Explore Our FAQs
Sometimes, a simple recommendation to a friend does the trick.
We live in a simmering and complicated time of consumerism. It is vital to have a larger understanding of what is going on and encourage discussion and become savvy about the world we live in. We hope you find what you are looking for below. If not, please try these resources: Recommendation Values, Free-Of List, Detailed Brand Inquiry, or our Get To Know Us page.
Why isn’t a certain company on the list?
Mostly likely, because we are in our early stages of finding and vetting brands. It takes time to grow and flourish. The other reasons a company might not be listed in our Savvy Recommendations could include:
- We haven’t approached them yet
- They haven't approached us yet
- They may have decided not to participate
- They may be updating an item
- They have some products that meet our core values, but not all
If you know of a brand that is:
- Fully transparent
- In compliance with our Free-Of List
- And meets our values across their full product brand line, not a just a partial line
Then please, start introductions!
But that Product is Not Perfect!
All actions we take as humans create an impact. Regardless of the purity of a product or a company’s heart and mission, buying anything creates a footprint in our world when you take into consideration procuring the ingredients, farming of plant based ingredients, preservatives used, and packaging to ship, transportation, and on and on.
This means nothing is perfect. This means we -in all the glory of our online world- can tear apart just about anything. This means that in the end, the BEST choice may not be purchasing a product, at all. In many cases is to gently weave these mantras into our shopping habits:
- Choose to not use
- Choose to use much less
- Choose to use some and not others
- Choose to use a simple, resourceful option instead of purchasing
While the brands in our Recommendations may not like us saying this, these mantra's are the true starting point. We encourage our Chapters to have Gatherings around these topics, including sharing budget-friendly tips, DIY hands on fun, sharing and swapping resources, etc.
But I tell others to use the perfect option....
We all want the best for our bodies . If you have those options at your fingertips - affordable and accessible to you- then you are in a lovely place in life. <WIN!!!> Not all people have this option. So, as a nonprofit, we need to think bigger as the “perfect” is what we are moving toward. And here is where it becomes challenging. What is considered “best” or “perfect”? The answer isn’t always cut-and-dried and it really depends upon a wide variety of factors such as location, socio-economic status, where you are in the journey, what season it is, or simply something as easy as “I am on vacation and can’t find what I normally use.”
Try this quiz out and choose one answer to the question: Which is THE perfect choice?
- A gorgeous red apple. Pure, sweet, and delicious.
- A gorgeous red apple, pure, sweet, delicious and non-GMO.
- A gorgeous red apple, pure, sweet, delicious, non-GMO from an orchard that didn’t use harmful pesticides.
- A gorgeous red apple from a USDA Certified Organic orchard. (Therefore includes all of the above.)
- A gorgeous red apple from a USDA Certified Organic orchard that doesn't use any plastics during shipping.
- And sold only locally.
- And affordable.
- A gorgeous red apple from a Certified Organic orchard not wrapped in any plastic during transition, sold locally from an orchard with fair labor practices and gluten free cider donuts, affordable and accessible to many who didn’t have to drive a long distance.
Salivating? “Perfect” is the direction to move toward, but it doesn’t always exist. (Hence the reason Savvy exists.)
Now, this time, instead of asking for “THE perfect choice”, which one of the above would you choose based on:
- How and what are you currently purchasing? What is the next level up?
- What is available to you today if you went shopping?
- In six months from now, in a different season, which would you choose?
Unless we stood under that apple tree, with sunscreen on (or not) with bacteria free hands (or not) and ate that apple, we still could have someone in our big online world point out that our choice is not as perfect as theirs. Trying to find “perfect” within others personal parameters only sows seeds of discontent and questioning, which leads to feeling overwhelmed. Don’t feel overwhelmed. Our philosophy is we must dig in and do the best that we can, as often as we can, and raise the bar as far as we can. We don't believe there is a “perfect”, yet we will always be moving towards it.
Do you receive money from the brands you recommend?
Once we establish a relationship with a brand and they move through our vetting process, we do offer those brands an opportunity to be celebrated to our readers through featured pages, banner ads, or to be included in our Chapter Ambassadors Thank You Kit. (Our Chapter Ambassadors are rising community leaders and educators. We love having the chance to thank them and introduce them to products.) This non-dues revenue helps run the operating expenses of our national nonprofit and keep annual member dues low and more affordable. Sponsorship from a brand will never influence Savvy’s ideas, programs, positions on policies, persons included for the board or other official Savvy entities, etc. Savvy does not accept funds or partnerships that might affect or appear to affect our organizational/ programmatic independence, integrity, and the public’s perception of both.
Do the Savvy Women’s Alliance nonprofit partners support these brands as well?
