A SOCIAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL AUDIT OF THE BODY SHOP:
Anita Roddick and the Question of Character
The Body Shop has been perceived in some circles as a model of corporate social responsibility. Yet, for years its claims were never seriously scrutinized. It had prospered in large measure because of its reputation that it operates at a higher ethical level than other companies. Founder Anita Roddick used to have a sign posted in her office claiming that The Body Shop was ‘the most honest cosmetic company’ in the world. The Body Shop’s only real product is honesty, as it sells commodity beauty products. But what is its standard of integrity?
Entrepreneurial companies are a reflection of their leadership. This study highlights the tension between Body Shop’s charismatic, quixotic leaders and its stakeholders who are hungry for organizational integrity. Originally prepared because of many legal threats by various Body Shop lawyers (I was never sued, though I was the focus of a vicious public relations attack costing Body Shop hundreds of thousand of dollars coordinated by Hill & Knowlton, of tobacco lobbyist fame), focuses on Roddick’s character and the company’s culture.
SOURCES Sources include more than 150 current and former employees and franchisees, associates of the Roddicks, environmental groups, scientists, trade organizations, and government investigators (more than 50 on tape). A very partial list of inside sources:
– Two Former CFOs
– Former General Counsel
– Three Former Directors of Communications
– Four Former Quality Control Managers
– Former Director of Environmental Affairs, US
– Former Director of Social Inventions, UK
– The Body Shop PR Director, 1978 – 1986
– Chief Cosmetic Scientist, 1976 – 1987
– Roddick’s best friend a first franchisee from the ‘70s
– Current and Former Franchisees in the US, UK, France, Norway, Singapore, Spain, Canada
THE RODDICKS ON THE BODY SHOP “Why are we different: we respect the environment. We are against animal testing for cosmetics. We are committed to establishing non – exploitative trading relationships with indigenous people. We campaign for human rights. Our business is something that people – employees, customers, suppliers, franchisees – can feel great about, but only on one condition: The Body Shop must never let itself become anything other than a human enterprise.”
– Anita Roddick
“Quite simply put, we walk our talk.”
– Gordon Roddick, “1993 Annual Report”
“[BSI} is about total honesty...the precious First Amendment, the right to publicly debate the performance of any publicly held corporation, and the obligation that we who would measure social costs and benefits have to continue that process, holding ourselves accountable to the standards we set for ourselves.”
– Anita Roddick, 1994
“The Body Shop’s goals and values are as important as our products and profits. The Body Shop has soul. Don’t lose it.”
– Anita Roddick, “The Body Shop Charter”
SOURCES ON THE BODY SHOP “Why did I leave The Body Shop and why am I talking to you? Let’s just say I can’t believe in a company that doesn’t ‘walk its talk.’”
– Former The Body Shop US President
“The company stinks to high heaven. I hope people will speak up and with attribution. I am, quite frankly, afraid of them. I felt like I was dealing with the Gambino family.”
– The Body Shop franchisee
“It’s a lot worse when you find out the robber who’s been stealing from you is the local cop.”
– Former Systems Manager
“I have two kids and I won’t let them use the products. I’ve seen their internal tests. They use the cheapest ingredients with so many chemicals that it irritates your skin. I feel so good about finally being able to tell somebody on the outside what’s really going on.”
– Former Manager
“It was like swimming with the sharks. They treat their own staff horribly. And they’re not truthful about what they say. They irradiate some of their products. They buy the cheapest ingredients and containers. Many of their products are from animals. They seem to have no hesitation about buying from repressive countries like China.”
– Former Manager
“I got a very aggressive letter from Gordon when they heard we were going with the story of how they stole the idea of The Body Shop from a store in San Francisco. It’s a gangsterish operation beneath its kindly exterior. This woman has lost touch with reality. She’s a clever PR operator who has held the press at bay. She doesn’t play by other people’s standards. She has steamrolled other constraints.”
