Let’s get real first. Natural can mean many things in terms of skincare. 100 years ago the term natural would have been very different from what it is now. Back then the answer to natural would have been from nature. Now it’s a bit more complicated. There is a lot of greenwashing that goes on within the skincare industry in regards to natural skincare. Many definitions often fall
under the umbrella of natural skincare. So the question we need to ask ourselves is what is the product derived from? In other words what’s in it and where does it come from? Is it a natural source like plants, animals, minerals, and marine sources? What percentage of natural ingredients are used in the formula? Is it 100% natural, naturally occurring, non-toxic, fragrance-free, plant-based, organic, naturally derived, you get the idea? It’s important to know the difference so you can manage your expectations and get your choices straight. Today there are varying degrees of natural. So let’s break it down a bit.
Choosing a Natural Standard You Are Happy With
100% Natural ingredients obtained from only plants, animals, microbiological or mineral origin either by physical processes (e.g. grinding, drying, distillation) Examples of 100 % natural ingredients would be essential oils and cold-pressed plant seed oils. Ingredients from petrochemicals are excluded from this definition.
Naturally derived, physically processed. Raw unrefined oils and butter are an example of naturally- occurring ingredients that have been processed using physical processes such as cold pressing or filtration. For example, cold-pressed cocoa butter. Other processes can also be used- for example, natural oils or butter can be refined, bleached, or deodorized. Distillation is used to produce essential oils; different kinds of extractions are used to produce plant extracts.
Naturally occurring ingredients are simply ingredients occurring in their natural, unprocessed state. E.g. raw honey or crushed flowers.
Nature-identical means ingredients that are made in a lab and are chemically identical to those that occur in nature. For example, sorbic acid which is a preservative commonly used in the cosmetic industry is originally derived from rowan berries. However sorbic acid is now often sold as a synthetic nature-identical ingredient, which is produced in a laboratory.
Synthetic is on the far end of the spectrum, these are fully synthetic ingredients that have been created and processed in a lab, and have no ties to the natural world or nature whatsoever. These ingredients are often referred to as chemicals or synthetics and are derived quite often from petrochemicals. E.g. parabens.
As a consumer, it’s up to you to decide what you put on your skin and what level of processing you are happy with. Cosmetics and skincare products have a multitude of ingredients that can be beneficial to our health and skin health or can be problematic. I’ll discuss that more on that further down.
So how do I know what’s natural and what’s not?
We need to learn to read the labels on the back of products that have the list of ingredients often in both INCI/ Latin names (international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients) and more understandable terms. For example, the INCI name for Jojoba oil will be listed as Simmondsia Chinensis. By reading the list of ingredients we can figure out exactly what we are putting on our skin. We
can also look to the labels for other definitions that can sometimes help us understand more about the product and if it’s right for us. Quite often with natural skincare, we buy into what fits our values, lifestyle choices, and preferences.
Some terms we may see on natural skincare that can help us choose products are organic, cruelty-free, vegan, paraben-free, sulphate-free, sustainable, local, ethical, fair trade, etc. You decide which values, standards, and ingredients you are happy to purchase and put on your skin. Be careful of greenwashing when choosing the right natural skin care products for you.
Greenwashing What Does It Mean?
According to the soil association, the growing demand for organic beauty products has caused a surge in “greenwashing” i.e. making deliberately misleading claims to trick the consumer into thinking the brand is more environmentally friendly than it is.
Organic products are often certified by regulatory bodies such as the soil association. You can only label a product organic if at least 95% of its ingredients are organically produced. Some organic certifications will not permit certain ingredients to be used within a formula or product. Our Brow Balm contains organic ingredients like organic argan butter and organic cocoa butter but we don’t claim organic because the formula is less than 95% organic ingredients.
Vegan products and sometimes vegetarian products are created with no animal by-products. For example, our Cleansing Balm and sensitive cleansing balm are both vegan, we used candelilla wax which is a plant-based wax instead of beeswax which can be found in many of the balms on the market.
Cruelty-free means that neither the ingredients nor finished product were tested on animals. We are big believers in cruelty-free at Nicola McLaughlin cosmetics and we would never dream of ever testing on animals. We often say we only test on willing humans. This means our products are given to people to test and try for us even after they have been cosmetically approved and granted a cosmetic product safety report.
Clean beauty is often referred to as a product containing non-toxic ingredients, simplicity, and minimal ingredients yet effective.
Sustainable is often used on skincare labels. Many brands including ours focus on creating sustainable products that don’t hurt people, animals, or the environment. Opting to choose more sustainable packaging that can be reused and recycled e.g. glass jars and bottles or even composted like our konjac cleansing sponge. Sustainable brands often refuse to use palm oil in their products which is environmentally devastating and a cheap ingredient. Always check the labels, packaging, ingredients, and practices of a skincare brand to see if it is sustainable.
Now after all that array of information around natural skincare and how to choose a standard that fits your needs, values, and lifestyle. Here’s why I think natural skincare is beneficial.
What we put on our skin from our cosmetics to our skincare often contains a huge amount of ingredients daily. Especially for females, I believe our beauty routines can have a multitude of undesirable ingredients that can potentially hurt our health and particularly our hormones. Think through your daily routine from getting showered to putting on skincare, makeup, deodorant, and perfume. Every product contains ingredients more often than not synthetic meaning created in a laboratory.
Xenoestrogens have specific estrogen-like effects in the body. These harmful toxins imitate estrogen and can dramatically increase the toxic burden and estrogen dominance symptoms. Hello, hormonal imbalance.
Where can xenoestrogens be found? In your personal care products. shampoos, soaps, perfumes, bleached feminine hygiene products.
Parabens- it is believed that parabens exist In 75-90% of cosmetics. Parabens are a common preservative used in anything from cosmetics to food. We are talking about cosmetics in this instance. They are synthetically created and used to give products longer shelf life. They are typically used in low concentrations in cosmetics but that’s not the real issue. It’s a game of numbers how many are we exposed to and absorbing daily, weekly, and monthly through what we lather on our skin to what we eat. Women have on
average seven times more parabens than men in their bloodstream. Likely due to our cosmetic usage.
Parabens are believed to be endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Masquerading as estrogen in the body. Parabens have been found in breast cancer cells although scientists currently believe that this doesn’t evidence that parabens increase your chance of breast cancer.
A matter of individual choice
So the final question here is, is natural skincare beneficial and good for you?
Using natural products (as close to natural as possible) or organic does not mean you need to compromise on the quality of your beauty regime. Nature has some amazing botanicals and powerful potent ingredients that are beneficial to the skin. By avoiding harmful ingredients you are likely to notice your skin improving with a reduction in redness, irritation, dryness, and so on.
Many natural plant oils, butter, and waxes are full of vitamins, nutrients, fatty acids, and antioxidants that a very nourishing and beneficial to skin health. Like our nourishing face oil and soothing face oil.
WE FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT NATURAL SKINCARE IS BENEFICIAL FOR MANY SKIN CONCERNS AND SKIN TYPES, IT’S BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT IN MANY
WAYS AND WAS THE GO-TO FOR MANY DECADES BEFORE THE INTRODUCTION OF SYNTHETIC SKINCARE INGREDIENTS.