In the past few years, there has been greater consumer pressure placed on companies to produce clean and simple skincare products. This pressure stems from the concept that fewer ingredients make a product better for the consumer and the environment. Due to the shift in trends, customers are now looking for products that have fewer ingredients in them as a sign that they are better for your skin. Due to these reasons, the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser has gained popularity, especially in this last year. Social media has played a large role in the expansion of this product, due to beauty and skincare influencers posting about its benefits. Additionally, the parent company, Galderma, works closely with the pharmaceutical industry and dermatologists. Through my research on the brand, it is clear that the marketing for Cetaphil as a clean beauty brand has worked, and has essentially fooled customers into believing they are putting nothing harmful on their skin, while also saving money. Overall, the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser is not the most sustainable or harmless product on the market and the company behind it is not very transparent.
Other than the first ingredient, which is water, all of the ingredients in the cleanser are manufactured chemicals. The rest of the ingredients in the face wash are glycerin, PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Butylene Glycol, Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate, Acrylates/Steareth-20 Methacrylate Copolymer, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate, Phenoxyethanol, Masking Fragrance, Panthenol, PEG-60 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben. (Peg-200) This ingredient is a surfactant, meaning it is a cleansing or emulsifying agent. Surfactants are essential ingredients for cleansers and soaps. The ingredients in the cleanser are not the best example of clean skincare. For example, there are 3 different parabens in the product, and these ingredients have been linked to endocrine system disruption. Cocoate is meant to be a natural alternative to synthetic chemicals that are used in soap making, such as sodium lauryl sulfate. This ingredient is derived from coconut oil through chemical processes. However, the Cetaphil Daily Facial Cleanser has both cocoate and the synthetic version of this. The second ingredient in the product is hydrogenated glyceryl palmate, also referred to as sodium palmate. Sodium palmate is sodium salt, which is derived from the fatty acids in palm oil. The production process of palm oil is incredibly detrimental to the environment and is a key factor in deforestation issues around the globe. Another ingredient in the face wash is hydrogenated castor oil. Castor oil is present in many beauty and skincare products. Despite its water usage and slightly high carbon footprint per kilogram (3.2 kg or CO2/kg) castor oil is relatively sustainable because its production does not cause significant damage to air, water, soil, etc if pesticides have not been used. Again, this information is not provided by Cetaphil or Galderma.
The Cetaphil website offers no information on the supply chain including workers’ rights and production methods. All of the information about sourcing and production and company values towards sustainability and social responsibility was found on the Galderma website. The information provided by Galderma regarding their employees is also very vague. The website states that they value diversity and respect and are committed to fostering a respectful and inclusive workplace. However, there is no information on labor in the company or supply chain or anything related to environmental justice initiatives in communities the companies impact. When the keyword “sustainability” was searched on the Cetaphil website, it yielded no results. This is concerning, because usually if a company has nothing to hide they will make their sustainability efforts prominent or at least present on their website. The Cetaphil website has no information about where they source their palm oil in order to make the sodium palmate. The website also has no information about sourcing any of the other ingredients, as well as the chemical production and manufacturing processes. Due to the fact that water is one of the only natural ingredients in the facial cleanser, there should be more accessible information about production methods for the chemicals, on the website.
The individual Cetaphil website does not have a page on sustainability. Galderma, the company that owns Cetaphil, claims to align its mission with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, but its sustainability page is relatively vague. The website mentions their Responsible Sourcing program, which works with suppliers and partners to “advance sustainability efforts in a coordinated manner”, but again this information is vague and the website does not provide details on ingredient sourcing. Additionally, Galderma is not a cruelty-free company, which means that its products are still tested on animals. However, Galderma does have some notable success in the company’s overall environmental impact. Between 2010 and 2020, Galderma reduced their water consumption per ton of product by 33%. In this same time frame, the company reduced greenhouse gas emissions from production by 61% ahead of their initial plan and 95% of their electricity is sourced from renewable energy. The company plans to be carbon neutral by 2030, which is more ambitious than some of its competitors. The company has 4 factory sites, all of which achieved their goal of zero waste sent to landfills by 2019.