A quick intro to Science 101 will teach you that all matter is made of chemicals, from the air we breathe, the water we drink, the skin on our bodies, everything. For a brand to create a chemical-free product is impossible, sounds a lot like fear mongering, and reeks of scientific illiteracy.

Another fun one to analyze is the "free from toxins" with little to no further explanation. Toxic what? To indicate that a product is "toxin free" doesn't say a damn thing. Literally anything can be toxic at the incorrect dose. The danger is always in the dose. That's Toxicology 101! While we love a hydrated queen, even drinking too much water can throw off your electrolyte balance. If a brand can't explain what alleged toxins they're talking about, 🚩. It has us wondering, does this brand even understand cosmetic science and chemistry? It's giving no, bestie.

Some brands love to brag about being preservative-free but your cosmetics are preserved to keep you safe. The "free from preservatives" claim is not the flex brands think it is, especially if the product contains water of any kind, including hydrosols and those lovely water-based extracts. Where there is water there must be a preservative. If you have been switching to more “natural” products, keep in mind that there are many more plant extracts and proteins found in these types of products. While your skin loves these ingredients, so does bacteria. No one wants that in their eye cream.

On the topic of preservatives, our poor parabens have been demonized in the beauty industry unnecessarily. Our good ole buddy the EWG (Environmental Working Group) 🙄 keeps perpetuating the myth that parabens lead to endocrine disruption or has a link to breast cancer. Did you know parabens have been the most widely tested and researched ingredient in cosmetics? They have been proven over and over to be perfectly safe, effective (and at even small percentages), and have good skin tolerability. Any potentials links to estrogen or endocrine disruption is extremely weak, even with cumulative exposure. This has now created an industry where brands are feeling pressured to use other less researched and potentially less effective preservatives, which is ultimately damaging to public health.

Break free from the allure of fear marketing and demand transparency. Instead of fixating on what we should avoid, let’s celebrate the power of informed choices and knowledge about the products we put on our skin. These “free from” claims spread the misconception that there are certain things we should be avoiding or fearful of, when that just isn’t the case.

Empower yourself by understanding the labels, look past the bullsh*t marketing, and make conscious decisions that align with your values.

So, raise your voice against misleading claims and join the movement for cosmetic clarity. Together we can redefine beauty standards and champion brands that are honest, ethical, and truly care about our well-being (like ours 😉).


Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety (2011)

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