Our relationship with our Founding Nonprofit partners is separate from our Savvy Recommendations tool. Each of our Founding Nonprofit partners have individual missions, and by supporting each other in our missions, our focus and strength is greater. Our Founding Nonprofit relationships are based on supporting their efforts, and sharing them forward to our communities. They have additional fantastic resources to help you develop your personal philosophy.
Wouldn't legislation fix this?
Federal and state legislation can be one of the most powerful, long-lasting impactful measures taken in protecting our soil, food, and products; in protecting health for many generations ahead. This avenue can impact top-down decisions from manufacturers, vendors businesses…(all the way to your bathroom shelf) and is the most powerful answer, but this remedy is slow and ...complicated.
The Savvy Women’s Alliance’s leadership has been there, witnessing firsthand conversations about potential protective legislation in the heart of the Senate buildings, discussing in the offices of our elected leaders, and providing testimonies on the floor. Lessons learned? One of the most POWERFUL influences (no surprise) is money. Larger businesses and coalitions of businesses, alongside the nonprofits, demonstrate to leaders that our ideal of a new mainstream-norm is economically viable. Opposing industries know this as well, and use their lobbying and coalitions to influence.
If the big picture is to affect federal legislation, we too need to work alongside other entities - businesses and nonprofits- who are putting forth protective efforts in their own ways. They might not be doing things the same way as we choose, but we are more powerful united than as islands. It’s mass and number needed to create protective legislation. You might like what Elizabeth Saunders has to say in this video: Engaging Your Inner Activist.
In fact, the power of grassroots mobilizations that demonstrate public concern combined with strategic alliances with sustainable business and health leaders has led us to victory in a number of states taking action on toxic chemicals. Join us?
Do you accept samples?
We do accept samples in order to get to know a company who meets our values. If a product meets our values, but we feel the product is simply impractical to use, we wouldn’t share it forward to our readers. Samples don’t influence their way into our Savvy Recommendations, but might rule them out.
Where is the full criteria for brands?
The full criteria and language is detailed on the Brand Inquiry page.
Can you tell me which brands not to use?
Nope. At the Savvy Women’s Alliance, our goal is not to pit companies against each other or spend time bashing companies. As a nonprofit, we don’t want this to be our role. We believe we can inspire the most change by focusing our energy on creating supportive communities, encouraging positive change (within ourselves and homes as well as within industries) and celebrating positive movement forward. Our content and conversations, as well as our Savvy Recommendations tools, are meant to be helpful for our members and guide them forward, regardless of where they are at on the continuum of change.
But not everyone can afford to choose better-for-us products.
We believe that having access to healthy, safe products shouldn’t be based on family income or location. This is why we strive to encourage change which will ultimately affect the large companies who supply most of the products we use and food we eat. (That change IS happening, we are seeing it happen more and more.) Here at Savvy, we believe having access to safe, healthy, more affordable products should be a right, not a privilege. At this time in our world, this isn’t always the reality, and there is much injustice in the marketing of harmful products and needed protection for vulnerable populations. If this thread of thought interests you, you might be interested in our Charitable Mission.
How do you rule out expensive items?
Price point is a highly subjective topic and even varies within regions across the country. Our hope is that the products we recommend would be financially accessible to the majority of our readers across many different socioeconomic ranges. We will make every effort to find and vet products that are more affordable when possible.
Are these brands effective?
Our focus is first on finding brands that reflect our values listed above. While we hope that the brands we work with have effective products, we are lucky to have community chapters, where members gather around topics, themes, events, books, movies and field trips. Here is where true discussion from one trusted friend to another takes place. It is human dynamics and we treasure this component of our nonprofit. We even send our chapter leaders a Thank You Box filled with product from our brands, with no obligation to promote, but simply test and or share.
Does the Savvy Women’s Alliance have a seal for products?
While the Savvy Women's Alliance seeks to celebrate companies making products which fulfill our high values, we are not a certifying body, nor do we offer a seal. Our role is to make Savvy Recommendations that aim to provide a starting place for change. We look to organizations like MADE SAFE, USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, EWG Verified and others with certification programs -each with their own standards and focus- to fill that need. Because there are many brands out there that provide safer products, but might not be certified, we highlight those too after evaluation.
Do you work with sales people, independent consultants or health coaches?
We are firm that all our leaders uphold the Savvy Women's Alliance mission and values when acting as an ambassador of our organization regardless of their occupation or affiliations. We take great strides to ensure that our culture is welcoming and educational and not sales-y. Our volunteer leaders understand our strict conflict of interest policy, and uphold our values because they believe in the impact that the Savvy Women’s Alliance has in the world and what we stand for.
What if a company has a history of messing up?
It is easy to rule a company out, or hold a grudge, but it is sometimes harder to remember that shifting and evolving a brand is actually a win. Although a brand’s past will be considered, its recent performance is most significant. Past performance is mitigated by a commitment to and action toward positive change. The Savvy Women’s Alliance will review brands currently engaging in direct action to correct their former course on a case by case basis.
