Is Pacifica Beauty Greenwashing? We Took a Closer Look

5 min reading time

Pacifica is a popular drugstore beauty brand known for being 100% vegan, cruelty-free and clean. They’ve been around since 1996, long before terms like vegan or clean beauty were even used.

Their mission statement reads:

Pacifica is known as one of the most innovative and sustainable makeup lines on the market today. At Pacifica, we are elevating the experience of natural beauty products and overcoming the common perception that naturals don’t deliver great results. We make natural products that work as well or better than any non-natural line. Our mission is complete when we have delivered the best performing products, using the safest ingredients, in recyclable packaging and components to the largest possible audience of beauty consumers. All Pacifica products are gluten-free, 100% vegan, and cruelty-free.

But is the brand as natural and sustainable as their marketing claims? Let’s take a closer look at the brand and see if they walk the walk, or if they’re another greenwashing brand trying to mislead us.


Pacifica has a large line of products, ranging from makeup and skincare, to sun protection, to haircare, fragrance and more. Looking at the ingredients used in Pacifica products, while they are mostly clean, there are a few ingredients that stand out.

Rating: Good

Chemical Sunscreens

Three Pacifica products contain chemical sunscreens. This is surprising, considering they’re known to be harmful to our oceans, and potentially to us.

Examples of products include:

Sea & C Sheer Face Serum SPF 55: contains avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene.

Sport Sunscreen Coconut Probiotic SPF 50: contains avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocryelne.

Sea & C Set & Protect Matte Sheer Setting Mist SPF 45: contains avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate, octocryele.

We hope that Pacifica will reformulate or discontinue these products, as chemical sunscreens are contributing to the destruction of our coral reefs, and are potentially dangerous to our human health as well.


Some Pacifica products use fragrance, which some people may find questionable. However, all of Pacifica’s fragrances are claimed to be natural, and don’t use synthetic ingredients. They don’t disclose the exact makeup of their fragrances, which can sometimes be an issue for those with allergies or sensitive skin. Certain fragrance ingredients—especially essential oils—can be irritating.


Pacifica uses synthetic preservatives in some of their products. These include phenoxyethanol and sodium benzoate, both semi-controversial ingredients that some conscious shoppers choose to avoid. However, in beauty and skincare, preservatives are a crucial element in keeping the product safe. Without preservatives, pathogens, mold and bacteria can grow, creating a danger for the user.

For this reason, our stance is that synthetic preservatives (aside from parabens) are a necessary part of clean beauty.

Nail Polishes

It’s not easy to create a good, completely non-toxic nail polish. Nail polishes traditionally contain a lot of nasty ingredients you shouldn’t want anywhere near you.

Pacifica’s nail polishes are “7-free”, meaning they’re formulated without seven toxic chemicals commonly found in nail polishes: Toluene, Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Formaldehyde, Formaldehyde Resin, Camphor, TPHP and Xylene.

While you’ll still find some harsh chemicals in Pacifica’s nail polishes, they’re a lot better than your typical drugstore nail polish.

Sustainability: Packaging + Recycling

Rating: Iffy

Like many beauty brands, Pacifica uses plastic packaging and bottles for their products. A more eco-friendly alternative would be fully recyclable materials like glass, paper, or plastic that can be recycled in municipal recycling programs.

However, the brand offers a recycling program where customers can return up to eight products at a time back to the company with a prepaid shipping label. Customers must provide their own packaging (which makes for a great way to reuse old Amazon shipping boxes, for example).

When your empties arrive, they’re sorted and reused, finding their way into razors and toothbrushes by Preserve. Such products are sold directly on the brand’s website, where you can purchase them, completing the circular economy.

As a bonus, users will also get 100 Pacifica loyalty points for using the program, which can be in turn used for discounts on new beauty products.

Update / April 2022: At the current time, the Pacifica recycling program appears to be shut down.

Vegan & Cruelty-Free

Rating: Best

Pacifica has been 100% vegan and cruelty-free since they day they were launched., You’ll also find no animal-derived ingredients in any of their products.

Brand Ratings

Our rating scale ranges from “Best” (for having the best practices) to “Bad” (for having unacceptable practices). We rated Pacifica as follows.

IngredientsGood – While most products have clean ingredients, the use of chemical sunscreens in some is disappointing.
SustainabilityIffy – While the brand offers a recycling program, plastic packaging is used for all products.
Animal RightsBest – The brand has been 100% vegan and cruelty-free since the launch in 1996.

Overall Rating: Good

Pacifica is a 100% vegan and cruelty-free brand, and their recycling program—launched in 2018—is a good step toward a more sustainable beauty industry.

However, since the brand uses only plastic packaging, it could still improve by using more eco-friendly materials like glass or bioplastics.

We’re disappointed that a handful of Pacifica products contain chemical sunscreen ingredients. We hope that the brand will phase these ingredients or products out of their lineup, because they’re contributing to killing our coral reefs and damaging the ocean ecosystem.

While they aren’t a perfect brand—not everyone is going to take the time to mail back empty bottles—a large and popular brand making steps toward sustainability, cruelty-free practices and clean ingredients is always a great thing.

We hope that the brand improves in the future, by eliminating chemical sunscreens from their lineup, and moving toward more sustainable packaging.

Download our free swap guide.
A cheatsheet of 50+ clean alternatives for your whole house. 
Thank you for subscribing!


  • Avatar photo
    Wendy Nichols

    Thanks for this info. I was a bit suspicious about this brand due to very high fragrance concentrations. Was wondering how “clean” it truly is.
    Love that they are cruelty free.

  • Avatar photo

    I used to love Pacifica, but a few years back (2015?) I unearthed an interview that Its founder (Brooke) had given. She admitted that they do in fact use synthetic fragrance. If you look closely at their ingredient lists on their perfumes it says fragrance WITH natural oils. This means that both natural and synthetic ingredients are used. She is very coy about this when asked in interviews. That alone is a major red flag and off-putting. Her husband had also given an interview around the same time saying that it would be impossible to charge the cheap prices they do and not use synthetics. I called their company around that time and was given the run around when I pushed to find out the truth about synthetics. They finally fessed up that they do indeed use synthetics. Brooke- Pacifica puts up a lot of smoke screens when it comes to synthetics. That’s not to say that their products definitely do not contain a lot of harmful ingredients. But they DO contain synthetics. Its disappointing that they aren’t more transparent. But, she’s grown the business a lot these years so. I guess it’s pain off.

  • Avatar photo

    Pacifica shut down their recycling program, which is odd because it’s still on their website as if they have it up and running. A chat rep explained that it was shut down currently with no timeline of when they will start recycling their empties again. Disappointing that they’re still advertising as such.

    • Avatar photo
      Better Goods

      Hi Alyssa, thanks for pointing that out. It looks like the recycling program page is deleted off the website now, and we updated our rating to reflect that.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *