Unilever Invests In True Botanicals – Here’s What I Think…

August 3, 2018 (updated February 2, 2023) — Written by

True Botanicals garnered a $3 million seed investment from Unilever Ventures in 2017. This is what I think on Unilever and their ethics.

shaking out true botanicals antioxidant booster into my palm

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Okay so recently one reader asked me about my thoughts on Unilever investing in True Botanicals. I didn’t know if this was something a lot of you were thinking about so I asked on social if you would like me to write about it here and I got an overwhelming YES. So here we go!

First of all I want to thank all of you. It’s so motivating to have an educated group of readers here. Thank you for asking the tough questions. And don’t ever stop.

What is Unilever?

So for those of you who don’t know Unilever… Unilever was founded in 1930 and they own and invest in thousands of companies in the personal care, hygiene, consumer goods and nutrition sector. According to Forbes, Unilever is currently worth $155.8 billion.  

Also according to Forbes, in 2017, True Botanicals garnered a $3 million seed investment from Unilever Ventures, the venture-capital arm of the consumer goods giant, and Cue Ball Capital, a new type of VC firm that Forbes named to its 2016 list of Small Giants. To add some color to this, True Botanicals’ 2018 revenue is predicted to surpass $15 million.

Ethical Dilemmas

So why should we care if Unilever invests in a skincare line we use? Well, I’ll start out with a couple major concerns.

PRO GMO: Unilever says they are committed to sustainability but then defines that as supporting genetically modified and conventional crops here.

LOBBIES AGAINST GMO LABELING: In 2015 Unilever spent $640,000 to fight mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

ANIMAL TESTING: Although Unilever’s website says, “We do not test our products on animals and are committed to ending animal testing….”  They quickly follow up with, “Occasionally when there are no suitable non-animal approaches available, some of the ingredients we use have to be tested by our suppliers to comply with relevant regulations; and some governments test our products on animals as part of their regulatory requirements.” So in other words; NO BUT YES.

CHILD LABOR: Several reports state that Unilever profits from palm oil production without regard to human rights or the environment. Unilever says: All the palm oil we buy is certified as sustainable and, as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan, we aim to make sure it all comes from a traceable source. We will continue to work with our stakeholders to eliminate deforestation, protect peat lands, and drive positive impacts for people and local communities. They also take an active stance against modern slavery and human trafficking.

Unilever Investments

It’s hard to find a complete list of companies Unilever invests in or owns. Most compilations are abbreviated including the one on Unilever’s website. I would guess this is because they are constantly buying and selling so an up-to-date list would be harder to maintain? None of the lists I came across included True Botanicals for example. But here are some other brands Unilever has a stake in: Sir Kensington’s, Dollar Shave Club, Schmidts, Seventh Generation.

Will I Continue To Use And Support True Botanicals?

The short answer is yes. The long answer? Well, I need a few more minutes of your time for that.

Cutting Edge Green Beauty Technology

True Botanicals is on the cutting edge of green beauty technology. We are seeing a nontoxic beauty brand breaking barriers in science, technology and effectiveness….and they just don’t stop. Here is a look at what they have done and are currently doing. And it’s important to mention that True Botanicals is not only doing but in some instances, they are the ONLY ONES doing. Like who else is outperforming major brands like Creme d la Mer and ProActiv+? True Botanicals is. Here’s more… 

  • Outperforming Creme de la Mer in third-party clinical trials.
  • Outpreforming ProActiv+ in third-party clinical trials.
  • Harnessing the highest available polyphenol potency (antioxidants) from organic apple peel extract and patenting it.
  • Delivering an entire skincare, hair care and body care line that is fully GMO-free, gluten-free and does not use animal testing.
  • Delivering THE ONLY FULL SKINCARE line to be entirely MADE SAFE certified.
  • They are proving to the world that we can have results driven skincare without harming ourselves or the planet.