What if it turns out that a brand was hiding something from the Savvy Women’s Alliance?
All partnerships and subsequent activities must be consistent with Savvy’s mission and goals. If this comes to question at any point during the partnership or activity, Savvy reserves the right to refuse and cancel any further promotional agreements or relationship. Even if after multi-levels of vetting, if the situation arises that a business has conflicting values or behaves poorly, we will remove it from the Savvy Recommendations immediately and they will forfeit any sponsor fees they may have paid. This decision will not be made based upon news headlines, but upon as thorough an investigation as possible.
Similarly, Savvy will not partner with any company with a continuing or significant source of violations or long-standing misconduct, including but not limited to companies whose operations are exploitative, illegal, extractive or destructive to people or the environment, major polluters, companies with known ecological or human rights violations, or brands directly engaging in funding to suppress transparency.
How can I support them when they are owned by XXX !!???
Many companies and brands exist on their own. Many have parent companies. If a brand that is listed in the Savvy Recommendations has a parent company, it will be indicated on the brand’s page in our directory. We encourage our readers to decide for themselves if this factor makes a difference to their purchases.
- Some readers may decide they do not want to support a brand because of it’s parent company or if the parent company financially supports opposing efforts or if the parent company has brands that are not aligned with Savvy’s mission.
- Others may choose to make decisions on a case-by-case or purchase-by-purchase basis.
- Yet others may embrace the idea that many massive corporations who seem to not put health first, may not disappear, therefore shift is needed from the inside out. The most likely incentive for this shift? Protective legislation or consumers’ demand.
What do you mean by Nontoxic?
Why don’t we just use EWG?
The Environmental Working Group offers fantastic resources for learning, including EWG Verified and the SkinDeep Database. We recommend using the database to learn about different ingredients and why some chemicals are considered harmful. We offer a different tool which encompasses our own spectrum of consumer products and focuses on those that are “full brand.”
The bigger take-away when using the SkinDeep Database is understanding the lack of information that we have on chemicals. When using this tool, be aware of comparing one ingredient with known data to another with limited data. As consumers we tend to jump to conclusions skipping the real lesson here. As EWG reflects, “The EPA has only reviewed a few hundred chemicals for safety. There are nearly 85,000 chemicals currently approved for use that the federal government and consumers know little to nothing about.” There is no magic "one size fits all" answer. (We look forward to the day that our organizations are not needed.) Even our most current and updated federal regulations will not fix this issue and there is much work to be done.
I want to support brands that don’t use GMO ingredients.
We recognize that choosing to avoid GMO ingredients is a deeply personal and passionate value for many of our readers. Because the topic is intertwined with our transparency value as a right to know, as well as an often convoluted relationship with harmful herbicides (and much more), these are the expectations of brands we include:
During this era of unfolding and diversifying biotechnology, the Savvy Women’s Alliance will not support genetically modified food products in either direct form or GMOs fed to animals until key concerns are unequivocally answered. The Savvy Women’s Alliance will recommend Non-GMO Project Verified products IF the full brand also meets or supersedes USDA organic standards. We consider this a non-negotiable.
Genetically modified or engineered ingredients may appear outside of food product lines, and as an ingredient in a product. We recognize that our members may choose not to support these products as a preference. If a non-food brand has plant based ingredients, we ask them to share with us their positioning on how they support the avoidance of harmful pesticides, herbicides and genetically modified ingredients. We need to understand what efforts they are taking - whether it is USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Regenerative Organic Farming, GMO statement, etc. There are many options to promote and use sustainably grown plant-based ingredients. Those who have plant-based ingredients have a space to share their practices on our featured pages.
I have read other blogs which have a more aggressive opinion on a specific ingredient.
Others may have a particular concern or passion. We think this is wonderful. If their decision making is based on current science, involved in the movement collaboratively and they want to target a specific ingredient, we get it. We encourage educated enforcers who seek out science and answers to help protect others.
Everyone - us, you, them, should be determining what is acceptable for our bodies. At the same time, we understand that not all products are accessible to everyone, or more affordable to all. The reality is that as educated consumers we continue to do the best we can, when we can, with what is available. It’s about moving forward and making a better choice every time you can, shifting your own personal journey. As you become savvy, and browse the internet, it is good to question the source. It's a nice place to pay tribute to Rachel Carson with her encouragement, "I recommend that you ask yourself: Who speaks? And why?"
Will using the Savvy Recommendations make me healthy?
While we choose to avoid products that contain known harmful ingredients, we are not a medical institution. Our advice is not from the medical community and our content should not be considered medical advice. The information on this website has not been evaluated by the FDA. Our information is based upon scientific understanding of the ingredients, and sharing education to help inform your personal decisions.
Why don’t you use “free of petrochemicals”?
