St. Ives Exfoliating Body Wash

overall rating:



Deanna Roldan
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St. Ives is a staple in accessible and affordable products that include scrubs, masks, lotions, and body washes. Their most popular product is the Apricot Face scrub that was praised just a few years ago. It was constantly recommended for people with acne because of its exfoliation. Later, it was found out that one of the ingredients, walnut shell powder, caused damage to skin because of how harsh the ingredient is. Because this controversy happened in 2017, people may have forgotten about it and continue to use their products. I am here to remind you of that lawsuit and to say that they still include walnut shell powder in their products, including this body wash. I would not recommend this product simply based on the fact that it includes walnut shell powder. I would also not recommend this product because of how little St. Ives does to achieve sustainability. They include absolutely no information about their practices on their website which is surprising for a company that advertises their ties to nature. St. Ives thinks that if their product looks a certain way and includes natural ingredients then it is equivalent to being sustainable. That is not true and St. Ives needs to do better in being transparent and show they actually care about their consumers by eliminating walnut shell powder from their products.

What it's made of:


St. Ives markets this body wash as being made with 100% natural exfoliants, using sea salt and walnut shell powder. While using natural ingredients in their product seems appealing, it does not guarantee that they are safe to use. St. Ives is a recognizable brand with their most popular product being their Apricot Scrub which also includes walnut shell powder. In 2017, St. Ives was involved in a lawsuit over their use of walnut shell powder due to its harsh effects on the skin. Walnut shell powder was said to cause “microscopic tears in your skin, exposing it to infections and irritation”. This finding is alarming because walnut shell powder could also lead to long-term skin damage. The lawsuit was dismissed after a judge found that dermatologist-tested does not mean dermatologist approved. It is upsetting that St. Ives faced no repercussions for their inclusion of walnut shell powder because of a loophole in their wording. It is even more upsetting that they have decided to continue using the ingredient in multiple products such as this body wash. I counted at least nine products that list walnut shell powder in their ingredients list on their website.

Another concerning ingredient used in this body wash is Acrylates Copolymer. This ingredient is used as a stabilizer and is problematic because it is a type of microplastic. It is not a microbead which many brands have pledged to avoid. Because it is not a microbead, companies can get away with using this ingredient despite it still being microplastic. This is disappointing because when companies pledge to stop using microbeads, they word their language to allow them to continue using problematic ingredients. Stopping the use of microbeads is an applaudable act but the problem is not fixed when companies continue to use microplastics. It is frustrating that these companies continue with their harmful practices because of the difference between microbeads and microplastics.  

How it's made:


St. Ives has a few claims about their body wash on their packaging. They state they use plant based cleansers, are cruelty free, and use 100% recycled plastic for their bottle. While using recycled plastic seems beneficial, it is not completely sustainable. In order to recycle plastic, plastic is sorted and then processed by being cut into smaller pieces and then melted together. These extra steps mean that mistakes like contamination cause plastic to still be thrown out. Recycled plastic helps reduce the amount of new plastic but not by very much to make a noticeable difference. I noticed that St. Ives uses 100% a lot to describe different things about their product which seems like they are trying to market their product as being pure. This is a smart strategy on their part because people are less likely to refute a claim if it’s 100%. This just seems like an easy way for St. Ives to improve their reputation and they only added these percentages as a distraction. From their website, St. Ives states that they do not test on animals and is certified by Peta for being cruelty-free. Their only products that contain animal derived ingredients are the products that contain collagen and elastin which are said to be from a marine source. St. Ives does cite where four of their ingredients are sourced on their website but I would have liked to see a more expansive list. They are also vague about the location, only providing a country or state and nothing else. St. Ives does not include information about their labor standards or their workers. Their only certification comes from Peta which is disappointing. It is easy to get a certification from Peta because it only requires a pledge and a fee without a thorough look into St. Ives’ practices. 

Who makes it:


St. Ives pushes their advertising to make them seem like they are rooted in nature. Their logo includes a green leaf and beautiful mountains while their products highlight their natural ingredients. They are able to do this while also fitting into the minimalist aesthetic. It is important to note that being minimalist does not equate to being sustainable. All of these attempts to seem like they genuinely care about sustainability and the planet are successful. St. Ives is able to deceive their consumers because of how they present themselves. On their website, their only mention of the environment is a tab titled #NatureReset. This is supposed to encourage people to go outside and enjoy nature which is important but to me, it looks like St. Ives is trying to deflect discussion about their impact on the environment. St. Ives is a perfect example of a brand that looks sustainable because of how they present their products but in reality, is not sustainable and doesn’t even try to be.

St. Ives is also owned by Unilever which is an incredibly large company that owns several brands. Unilever has many goals to reaching sustainability but I do not see how they will accomplish this based on how many brands Unilever owns. It does not seem feasible. It is also notable that due to the size of Unilever, they are bound to make mistakes. As I mentioned earlier about the lawsuit against St. Ives, it was Unilever that filed to dismiss the case. There is no doubt that Unilever influenced the outcome of the lawsuit because of the power they hold. St. Ives is able to continue using harmful walnut shell powder because of Unilever.