– Former Editor, International Management magazine, England
“I don’t usually use this kind of language but there’s no other way to say it: they fuck over their franchisees. Fewer than a third are making any money at all and most of them are barely making it. The only way to save the company is to get rid of Anita. She’s a lunatic. And I’m one of the few who likes her.”
– Former US Franchisee
“I took the job because I believed in what I thought was The Body Shop philosophy. I’m so numb now it’s beyond being sad or angry. We regularly flush non – biodegradable chemicals down the drain. We don’t properly dilute caustic detergents. We still don’t properly recycle our plastics. We are told to skip bacteria – testing on our cosmetics, which is illegal. Plus we are always cutting corners to save money. We don’t do long term stability tests on some of our products and they’ve gone rancid. But we don’t pull them from the stores. And don’t let anyone tell you the UK doesn’t know. We don’t do anything without clearance from England.”
– Recently Departed Quality Control Manager
“The franchisees are just innocent, idealistic women, suckered into believing they can make money while the company has one hand in their pocket. The Body Shop is not a typical franchiser. The franchise owner assumes all the risk. And the franchisees were provided deceptive financial projections. If I were a typical franchisee, I’d sue for fraud.”
– Former CFO
“The Body Shop appears to combine many of the worst aspects of franchise fraud. It definitely sells an image of the company far different than reality. That’s deceptive and maybe fraudulent. I’ve talked with franchisees from the US and Europe and it seems they were given misleading financial data. I referred this to the FTC because I think they’d have a terrific case. We’re going to cite it in briefings on franchise fraud.”
– Economist, House Committee on Small Business
“It’s a sweat shop. It’s a cruel organization, a mean – spirited company. Benefits are average, at best. Pay is 75% of what other cosmetic companies offer and here we work 60 – 80 hours a week. Workers are fired on Anita’s whims and get no severance. They have no daycare facilities. There’s not one minority franchisee. There are dozens of top managers in the United States and UK but only one is a female. It used to make all of us sick seeing the simpering in the media.”
– Former Manager
“They are an absolutely evil company. The Body Shop is a wonderfully orchestrated scheme. Commitment to the environment? That’s a laugh. In Paris, they used to pick up plastic bottles and dump them in landfills.”
– Former European Franchisee
“The Body Shop talks about “family” and “openness” and how “employees come first.” The reality is they treat people like dirt. They treat people like crap. I’ve never seen a place with worse morale. I was on the phone all the time with franchisees crying about losing their shirt.”
– Former Customer Service Manager
“We were never asked to do an environmental audit. It was just an inexpensive review. Even so, we could see their waste water system is not adequate. They’re cosmetic filling operation is quite bad. Very bad. If their plant was operating in the United States, the EPA would shut it down. We turned down the chance to do the review the next year.”
– Arthur D. Little Company Auditor, UK
“Did they ever break the law? Well, they illegally recorded conversations with disgruntled employees and franchisees. They broke antitrust laws by sending around “price police” forcing franchisees into making their prices illegally uniform. They regularly made questionable representations of potential franchisee profits. They don’t comply with US labeling laws. They were literally booted out of their New Jersey headquarters to North Carolina because local environmental officials had given them so much grief about illegal discharges of wastewater. Is that enough?”
– Former Executive
“When we hear Anita say, “We walk our talk,” we cringe. Anita is a schizophrenic. She’s sociopathic. Nothing is the way it seems with The Body Shop. She’s taken the program we helped The Body Shop set up and tried to subvert it.”
– Twin Trading, fair trade organization
“The lie is what upsets me. They’re not helping the Kayapo Indians. It’s all a show. First world wages? They pay first world wages all right – the same dirt-cheap wages other first world companies pay. They’re worse than United Fruit. Anita Roddick is lying about how she helps the rainforest but who would believe some Brazilian activists.”
