Garnier Ambre Solaire, cosmetic truth of the month
Ambre Solaire Kids Water Resistant
Sun Cream Spray SPF50+
Garnier is one of those ancient, traditional brands, which are widely available in supermarkets or pharmacies. The brand (as well as Garnier’s various other sub-brands) belongs to the L’Oréal group. As is the case with all multi-nationals in the cosmetics industry, brands are now almost all duty-bound to re-invent themselves with more sustainable versions, whether by conviction or simple opportunistic marketing. The FRENCH homepage of Garnier’s website details this concept with a new slogan « towards even more sustainable beauty”:
« Discover the next chapter in our commitment to Green Beauty, an educational campaign to share expert knowledge and practical tips for more sustainable consumption. This campaign is the first step in a new commitment by the brand to encourage 250 million people to live more responsibly by 2025 (…). Garnier’s new commitment is part of a series of ambitious goals to reduce the brand’s environmental impact at all stages of its value chain. Garnier is determined to continue its bold sustainable transformation and is committed to sharing expert knowledge and practical advice with millions of consumers to empower them to take action.”
A little further down on the “Our Heritage” page (still on the French version of the website), Garnier claims that its Ultra Gentle shampoos are “plant-based” and that the Olia colour is “based on the power of vegetal oil”. They forget to mention the rest of the less glamorous formulation which includes a slew of controversial chemical ingredients. « The first range of ultra-soft plant-based shampoos designed for all hair types. The first four formulas are made with wheat germ, lime leaf, chamomile and saw palmetto » (…) OLIA, THE POWER OF OIL .Based on the power of oil, Olia offers exceptional colour and improved hair quality: the hair is three times shinier than before colouring with Olia. And all this without ammonia. »
So to sum up: Garnier, which until now has not been noted for its commitment to ecology, or for its irreproachable formulations, whether in terms of ecology or in terms of its formulations based on extremely controversial ingredients, is about to explain to us how to « live more responsibly ». Sounds like a real programme. We don’t quite yet understand the concept of “even more sustainable » beauty, and we are still not quite sure if the Garnier group and its various brands (Fructis, Ultra Doux, Olia, Belle Color etc.) has had anything to do with sustainable beauty since its creation. And to check whether these proudly stated commitments are reflected in the formulation of their products, all you have to do is take a random product, a sun spray for children for example, and take a closer look at the composition.
On the brand page* (UK page) presenting GARNIER Ambre Solaire Sunscreen Spray, you can read a relatively brief description:
Our Ambre Solaire Kids Sensitive Advanced Sun Lotion Spray SPF50+ immediately protects your kids from both short and long-term sun-induced damage. Our innovative Netlock TechnologyTM and maximum 5 Star UVA protection has been especially developed for kids’ sensitive and sun intolerant skin and is hypoallergenic. The kind-to-skin formula can be used on body and face. Our formula conforms 100% to European recommendations for protection against the harmful effects of UVA and UVB rays.
Let’s take the time to check the composition of the product by taking a closer look at the list of ingredients, on the INCI list of GARNIER Ambre Solaire Spray:
As always, it is the first 5-8 ingredients that constitute the majority of the product’s « profile ». And among these first ingredients there is already an entire list of chemical UV filters, a real cocktail of 6 synthetic UV filters over the whole formula, (some of which are considered really problematic, notably endocrine disruptors), some secondary substances and controversial and/or polluting components. The tone of the formulation is set. We are not quite sure just how much this approach is really about « more sustainable beauty ».
Some controversial substances have crept into the formula:
- ETHYLHEXYL SALICYLATE (Octisalate), synthetic UV filter (chemical), suspected endocrine disruptor
- BUTYL METHOXYDIBENZOYLMETHANE, synthetic UV filter (chemical), suspected endocrine disruptor
- ETHYLHEXYL TRIAZONE synthetic UV filter (chemical), environmental problem (pollutant)
- DROMETRIZOLE TRISILOXANE synthetic UV filter (chemical), environmental concern (pollutant)
- TRIETHANOLAMINE an ingredient that is used either as a buffer substance, emulsifier or surfactant, which can form nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic
- SODIUM POLYACRYLATES, gelling agent, absorbent, environmental problem
- Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, chelating agent (see EDTA), derived from petrochemical components, pollutant
- ACRYLATES/C10-30 ALKYL ACRYLATE CROSSPOLYMER environmental problem (microplastic)
The formulation also contains suspected endocrine disruptors, which is a real problem, especially in a product intended for children.Pregnant women and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of endocrine disruptors. Of course, cosmetic products are not the only sources of endocrine disruption, but they are part of it, and overexposure to multiple sources of endocrine disruptors on a daily basis is really problematic.
More information about endocrine disruptors (in French, soon to be available in English)
A formula that will certainly protect against UV rays, but which contains a whole series of chemical UV filters, some of which are very controversial (suspected endocrine disruptors). The multiplication of problematic and controversial ingredients also refers to the cocktail effect: chemical substances that, taken on their own, are harmless, but which can become harmful when mixed together. In addition are a few polluting ingredients to help improve the future of our children, the state of the planet and pollute the oceans…I’m joking, well not entirely. A product for children that does not really respect the environment will not respect its future, it’s as simple as that…. So we are quite far from the concept of « even more sustainable beauty ».
All too often, we rely solely on the protection provided by sun creams (which only provide partial protection), without taking into account the context (phototype/place of exposure/time/background, etc.).
The following article also provides more explanations on this subject. (in French, soon to be available in English)
We are not the only ones to note that the formulations of sunscreen products are still often problematic.
The June 2020 edition of the German consumer magazine Ökotest, for example, also contained a product test on « sun creams for children ».
The test included a total of 21 products, both « conventional » and certified organic cosmetic brands. The products, analysed on the basis of their formulations, were downgraded because of the following ingredients:
☀︎ Synthetic UV filters, such as Octorylene and Homosalate, suspected endocrine disruptors
☀︎ Polluting ingredients based on silicones or acrylates
☀︎ Lack of declaration of nanoparticles
☀︎ PEGs, pollutant ingredients, which can make the skin more permeable to other substances
☀︎ Mineral oil-based ingredients (paraffin type) environmental problem
You can find similar articles and product tests on the website