“Free of petrochemicals” has become a go-to marketing line, but we suspect that most companies mean that they are not using “petrolatum” or “mineral oil,” which are derived from petroleum (oil or natural gas) and which are often contaminated with toxic chemicals. Those two are also on our Free-Of List. However, the majority of the chemical building blocks that make up cosmetics, household products and plastics (even containers) come from a “petrochemical.” Many companies are touting their natural (often plant-based) ingredients, and that is great. Those ingredients are often (not always, but often) safer and better for the earth than synthetics.
Why is it so challenging to find safe, natural make-up?
“Natural” makeup is a tricky category: product performance is very subjective, and it can be challenging to create deeply pigmented makeup using only natural, mineral colorants. Some natural ingredients, like talc, titanium dioxide and carmine, may be undesirable to some customers, and other minerals may be sourced in a less-than-sustainable or respectful way. Perhaps most concerning: some colorants used in makeup products may be contaminated with heavy metals like lead. The right makeup for you might not be the right makeup for someone else. The complications of make-up create an opportunity for educational moments. We will continue to arm you with the best information we can so you can make an informed choice about which ingredients you’re open to, and we ask all of our listed brands to do their due diligence on ingredient safety and transparency so you can make your choice with confidence.
The Perfect Preservative aka The Perfect Catch-22
We asked for it - we want products that will last a long time on the shelf and not go rancid (of course!), we love bulk (less errands, packing, and cheaper!) and we are quite used to items being shipped around the country, if not the world. Big box stores, cheaper, accessible….it's happening and it's all good, right?!
To provide these attributes, companies need to use preservatives (at least in products which contain water). Preservatives prevent microbial growth (yeast, bacteria and mold love growing in water-based products that have other ingredients to feed off of). Fortunately, a very small amount of preservative (usually under 1% of total product) can keep it free of growth, which makes for a safer user experience and avoids wasting product, and money invested.
Not all preservatives are bad, or good. After approximately ten years of pressure from consumers and advocacy-based coalitions, many commonly used preservatives have been flagged as chemicals of concern. For example, many consumer products companies have voluntarily removed classes of harmful chemicals - such as parabens, many of which are known endocrine disrupters. Consumer advocacy organizations have also worked to support protective regulations that resulted in bans (such as triclosan) from some consumer products. Others preservatives like thimerosal, formaldehyde and diazolidinyl urea, have come under scrutiny and are fading from use, although not entirely.
One step forward, two steps back? While these efforts are protective and are in the direction of a safer products, it leaves businesses with fewer choices to create the very products we are demanding. The personal care and household cleaning products industries are actively seeking preservatives that are effective and safe, with substantial data available, while considering layers of concern such as sourcing, animal testing, bio-degradation and more. It is a prevailing, complex unfolding topic happening right now.
Yet, the very nature of preservatives - (to be anti...anti bacterial, anti microbial) gives them a level of toxicity. Several of the preservatives on the European Union List of Preservatives Allowed In Cosmetics don’t pass our standards, ending up on our Free-Of list of chemicals we do not allow into our recommendations.
Sometimes, the use of alternative preservatives might include a significant lack of data, which doesn’t mean that they are safe… it just means we don’t know much about them.
Suggestions before you share: We live in a world of tweets and GIFs. Quick images and phrases meant to educate and/or alarm are a powerful way to communicate, yet can be very misleading. When preparing to share a preservative of concern, we encourage being familiar -be savvy- about the complexities. Here are some of the questions one could ask when highlighting a preservative of concern to you:
- What is the alternative preservative? Does the alternative have a fair amount of data to support?
- If data on a preservative is ‘none’ or limited on the Skin Deep database, do you advocate using an ingredient with a lack of information or one with known information?
- Are there elements of concern within the primary preservative itself?
- Do you advocate for small, hand crafted batches that may require less preservatives but not last? Or accessibility and more affordable reach of larger production, requiring an incrementally more effective preservative? Is there a perfect answer?
We call this a current issue. We don't believe there isn’t a ‘perfect’ answer. We do encourage understanding the full before sharing dis-information. We include small batch companies as well as mass production products in our Savvy Recommendations.
Green chemistry could reveal the answer. Yet, green chemistry is also very cost prohibitive. Since many companies are actively seeking a safer alternative, many brands are collaborating -across the spectrum- to combine resources and expertise for future preservative development.
For now, we can:
- Use simpler, such as vinegar for cleaning instead of a purchased product.
- Buy small handcrafted batches from a knowledgeable vendor that are created to be intentionally used quicker, therefore less shelf life, require possibly less or less aggressive preservatives.
- Choose wiser by looking at the full product and brand in totality. Is it nearly perfect?
- Avoid introducing additional bacteria into products during usage. Touching product in the container - such as a face cream- can introduce contamination.
- Use products as directed.
- Use less.