Do Your Products Reflect Your Ethics?

By Mary Gentry

Selecting personal care products can be overwhelming, to say the least. Product choices are endless and the marketing angles are just as numerous, sometimes leaving us with the feeling of label-claim overload. Just a few decades ago, product selection was simple, based primarily on cost and brand name identification. Now, however, the market is an entirely new world of organics, natural, sustainable, exotic ingredients, and a host of claims to match.

As if a vast array of products and ingredient information isn’t enough, we now consider factors such as socioeconomic/fair trade, environmental concerns, and the carbon footprint of the product. The value system for product selection has evolved considerably, as have products themselves. Many massage and spa professionals consider environmental and socioeconomic factors to be a significant aspect when selecting products. Socioeconomic factors can include the working climate where raw material originates and also the working conditions of employees who manufacture the end product.

It’s clear that therapists choose the art of healing because of an inner voice, an inspiration, if you will. The journey of being an instrument in the art of healing is a sacred one, and so it should be for any entity providing goods and services to this end. It is this very sacred aspect which should stand as the basis for product formulation, where lotions and creams are a holistic adjunct, not just a substance. Synthesizing sacred energies is a powerful tool in achieving a goal of healing and wellness for people, as well as our planet. Fortunately, there are choices for  therapists who see their art as a mirror of both themselves and their intent.

How Does a Product Become a Product?

The basis of a product begins with material selection. Writing about significant material selection factors doesn’t depict the more intricate picture of how criteria can be established and utilized. Suffice it to say that a company that wants to mirror the ethical and environmental value sets of the professional therapist should fully integrate a core system of values criteria. These criteria should comprehensively assess the scope of raw material impact and focus on materials that promote well-being and limit negative impact, both environmentally and personally.

You, the therapist, don’t usually experience the evolution of a product or get involved in how decisions are made about materials. You see the end product, where it may be difficult to ascertain which label claims are accurate or even what they mean. So, how should you select products that meet your evolving criteria? Below are a few tips about what to look for in a company and a product. Look for companies with these characteristics:


Quality representatives

You should be able to reach someone, preferably the formulator, who can describe raw material selection and the company’s value system. This person should be open and willing to discuss which ingredients they use and why they don’t use others.

A clearly defined approach to formulation

Spokespeople should be willing to discuss concerns, vision, mission, and ethics.


Well-defined products

A company that uses several key materials can offer advantages. Fewer raw materials translates to a better bulk purchase rate, offering both a cost savings to you and the ability to incorporate more of the quality ingredients into the product itself. Additionally, using a limited variety of sustainable, vitamin-rich materials in product formulations leaves a smaller footprint on the planet.



Companies should demonstrate a clear understanding of socioeconomic and environmental issues regarding the personal care industry. For example, palm oil is cheap, but the environmental impact of rain forest destruction for planting palm is astounding and heartbreaking. Consequences of palm oil use include: habitat destruction leading to primate dislocation, indigenous peoples losing their way of life, and ethno-botanic heritage losses.

The manufacturer should be dedicated to providing genuine peace of mind for you, the end user. Liken it to buying a car: you shouldn’t have to know exactly how an engine works, just that it works. It’s the same with personal care products. You shouldn’t have to become a label-claim expert, a chemist, or an environmental scientist to be able to enjoy peace of mind with the products you choose. 


Mary Gentry co-owns Nutro Body Care ( She is a registered environmental health specialist, emeritus, with formal degrees in biological sciences. Her background includes environmental planning and public health policy. She applies her knowledge to personal care product formulation. Contact her at