– Brazilian, Director of Amanakáa, Amazon relief agency
“The Body Shop is a vulture when it comes to social responsibility. Many of us in the environmental and development movements in Europe are embarrassed. We’ve been attracted to the success and high profile of The Body Shop but got our wings burned. Even now, it’s hard for different agencies to see the whole picture, especially with the media taking what Anita says at face value. If we don’t watch out, the public will find out about The Body Shop’s record and become profoundly skeptical about business with high-flying ethical claims, and we’ll be partly responsible by not calling the company to account earlier.”
“I hated Anita. Everybody here did. Jilly Forster [Director of Communications and a Board member] was a little dictator. For a company that professes to be open and creative, it was pathetic. We knew there were terrible problems with the company but our hands were tied. We were embarrassed by Body and Soul but we bought it already edited and were not allowed to make any changes or even fact check. From what I saw, the company seems like a complete mess. If you ever wanted to do a book on The Body Shop, make sure you run it by us. I know our editors would be interested.”
– Publicist for Anita Roddick’s autobiography Body and Soul
THE AUDIT (1) The Origins of the CompanyCLAIM: Anita Roddick “decided to open a small shop in England selling the kind of simple, natural skin and hair care preparations she had seen being used by women of other cultures on her travels around the world.” (The Body Shop brochure: “The Business of The Body Shop”)
The Body Shop originated not in Brighton in 1976 but in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1970. Sisters-in-law Jane Saunders and Peggy Short opened a tiny shop housed in CJs a converted auto garage on Telegraph Avenue selling cosmetics with natural-sounding names in simple plastic bottles of varying sizes. They called it The Body Shop. It was an overnight success. People would stop by as Peggy and Jane cut and wrapped freshly made soaps and poured hand-labeled individual bottles of lotions and perfume oil. Within months, they opened another store in Berkeley and a third in San Francisco at Union Square.
In 1970, young Anita traveled to San Francisco with then boyfriend Gordon to visit his best friend, David Edward. Edward’s former wife, Alma (now Dunstan-McDaniel), remembers dragging Anita to a favorite shop, filled with tie-dyed decorations and redolent with incense. “That was the place to buy shampoo and body cream,” Alma says. She recalls Anita buying armfuls of hand-cut soaps, loofah sponges, and cosmetics in small plastic bottles with hand-written labels.
This story has been confirmed by more than a half dozen independent sources, among them Roddick’s best friend at the time, Aidre Vaillancourt (who became the first franchisee and a board member), her first cosmetic advisor Mark Constantine, and her long-time PR director Janis Raven.
The Body Shop’s name, store look, product line, marketing concept were copied directly from the Berkeley Body Shop. Vaillancourt recalls excitedly pouring over early Berkeley catalogs with Roddick in 1975, a year before Roddick opened her shop. Roddick’s early catalogs issued in the late 70s, with hand-drawn illustrations of plants and advice on how to use the products, are an almost exact copy of the Berkeley The Body Shop’s price lists and mail-order catalogs from 1970 – 1976. Roddick made the plagiarist’s most telling mistake - when she copied the Berkeley The Body Shop catalog, many times word-for-word, she even copied the original catalog’s grammatical errors. The Berkeley catalog says “we have set prices at reasonable levels by avoiding expensive, gimmicky advertising and by presenting products in modest, attractive packages.” Roddick’s BSI says it will sell “moderately priced products with no hype or advertising and minimal packaging.” The Berkeley The Body Shop says “all our products are biodegradable and made to our specifications; bottles 20¢ or bring your own.” Anita wrote: “all our products are biologically soft and made to our specifications; bottles 12p or bring your own.” Even the product category listings are largely identical. “For the Hair,” “For the Bath,” “Creams,” “Lotions,” “Oils,” and even the category “Special Items” were featured in the Berkeley catalog six years before Roddick came out with her copycat version.
Anita Roddick suggests that she pioneered the recycling movement in cosmetics. The Body Shop (UK) claims “we are the first skin and hair care company to encourage customers to bring back their used packaging for recycling” and offers its US customers a 25 cents per bottle price reduction at its “Refill Bar.” The Berkeley The Body Shop says in its original brochure in 1971, “you might bring an empty bottle (a The Body Shop first) for a price reduction for lotion, shampoo or whatever.” Customers got 10 cents off per ounce.
The similarities do not stop there. Roddick’s distinctive script on her first sign and its green color matched almost exactly the type and color of the sign over the original Berkeley Body Shop Union Street store. The original Body Shop sold its cosmetics in “Boston round” plastic bottles with black tops – the exact type later used by Anita Roddick. The Berkeley The Body Shop sold its lotions by the ounce so people could buy only as much as they needed; Roddick originally offered her cosmetics by the ounce so customers could buy only as much as they needed. Most of Roddick’s early products were made from recipes developed by Creighton’s, an English cosmetic manufacturer, for Crabtree & Evelyn. Her synthetic oils were made by another manufacturer.
Over the years, Roddick came out with many “new” products first introduced in Berkeley. They both offered hand-lettered plastic bottles filled with lotions with exotic, natural-sounding names: Avocado Cream, Glycerin and Rose Water Lotion with Vitamin E, scented glycerin soaps and perfume oils, and unique specialty items such as loofah natural vegetable sponges. The Berkeley store offered Four O’clock Astringent lotion; Anita’s store sold Five O’clock lotion. Over the years, there have been dozens of similarities.
A particularly telling knockoff is Roddick’s Japanese Washing Grains made with ground adzuki beans. The product was actually created by the Berkeley The Body Shop. The Korean woman who made the kimonos that were sold in the shop shared with Jane and Peggy a family recipe utilizing adzuki grounds as a facial scrub. The Berkeley The Body Shop developed the product with her advice – Roddick did not, as she has claimed, come up with the product in a visit to Japan. In fact, the proprietor of a natural food store across the street from Roddick’s first store said she used to buy the adzuki beans for her product from him.
BSI delayed moving into the US, Japan and Israel for many years because the Berkeley store owned the rights to the name. By 1987, Peggy and Jane still owned their modest but very successful chain of shops, then numbering six. For years, Short and Saunders remained unaware of the brazen heist. As a result, when the Roddicks approached them in 1987 to buy the rights to the Body Shop name for $3.5 million for the rights to The Body Shop trademark in the US, Japan and Israel, they jumped. They renamed their shops Body Time–and agreed to a gag agreement, which carried the threat of legal action. Only later did they stumble upon the copycat brochures. The Berkeley women sold the trademark because they didn’t went to face an expensive and protracted legal battle over a company with deep pockets. The original The Body Shop is now called ‘Body Time.’
“What really got them angry,” says a colleague of the Berkeley sisters “was the ongoing deception Anita’s lie that she originated the idea, the green color scheme, the products, all the things that gave the company its unique identity. Never in our wildest imagination did we think that Roddick, with all her claims about being so honest, would keep this fabrication going.”
The Roddicks steadfastly deny “any knowledge” of the original sin, often brandishing a quote from the founders–issued before they got hold of the copied brochures, and well before their representatives contacted me–that Roddick “didn’t rip us off”. That brings a blunt response from Alma. “That’s bullshit, because I took her [to the original]. She had a number of those products in her suitcase to go home. She made sure she had one of each. It was a lie from the start. Anita ripped them off.”
Roddick’s fabrications extended beyond her founder’s myth. She concocted an elaborate fable that she came up with the idea of putting cosmetics in recyclable, refillable plastic containers to cut down on waste. She embellished this story with tales about sourcing arcane potions on her world travels: pineapples from Sri Lanka for her facial wash, cocoa butter from Hawaiian natives, foot lotion developed on request of the London Marathon. According to early executives, Janis Raven and Mark Constantine, and Aidre Vaillancourt, Roddick fabricated these stories – originally with some innocence – to provide interesting stories to sell products and attract press attention.
