As more manufacturers jump on the “natural” bandwagon, skincare and cosmetics aisles are overflowing with products promising ingredients “from nature.” It begs the question – are natural ingredients always a better choice? The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think.
First, it’s important to understand that the word “natural” isn’t used by mistake. It has the perfect connotation and there are no industry standards refereeing its meaning – throwing a token botanical ingredient into a synthetic cocktail is enough to label the entire product as natural. By the same token, a formula completely devoid of synthetic ingredients, like our Intensive Baby Balm and Intensive Stretch Mark Oil, can also be promoted as natural. It makes it difficult to know what you’re really getting, which is why a close look at the ingredient list should always trump the packaging or clever marketing promises.
While there are a number of botanical ingredients that are wonderfully effective in addition to being gentle – tamanu foraha, helichrysum, coconut oil, macadamia nut oil, for example, all of which can be found in our products – there are other completely natural ingredients that can be irritating or simply ineffective. Popular natural ingredients like tea tree oil can trigger sensitivity or allergic reactions for some people. In those instances, natural isn’t always better. The right naturally derived ingredient in the right formulation is essential, and it’s important to find a company doing just that.
When a company is willing to be completely transparent about its products and what goes into each formula, consider it a good sign. While it’s mandatory for all companies to disclose ingredients, some are more forthcoming than others. If avoiding potential irritants is a concern, be wary of catch-all terms that signify synthetic blends, like the benign-sounding “fragrance” and “parfum.” It’s a topic we’ve discussed before – there are many ingredients used in conventional skincare products geared to infants and small children that are best avoided.
Scanning the ingredients is an easy way to suss out the products masquerading as truly natural. And that’s where common sense applies. The addition of lavender to a conventional laundry detergent doesn’t automatically make it safer or better, nor does it improve a soap that also contains parabens. See it for what it really is – a marketing ploy intended to shine the spotlight on the “natural” ingredient.
The general assumption about a product labeled natural is that it will be free of harmful ingredients – things like petrochemicals and phthalates, which have been shown to mimic the effects of hormones in the body and even increase the risk of cancer. But don’t be convinced by the earthy color palette on the bottle alone.
Ultimately, consider what is most important to you. Are you looking for a product that is effective above anything else? Do you want something that is non-irritating and gentle? Is eco-friendliness a concern? If you want a product that is free of preservatives and fragrances, something with a reduced impact environmentally that will still be effective, you’ll likely find that a natural, organic product will meet the mark. And in that case, yes, natural does mean better.