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What does natural mean to you?

February 23, 2016

How do you define natural?

With the personal care products industry booming over sales of "natural" products, it is a fair question. Why are people looking for natural? Is it to be more eco-friendly? Is it for safer ingredients? Is it to limit chemical exposure? I think all of these reasons come into play. But just what IS natural?

Over the past couple weeks, I talked to as many consumers as I could to find out what they consider to be the meaning of natural when it comes to their personal care products.

 

My first mission: Learn how consumers define natural

I hit the stores and online boutiques to take to learn how consumers view "natural."

Webster's defines natural as "existing in nature and not made or caused by people" -- but that is actually a bit different than what many of us think of when we talk about natural products.

I first asked the people I spoke with this question: "How do you define a natural product?" The answers were varied. Here are some of the comments you shared:

  • "Natural means that the ingredients are grown in the ground or come from plants."
  • "A natural product contains no artificial ingredients like colors or fragrance."
  • "Natural skin care products are made from food ingredients and plants."
  • "Natural means that a product is organic."
  • "Natural is the opposite of synthetic."
  • "Natural products are safer and do not have chemicals of any kind."

How does the FDA define natural?

It doesn't. There is no regulatory definition of natural established by the FDA as it relates to personal care products.

The same applies to organic. When it comes to your personal care products, please be aware of these claims. This is actually something I intend to write about in the near future here on the Seed blog -- "organic" skin care. 

We use organic ingredients when we can at Seed, but some organic  ingredients are harder to come by. Plus, the process of being USDA certified organic is can be cost prohibitive to many small companies.

Here is something I want to note about whether "organic" is actually better. This comes from the USDA Organic Skin Care website:

"Are cosmetics made with “organic” ingredients safer for consumers than those made with ingredients from other sources?
No. An ingredient’s source does not determine its safety. For example, many plants, whether or not they are organically grown, contain substances that may be toxic or allergenic. For more on this subject, see FDA Poisonous Plant Database. Under the FD&C Act, all cosmetic products and ingredients are subject to the same safety requirement: They must be safe for consumers under labeled or customary conditions of use (FD&C Act, section 601(a). Companies and individuals who market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure that their products and ingredients are safe for the intended use."

What do other companies consider natural?

I love taking a more in-depth look at labels. Being an advocate for truth in labeling and better ingredients for years, I have done this many times before and it is always refreshing: looking at claims made by skin care and beauty brands.

As there is really no definition of "natural" -- and no oversight -- a company can pretty much say whatever they'd like. For example, a drugstore line of "Naturals" has a giant bottle of body wash for $3 and has a big glossy image of verbena and almonds.

Surely, it must contain real lemon verbena and almonds, right?

In reality, it has synthetic fragrance and the second to last ingredient is lemon verbena, right between Methylisothiazolinone and Caramel Color on the label. The fragrance they add tricks you into thinking you are getting an abundance of the real deal. 

Another product I encountered was a popular face scrub. It has Apricot in the product name, so surely it must have a large quantity of apricots, correct? The packaging makes it seem so wholesome and natural -- almost good enough to eat.

In reality, this is the ingredients list:

WATER (AQUA, EAU), JUGLANS REGIA (WALNUT) SHELL POWDER, GLYCERYL STEARATE, GLYCERIN, SODIUM LAURYL SULFOACETATE, ZEA MAYS (CORN) KERNEL MEAL, COCAMIDOPROPYL BETAINE, CETEARYL ALCOHOL, CETYL ALCOHOL, PEG-100 STEARATE, CETYL ACETATE, TITANIUM DIOXIDE (CI 77891), POLYSORBATE 60, CETEARETH-20, ACETYLATED LANOLIN ALCOHOL, TRIETHANOLAMINE, CARBOMER, FRAGRANCE (PARFUM), PPG-2 METHYL ETHER, PHENETHYL ALCOHOL, LIMONENE, LINALOOL, METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE, PRUNUS ARMENIACA (APRICOT) FRUIT EXTRACT

The VERY last ingredient in the "Apricot scrub" is apricot. This is maddening. Let's take a classic chocolate chip cookie recipe. Think of the ingredients you use. You use flour, butter, sugar (white, brown or both), vanilla, chocolate chips, eggs, and a bit of salt and baking soda. There is a VERY small amount of salt and baking soda. Would you call your chocolate chip cookies "baking soda cookies"? Of course not! That is why it is ridiculous for the "apricot" scrub to be called "apricot" scrub. I am guessing "PEG-100 Stearate Scrub" or "Triethanolamine Scrub" doesn't sound as wholesome even though those ingredients make up a larger portion of the scrub than apricots.

I then stumbled upon a bright pink shampoo with "Naturals" in the brand name. This "hypoallergenic" (read more on that buzzword here) shampoo with "natural extracts" contains the following ingredients:

Water, Amino Methyl Propanol , Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate , Ammonium Chloride, Cocamide MEA , Fragrance, PEG 5 Cocamide , Hydroxypropylmethylcellulose , Tetrasodium EDTA , DMDM Hydantoin , Citric Acid , Tocopheryl Acetate (Vitamin E), Vitamin E Acetate , Methylchloroisothiazolinone , Methylisothiazolinone , Prunus Serrulata Flower Extract , Red 4CI 4700

What does natural mean to Seed?

I shared above how other companies attempt to get by on technicalities. Arsenic is a naturally occurring element. So are poison ivy and the botulism toxin. Yet, you most likely do not want to slather these ingredients on your skin. Common ingredients such as dimethicone and mineral oil are technically "natural" but these by-products can have side effects.

Seed doesn't twist the meaning of natural. To Seed, natural means that everything we make for you is plant-based, harnessing the goodness of proprietary blends of seed oils, and other straight-from-Mother Nature ingredients

We hope that this helps you understand a bit more about natural products!

Yours in health & harmony,

Karley

 

 





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