Taped interviews with Constantine in 1994 give some insights into the background of Anita Roddick and her myth making. Constantine and I have talked at least a half a dozen times, including twice since this story broke in August 1994. Before publication, he reviewed all his quotes used in my articles in context. They were adjusted and readjusted by him to make sure all nuances were accurate. He then approved them again. What follows are just two of many examples [the tapes are available for any interested researcher]:
• Constantine on his gag agreement
MC: “Did you have a chat with [the Berkeley The Body Shop] about that? What did they have to say about that?”
JE: “Well, they’re under a gag order, a confidentiality agreement.”
MC: “Well, they’re not the only one.”
JE: “Oh, I know that. Are you under a gag order?”
MC: “Uh huh. (laughter)”
JE: “I figured you might be.”
• Constantine on Roddick making up her stories about coming up with exotic potions:
JE: “Did Anita say she had brought back potions from India or something?”
MC: “I’m not going to comment or discuss all that stuff (belly laugh). We [Mark and Janis Raven] would provide the cosmetics and how to talk to the press and we just stayed in the background, which was fine by me. We had a great time.”
MC: “I certainly never talked about how she came up with any of those things. I basically, if she said something, then I just kept quiet.”
JE: “Did she really believe it when she was saying it to you?”
MC: “I don’t know. It certainly rankled with me a lot. I can remember doing, I mean, it got to be a joke, Mark Constantine hit on my head from the pineapple tree... coconut tree. It was just, I certainly wasn’t there supporting those statements, not at all.”
MC: “I was fully aware that she didn’t, hadn’t had the idea about wandering in Polynesia.”
MC: “The wonderful joke with Janis Raven was always, was when I said “Janis, can’t you do something about Anita.” So she said, ‘What do you mean?’ So I said, ‘you created all this bloody publicity thing, you made....’ have you ever heard of Frankenstein? It’s just like, you create the monster you can’t control.”
The Roddicks have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Frankenstein’s monster in the closet. When the British magazine International Management interviewed Gordon Roddick in 1986 about the rip-off, he heatedly denied “any knowledge” of the Berkeley Body Shop, saying, “We have a different approach. Their products are sold from behind the counter in the US.” Mark Johnson, the former editor of International Management and now an executive with the PR firm Burson-Marsteller,says Gordon threatened him in an attempt to quash the story. “It’s a gangsterish operation under cover of a kindly exterior,” he says. Fearing a suit, Johnson toned down the article. As recently as November 1995, he reaffirmed this account.
British newspapers, which have flirted with printing aspects of BSI’s history, have been threatened by an ever-ready phalanx of solicitors. In 1991, the editor of the Mail on Sunday received a number of threatening letters from Lovell White Durrant, The Body Shop’s legal team (which formerly represented the notorious Robert Maxwell): “Our clients...take pride in their principled approach to business....Your actions suggest that our clients have acted dishonestly and unscrupulously, and this untrue allegation is extremely damaging.... There is no truth whatsoever in any allegation that Anita Roddick stole the idea for The Body Shop from someone else. In summary therefore, the damage which would be caused by the Mail on Sunday article would clearly be substantial.” Cowed by the pro-plaintiff libel laws in the UK, the Mail killed the article.
(2) The Products of The Body Shop: Natural Cosmetics?
CLAIM: The Body Shop says, “Natural ingredients are the heart of every product.”
The Body Shop is considered the pioneer ‘natural’ cosmetic company. Teenage girls and young women – even Princess Diana who made a highly publicized visit at the opening of a BSI manufacturing plant – buy its products because “they are natural.” Yet, they are not, at least by any reasonable measure. As one noted cosmetologist said, “If you called The Body Shop “the Shoddy Bop” you’d get a better idea of its product quality and reputation.” The cosmetic industry refers to Body Shop products and lines by Bath & Body Works, Nature’s Elements and similar mass merchandisers as “alibi formulations,” synthetic compounds combined chemically with a tiny sprinkling of natural ingredients.
Yet, mainstream publications such as Seventeen, Cosmopolitan,Forbes,Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and hundreds of other magazines and newspapers throughout the world have uncritically reinforced BSI’s green image. There is rarely a hint of the confusion – seemingly encouraged by The Body Shop – which muddies the debate over natural products.
“Natural” is not always better in cosmetics. The decision to use or produce natural cosmetics is not based on safety or efficacy. In fact, many natural substances can cause severe allergic reactions and are far less effective or safe than well-tested synthetics – one reason why synthesized chemicals are developed. Furthermore, “natural” has no universally accepted meaning in the food or cosmetic industry. Because of quirks in labeling laws, a “natural” ingredient that the consumer assumes is 100% natural may be derived from petrochemicals and synthesized chemicals. Almost all natural cosmetics contain synthetic preservatives and likely have artificial fragrances and colorings. Many cosmetic firms which sell natural or “naturally-based” products, especially The Body Shop, use a myriad of nonrenewable synthesized (and sometimes substitutable) artificial ingredients.
The casual customer who picks up The Body Shop’s brochure “What is Natural” might mistakenly think she is getting a helping hand in deciphering these hieroglyphic-like claims. The brochure opens with an attack on mainstream cosmetic firms, charging them with cynically exploiting the word “natural”:
“The cosmetic industry has run amok with “natural” claims. These claims may be misleading: products may have only a tiny element of natural ingredients or they may have been so heavily processed that the original natural ingredients no longer retain the properties of which they were chosen.”
BSI itself uses only “tiny elements of natural ingredients” in most of their products – usually a small fraction at ineffective levels. But Roddick positions BSI as the one company that does things differently and tells the honest-to-goodness truth.
“We can’t and shouldn’t be grouped together with the myriad of other companies
crying “natural!” Because as you probably know, we’re not like other companies.”
When Roddick opened in 1976, her cosmetics were made with mineral oil, petrolatum, carbomers, isopropyl myristate and other nonrenewable petrochemical–based ingredients. Those ingredients are still in today’s products. Roddick’s line of “natural” perfumes is based on petrochemicals. According to Aidre Vaillancourt, her perfume oils were made by adding synthetic fragrances to cooking oil Roddick bought at the local grocery. In the following years, Constantine developed a new line of cosmetics containing some natural ingredients. Still, the most innovative part of Roddick’s The Body Shop was the natural–sounding names; she had a terrific flair for marketing. BSI never listed ingredients on the labels in those years, and despite its claims that it is a leader in disclosing product information, many of its products sold outside the US still do not.
As the company evolved from a hippie storefront in Brighton into a growing English concern and finally into an international cosmetic company, its values and marketing concerns changed significantly. Synthetic ingredients were introduced as preservatives to provide long-term stability of its products. Roddick filled her products with bright dyes and artificial fragrances. Over time, the brightly colored, heavily fragranced lotion became as much a part of the company’s trademark as its natural reputation.
After Constantine left the company in the mid-1980s, taking many of his formulas with him, BSI started buying more off-the-shelf industrial-type recipes. The Body Shop now uses many of the same synthesized ingredients as its mainstream, drug store-level competitors. Cosmetic scientists, suppliers and industry watchdogs say the most significant difference between BSI and most cosmetic companies is marketing: unique names and its socially responsible image. One natural products distributor says “take the name “The Body Shop” off the labels and substitute the name “Payless Drug Stores” and you get an idea of their quality.”
• • •
How honest is The Body Shop? BSI claims it “absolutely refuses to compromise” its principles simply to make a “natural product,” bases its products on natural ingredients” and only uses “man-made substances” such as preservatives “to keep our products fresh” (as do all cosmetic companies) and fragrances and colorings to make products “as enjoyable to use as they are to create” (even though some “natural” cosmetic firms do not use certain synthesized colorings or fragrances).
Roddick’s catalogs have frequently been filled with suggestive media quotes: “The Body Shop is green all over,” its products “promote health and well–being,” “there’s a fruit product to try,” it carries “a kitchen of things for the skin,” offering “indigenous beauty secrets,” with a “natural approach to skin and hair care.” In its environmental statement, BSI mis-states that the only non-renewable chemicals used in its products are mineral oils. The media recycle these misleading quotes, perpetuating the “natural” myth.
In fact, Roddick’s Body Shop regularly uses many ingredients derived from nonrenewable petrochemicals. BSI justifies using dyes and fragrances by saying skin and hair care products should be “fun...as enjoyable to use as they are to create.” Many scientists believe that some petrochemical-based ingredients have mild to severe comedogenic properties – they block the pores – and do not recommend them for blemished skin. BSI also regularly irradiates – it treats with radiation to kill microbes – its Japanese Washing Grains, Coconut Oil Shampoo, facial washes and other products. Radiation is generated from nonrenewable uranium that cannot be safely disposed of and has a half-life of millions of years. Its products could be reformulated without these nonrenewable ingredients – a direct contradiction of the claims in its brochure that it will “endeavor to use only ingredients from renewable sources...without negatively impacting the natural environment.” In other words, The Body Shop again deceives its customers.
In the mid-1980s, its own franchisees from Switzerland, Germany and Scandinavia where the green movement is most sophisticated, began complaining to headquarters about the exaggerations and misrepresentations. Their complaints prompted BSI to suddenly drop the phrase “natural products” from its promotional literature and use the euphemistic “naturally-based.”
What do consumer activists and natural product experts think about The Body Shop? Paula Begoun is author of a number of bestsellers on cosmetics including Don’t Go to the Cosmetics Counter Without Me: “Their water-soluble cleansers don’t rinse off without the aid of a washcloth, the toners contain irritating ingredients such as alcohol and some of their moisturizers contain ingredients that can cause blackheads. Several of their products also contain the preservative 2- bromo-2-nitropane-1, 3 diol and a [pH adjuster] called triethanolamine. When these two ingredients are present in the same cosmetic, they can be very irritating and dangerous on your skin.” [They form a possibly carcinogenic nitrosamine.]
Zia Wesley-Hosford is the author of many consumer books including Putting on Your Face: The Ultimate Guide to Cosmetics, and Face Value: Skin Care for Women Over 35. In one of her newsletters, she discusses “Products to Avoid,” focusing on The Body Shop:
“I selected seven basic skin and body care items and found that they all contained at least two or more of the following ingredients: isopropyl myristate, mineral oil, petrolatum, sodium lauryl sulfate and triethanolamine. These ingredients are of no benefit to the skin whatsoever. They can sensitize, irritate, and strip the skin and cause breakouts. Body Shop uses a tremendous amount of non-renewable ingredients. The Body Shop may be surprised to learn that there are many environmentally-conscious cosmetic companies offering well-made skin care products from natural, renewable sources that benefit the skin.”
One of America’s leading natural ingredients expert, Debra Lynn Dadd, has written six books including Nontoxic, Natural and Earthwise. She says BSI’s products are not natural enough to be included in her book:
“They use outdated and unnecessary chemicals and deceptive brochures and product names. Consumers can easily find more natural shampoos, soaps and lotions that are safer and less expensive.”
FDA regulations require that cosmetic ingredients be listed on labels in descending order of concentration – up to the 1% mark. Below 1%, companies can list them in any order they choose. Usually a product hits the 1% mark at the fourth or fifth ingredient. If there are, say, fifteen ingredients, the sixth ingredient listed – if it’s below 1% – may actually be the fifteenth ingredient in concentration. This is important because only tiny fractions of botanical–based ingredients are used in many of BSI’s products. BSI implies it sets the highest standard for disclosure of ingredients. Let’s look at a few of its most popular products: