What do you look for when you go shopping for beauty products and treatments?
Well, "natural" accounts for 7% of the global personal care market. But what does "natural" mean? Does it mean the same the world over and is natural better for you and the environment? So many questions and so little time...
DEFINING NATURAL "Natural" is probably the most ambiguous term used in cosmetics marketing and is therefore a frequent source of confusion.
Is Natural Defined as ??
1) "Growing spontaneously; without being planted or tended by human hand, as vegetation." Sounds great but that basically only permits us to source raw materials from weeds, grasses or wild areas – not very practical, quite ecologically damaging and hard to maintain quality standards.
2) "Having undergone little or no processing and containing no chemical additives."
THIS IS WHERE WE ARE WITH GREEN MUD Now this is getting somewhere.
There is a growing band of people who wish to limit their exposure to manmade chemicals and additives, and with allergies on the rise, this is understandable. It is quite possible to source raw materials for our natural beauty products directly from plant and some mineral materials without the need for chemical additives. However, this definition is often poorly understood and many bigger companies then go on to market products as "chemical free" - a statement that is almost physically impossible, especially for those that do not direct sell and certainly and ambiguous statement for companies that have their products made overseas.
Even plants and Natural products contain chemicals. Some Oils ( but very very few) can only be extracted by the use of CO2
3) "Having a real or physical existence, as opposed to one that is spiritual, intellectual or fictitious."
Probably a bit deep for today's purposes but we get the picture, we must be able to touch it.
So, from the above definitions it seems that number 2 is most practical, but does the cosmetics industry agree? Well, yes and no. The Global Picture is that many companies have jumped on the bandwagon and market products as "chemical free" -BECAUSE IT SELLS a statement that is physically impossible for bigger manufacturers
There is no one umbrella definition of what natural means to the cosmetics industry; indeed the question has caused much debate and controversy as each sub group of the industry tries to stake their claim as the most wholesome and all-encompassing 'natural' brand.
There are hundreds of certifying bodies of which around six have a global reach.
For example, take palm oil and distil it into its different fatty acid chain lengths and you get a mixture containing 'natural' chemicals such as oleic acid, linoleic acid and stearic acid without having to do anything else. But if you take the stearic acid from the palm oil and react it with sorbitol to produce a new chemical, the food grade emulsifier, sorbitan stearate (or E 491), is it still natural? In this case it is cut and dry, but it is not always that simple and debate is still raging over the extent to which a plant can be processed and still retain its 'natural' status. This is the "green chemistry" debate. So, if the industry can't agree, what chance has the public got in making sense of it all? Not a lot, but looking out for any of the above certifying bodies will give you the peace of mind that at least you are going in the right direction.
Is Natural Best?
But is natural better for the environment?
In the absence of a unanimous vote on what 'natural' actually means, the question is hard to answer. But common sense does tend to lead us down the natural path, even if it is somewhat blindly. Here are some possible reasons why. Firstly, allergies are on the rise.
According to the December edition of Paediatrics magazine, food allergies in children have increased by almost 20% since 1993. Indeed, one can observe this phenomenon in everyday life – next time you drop the kids off at school or playgroup just take a look at how many children are on the anaphylactic shock watch board; the numbers are frightening.
Now, while it is scientifically irresponsible to lay the blame for this epidemic on synthetic chemicals, a group called the Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Organisation is taking this issue to heart and raising awareness of some common chemical triggers in our environment.
Environmental concerns are another reason why more people are getting their beauty fix naturally. Petroleum-based surfactants and mineral oil creams may have been the answer to our insatiable appetite for innovation back in the 50's and 60's. Today's consumers link the oil industry with pollution, environmental destruction and toxicity (in relation to the chemical processes employed in refining the oil feedstock).
Further to that are the worries about downstream contamination.
The shampoo's, moisturisers and sunscreens that we all use have to end up somewhere and we have all heard the stories about gender bending chemicals in our waterways, coral bleaching due to sunscreen actives and heavy metal contamination in our soils.
Finally we see a growing trend towards people wanting to get back to basics and simplify their lives.
This is being driven in part by the global financial crisis but also by a move to regain a sense of connection to the planet that we call home. Veggie gardens have come back into fashion; home cooking is slowly replacing the endless round of take-aways and restaurant meals; and recycling, swapping and sharing is feeding our soul. As we become more self sufficient the interest in making our own natural beauty products is growing in a bid to cleanse and care for our bodies in a more thoughtful and natural way.
As we become more self sufficient the interest in making our own natural beauty products is growing in a bid to cleanse and care for our bodies in a more thoughtful and natural way.
We say please please 'Read the ingredients'
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