Unwavering Ingredients

One of the number one things I look at when a company gets bought out is their ingredient deck. Has it changed? For example, right after Unilever bought out Schmidts I got a promo package in the mail just before Christmas with all of their holiday deodorants and the new deodorants were formulated with “fragrance.” It’s sad and unfortunate when this happens. We saw it when Crest bought Tom’s of Maine too. All of a sudden our natural toothpaste was packing SLS, natural flavors and even Fluoride.

When a company takes on an investor it’s a possibility the ingredients will change but it’s not a definite. And with this specific investment, there are two very important factors to keep in mind. First, True Botanicals is the first and only full beauty line to be MADE SAFE certified. MADE SAFE is America’s first nontoxic certification for products we use everyday from baby to personal care to household and more. MADE SAFE promises that the products they certify are made with safe ingredients not known or suspected to harm human health.

But what is the MADE SAFE certification criteria? Well, I talked to MADE SAFE to get a better understanding of what their screening process looks like and this is what they had to say:

The MADE SAFE seal is what we call a paper screening process, so we don’t lab test in this phase. We’re looking for known sources of contamination in ingredients that won’t appear on the label, known toxic chemicals listed on authoritative lists, and then working with a a chemist and using predictive modeling to examine ingredients for bioaccumulation, persistence, and general and aquatic toxicity. This makes the MADE SAFE seal the most rigorous standard on the market right now.

So as of now, True Botanicals is still MADE SAFE certified and as long as this remains true, we can trust that their ingredients are third party vetted and approved for safety.

holding up a bunch of true botanicals products against a gray wall

A MINORITY Stake And A Founder With Heart

Also, it’s important to clarify Unilever has a minority stake in True Botanicals. Founder and president Hillary Peterson confirms this means they are on the sidelines when it comes to making decisions.

Hillary is a cancer survivor and started True Botanicals because she took a closer look at her personal care products and saw one thing they all had in common: their ingredients contained toxins. After this wakeup call she threw herself into an eight year study of botanicals and their healing powers plus consulted green chemists and sustainability experts. Her ultimate goal was to formulate transformative skincare products that wouldn’t compromise people’s health or the environment. And she did. As long as she is involved in this company, their mission remains the same. Anything less goes against the entire grain of what True Botanicals represents.

To provide a little color, this year True Botanicals pulled their Lip Balm off the shelves because it contained beeswax. Dedicated to improving sustainability, Hillary and her team are currently working to reformulate.

Hilary says, “We’re a brand built on clean products and a clear mission—the last thing they (Unilever) wants to do is water down our authenticity.”

Access To Big Money Brings..

  • More research.
  • More trials.
  • More ground breaking technology.
  • Ingenuity and the resources to make it happen.

This investment gives True Botanicals the resources to tap into the mainstream. To bring clean skincare to the majority instead of the minority. To prove to the mainstream that nontoxic effective skincare does exist.

Hilary says, “Unilever has so much more access to ingredient and formulation research. They have so many more resources than us. It’s much easier and faster to get the data we need to continue to create safe, effective products.”

Sustainability Practices

True Botanicals is also committed to sustainability and continues to make changes toward more sustainable practices. Here are a few examples.

  • Packaging product in glass bottles.
  • The new Sun & Moon subscription packaging is entirely recyclable and more compact.
  • They partner with sustainable farmers who follow best practices for growing and harvesting ingredients.
  • MADE SAFE Certification – What most people don’t realize is that the MADE SAFE Certification investigates the lineage of each ingredient so for example if an ingredient was preserved with something toxic at the harvesting stage, the entire product is disqualified. True Botanicals has reformulated two of it’s products to keep the entire line MADE SAFE certified.

Personal Testimonies

One of the most important reasons I still support True Botanicals is because their skincare is proven to be effective and it works. I saw it for the first time with my own skin. I started using their Clear Line which demolished my hormonal breakouts along my jaw and chin. I used to dread my menstrual cycle because my face would blow up. But now!? Even Steven and I feel confident about leaving my house, meeting up with friends and going to work. GAME CHANGER.

And I know I’m not alone. I literally saw my friend breakdown in tears as she talked about True Botanicals Clear Line getting rid of her cystic acne in just three weeks. I mean not only is True Botanicals treating skin conditions, it’s fortifying peoples self-worth and confidence in a way I’ve never witnessed before from natural/clean beauty.

Lastly, I have another friend who has an autoimmune disease called Hashimotos which can lead to thinning hair and hair falling out in clumps and True Botanicals shampoo and conditioner built it back up to long and strong again. I mean imagine literally getting your hair back!?

Imagine taking these cutting edge green technologies away from these ladies…what’s left for an option? Proactiv+ and Rogaine!? I mean there is literally nothing nontoxic that compares at this time.

Financial Transparency

I also think it’s important to consider all of the other products we use and the companies we patron on the daily. Do we know all the financial portfolios for all of these brands? A lot of companies take on silent investors or don’t make this information public. Can we assume that everything we bring into our lives can in no way be traced back to big money like this? I think it’s an important question to ask.

Final Thoughts

Okay so here it is. Am I actively looking to support Unilever? Girl, please. Do I agree with everything they stand for? Nope. Do I prefer to support big business over small? N to the O.

Is it fair to boycott a company like True Botanicals – a cruelty-free brand who is literally changing the face of nontoxic skincare because they took on an investor who does? I honestly don’t think so. True Botanicals is moving nontoxic skincare mountains. They are getting out there and proving to the masses that nontoxic skincare can be effective and that we don’t have to compromise by exposing our bodies to toxins if efficacy is our end goal.

Let’s take a step back and consider that even the fact that a company like Unilever is investing in a company like True Botanicals is MIND BLOWING! Like guys, you know how I always say, “Vote with your dollar”? Well this is it just on a much bigger scale. Investments like these are a sign that educated, empowered consumers are really making a difference in the way these big companies think and it’s so exciting to see green beauty becoming a place where big investors want to put their money. It may be one of the firsts but I can say with assurance it won’t be the last time we see this. Why!? Because green beauty is not a trend. It’s the future.

I also think it’s easy to get caught up in the weeds and not see the forest for the trees. Like I will happily jump on the Boycott Twinkies, Coke and Skittles Train…Get me a first-class ticket because I am all-in on that. But boycott a company that is actually making strides in nontoxic skincare and changing the face of what clean beauty can do? Nah.

xo, lisa in cursive

By Lisa Fennessy

Lisa is the founder of The New Knew. Passionate about clean beauty, organic eats and nontoxic lifestyle, Lisa writes to create awareness. Conscious consumerism and informed decisions will impact the marketplace, our health and THE WORLD!


  1. Reply


    Thanks so much for this thorough, honest post! Did you use the whole Clear line? I think there are four products. I’m wondering if you one or two of them stand out as the heavy hitters in the line?

    1. Reply


      Hi Mina! I have used the whole Clear Line, yes! I would say start with the Clear Hydrating Cleanser and the Clear Pure Radiance Oil. If you want to add a toner/mist in, I like the Renew Line Mist over the Clear Line Toner. The Clear Line Toner is great but it has apple cider vinegar in it which is effective but I just prefer not that smell so I tend to go with the Renew Mist. But if you start with those two (Clear cleanser and oil) and these two only (no additional products or soaps or lotions) that will take you places.

  2. Reply


    Thank you so much for this Lisa, I appreciate it so much. I was truly conflicted in this and I loved hearing your thoughts .. They are very thought-provoking. I can see you put a lot of time and effort into this and I have to say I am very grateful to you.

    1. Reply


      Thanks Wendy! I really appreciate you taking the time to read! Thanks so much. xo

  3. Reply


    Thank you so much for this thorough and well done post! I admit I’ve been conflicted about the Unilever stake but I just love this shampoo! It’s the first green shampoo that cleans, volumizes, and gives shine to my hair all in one. I still love the Innersense Hydrating line (especially the conditioner. I will never part with that), but I love this shampoo. I realize to a certain extent, corporations investing in green beauty is inevitable. I know Olivia Wilde endorses TB so I’m sure they had to pay her. Celebrity endorsements don’t influence my buying at all though! I listen to people like you who do this for a living or as a hobby. I think the bloggers are much more accurate (and let’s face it, I’ve never seen a celebrity or model with actual skin conditions like PD or the dreaded acne). Thank you for the perspective!

    1. Reply


      Hi Mikayla! Thanks so much for your comment. I know the TB shampoo is my holy grail product. SERIOUSLY so good! It’s hard to make these decisions but if we do the research, our heart will tell us what’s right and we just stick to that. Thanks for reading! Love having you here. xo

  4. Reply


    Have you ever heard of NYR Organic? Truly setting the bar on chemical free, organic, cruelty free, sustainable products. Let me know if you want more info or samples!

    1. Reply


      Hi Heather! I haven’t! I’ll let you know, thanks!!!

  5. Reply

    Betsey Lebow

    Hi Lisa. I’ve been following you on Instagram for a few months. Thank you! This comprehensive post about TB and Unilever was helpful because you presented it after carefully considering every angle. I use pretty much every Renew product in the TB line and have no intention of stopping. The results are stunning. At 56 my skin is improving. That’s a feat! Keep in doing what you do! Betsey

    1. Reply


      Hi Betsey! Thanks so much for your comment! I’m so excited you are getting results. It feels like a small miracle doesn’t it?

  6. Reply


    Thanks so much for this article, I can imagine it took some time to write. I do not like Unilever but this helped me feel a little more at ease….Every time someone goes big it never fails that the bad “secret” ingredients start coming back, I hope that Hilary is always in the decision making process to not allow the bad decisions to ruin their amazing brand!

    1. Reply


      Hi Heidi! I agree! That’s all we can hope for! xo!

  7. Reply


    Great article. I’ve been in the skin care industry for 25 years and know when a company is bought by a conglomerate, something is going to change maybe not now but more than likely in the future. Ingredient deck is usually looked at first thoughly to see where they can make some cuts to add money to the bottom line. If that does t change they will eventually look at everything else. (Which is probably done before they buy out) . I hope they stay true to the brand, but I don’t trust Unilever in the long run.

    1. Reply


      Agreed girl. And for the record, True Botanicals has several investors, this is just one of them. So far they are staying true to their mission from what we can see. It’s something to keep an eye on for sure. Thanks for adding your perspective, xo, Lisa

  8. Reply

    Jillian Lauren Lisitano

    Hi Lisa,
    I love all the specific details you shared in this post. Thank you!
    I too have grown out my SILVER locks and short of using Commercial and high end haircare, which isn’t organic, I am searching for a shampoo and conditioner that will keep my hair a SHINNING ! What do you recommend? Thank you so much…

    1. Reply


      Hi Jillian! I love True Botanicals shampoo and conditioner! I used them before going gray and I still use them now. They are gentle and leave my hair feeling clean and smelling awesome. LISATRUE20 will save first timers. They also have a subscription service that you can sign up for to get your fave products delivered on a schedule and you save 10% plus get a free gift with each delivery. I’ve gotten a 9 oz Swell water bottle and a rose quartz Gua Sha face massager. I think you will love this shampoo! I’ve wrote about it too if you search my website with keyword “true botanicals shampoo” – xo!

  9. Reply

    Lisa Lombardo

    I too am a convert. I have both rosacea and super delicate skin. The normal sulfur based treatment destroyed my skin, but TB’s products have worked wonders. I’ve also been looking at the company for my sustainable business class. It’s been really interesting. They are in some respects business as usual, and in others, business most unusual. The commitment to a truly sustainable skin product is remarkable. There is lots of work to be done in other areas though. The current sustainability certification for palm oil is really problematic, they need to step that up to a higher level, and there is not hardly a mention of the human side of sustainability and those boundary conditions.

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