Happy Hump Day!
The word of the day is Green Washing. Natural Nigerian wrote about Green Washing on her blog yesterday, it’s a really brief one, do read it here, if the term is new to you, and for more context. NN wrote about the dangers of Green Washing, and today I’m sharing an experience with you about one of the times I let false advertising get the better of me.
With products, I think I am adventurous. Sure, I always scrutinise ingredients lists to know what I’m using and to get my money’s worth, but apart from those things called texturisers & relaxers & the new “texture manageability systems”, I’m not absolutely averse to any ingredients or products in particular.
When I started my hair journey, I stayed away from the ‘big bad 3’- Silicones, Sulfates and Mineral Oils. My first haul was all natural and all organic- whipped shea butter, coconut oil, essential oils, a spray bottle, and an Aubreys Organics conditioner from The Kinky Apothecary. Though now I’m wilin’ out lol, I still advise people to try the safe way when starting, free from the ‘Big Bad 3’ if they can afford it.
Let me tell you a story.
In 2011, when I was transitioning, I got this Sleek lipstick. It was one of their early lippies, can’t remember the collection but I’d bought it at the Sleek Studio in Kumasi and I remember it smelled of bleached palm oil or something. Nasty. So, I put my bright orange lippie on to test it and immediately I felt my lips being seared. I got sensitive lips from my mama, so I’m always on stand by for any drama, but I’m serious guys. I had to wipe it off after 3 minutes and my lips were burnt. Scarred even. And scarily dry. So what did I do? I put some Vaseline on. I had their adverts in my mind. “Vaseline: Soothes, Heals and Protects”.
My lips remained burnt and scarred. I had rough spots on the surface of them. They were super dry and in dire need of healing, it was a nightmare! Like a stubborn grasshopper, I did not seek a medical opinion (because I thought, it was just lips) and so I carried on with my Vaseline therapy. Soothing, healing and protecting, multiple times a day.
Now, after two weeks, with my lips still crying for help, I knew something was wrong. I looked at the ingredients and finally decided to google “Petroleum Jelly”, and that’s when I learnt for the first time, that petroleum jelly, petrolatum, is derived from crude oil. Vaseline is good to healthy lips during the Harmattan, as an excellent sealant, but it could be of no nourishment to my very hurt lips. I learnt that Vaseline, petroleum jelly, mineral oil- though great for shine and sealing, CANNOT moisturise or hydrate, let alone heal. It can create a barrier over your skin, preventing external bacteria from getting in (in theory), but it cannot nourish or heal actual injury.
The internet suggested shea butter to me instead and I searched high and low for it. Back then, I thought shea butter was something really fancy. Went to all the major stores in town lol none had shea butter. I was almost about to give up when a Ghanaian friend of mine told me the local name for it “inkuto” and sure enough, I bought a nice scoop of inkuto for 20 pesewas (worth 20 naira then) at Tech Junction, right outside school.
Within a week, Shea butter healed my lips completely. I was in awe of the magical shea butter and so angry, I threw out my Vaseline. I was SO. BLUDDY. ANGRY at the misinformation I’d internalised for a long time. Until last year, I could not let myself buy Vaseline. True talk.
I found out the hard way that petroleum jelly cannot heal nada.
On the flip side, About this “Wonder Jelly”, Wikipedia says:
Chesebrough originally promoted Vaseline primarily as an ointment for scrapes, burns, and cuts, but studies have shown [citations needed] that Vaseline has no medicinal effect nor any effect on the blistering process, nor is it absorbed by the skin.
Yes,Wiki lacks citations for these studies, but from my experience, I can tell you that the studies are right.
That was when I learnt the importance of knowing your ingredients. What is in this product? What role does it play? If you don’t know what is in a product, you really cannot be able to understand why it gives you the results it gives you. You’re just grasping in the dark, for no good reason.
Fast forward to 2015, I am no longer angry with Vaseline and everything it stands for. I have learnt that my hair does not hate mineral oil. My kinks love silicones for slip, and they do not dry me out. This is not to say I drench my hair in tons of this stuff, I may do a post in the future about how (I think) I’ve been able to avoid build up. I have also learnt that not everything natural is good for me. Did a facial with tomato juice in 2013 and I was screwed. My skin erupted with a rash, that refused to go away naturally for 5 days, until I started using Calamine lotion.
I do not want to expressly call this Vaseline incident green washing, but for what it’s worth, it is an example of wilful false advertising, and this is NOT cool. People should be aware of what they are using and putting on their bodies. I think manufacturers should have a duty to put out correct information about their products but the reality is…
These companies are not going to slow down, it’s a “doggy dog world” out here, and clearly, asking for a little honesty is asking for too much, so it is up to us to educate ourselves. I mean- Fanta has the nerve to proclaim this on their PET bottles… (See the text on the white strip at the bottom)
In NN’s post, she addresses one kind of Green washing, brands who market products with mineral oil and silicones and co and call them natural because there’s one drop of Aloe Vera Juice somewhere in there. I think there’s another milder form of Green washing, or false advertising we should be aware of, but this post has been long enough, we will talk about that one on another day, soon.
What do you say ladies? What are your thoughts on this kind of advertising? What affects your buying decisions and why? Let’s talk about it.