What Does Natural Actually Mean?

What does Natural actually mean in products? Why should I care?

You consider yourself a thoughtful consumer. You like to do your own research, and choose products based on their efficacy, price, environmental footprint, claims, and aesthetics. But sometimes, it’s easy to be fooled into buying a product that may not fit all of your specific criteria. When shopping for personal care items (makeup, skincare, body care, etc.) it’s best to consider the following…

What does Natural mean in personal care?

The short (and sad) answer: nothing.

The FDA does NOT regulate the term “natural” in personal care or food products. Typically, products that are termed “natural” do not contain artificial ingredients or fragrance, but again, this term isn’t regulated, so proceed with caution and do your own research.

Does Natural mean better?

When shopping for natural brands, make sure to read your labels. If a product “contains natural ingredients” that does NOT mean it is natural. Most ingredients, at some point in their life cycle, could be considered “natural” by someone. Remember, the word “natural” isn’t regulated. This is a common marketing trick you can avoid by simply reading the entire label, and not just the front product copy.

Speaking of labels, just because an ingredient is hard to pronounce, or sounds “science-y” doesn’t mean it’s bad for you as a consumer. For example, Sorbitan Oleate Decylglucoside Crosspolymer seems intimidating, but it’s actually a PEG-free, nonionic fragrance stabilizer made from 100% bio-based raw materials. Doing your own quick internet search goes a long way in product education.

Many articles mention studies that have shown how endocrine disruptors like parabens and phthalates can have long term negative effects on the body. And typically, ingredients termed “natural” should be more sustainably produced and better for the environment (but do your own research into the brand making those claims).

Synthetic products do have their place in cosmetics and skincare, but knowing where the ingredients came from, how it was produced, and the benefit/safety of the ingredient is imperative.

This is A LOT, where should I start?

A good place to start when switching to natural products is your leave-on products: deodorant, color cosmetics, lotions and nail polish. If a product (like a deodorant) is on your skin all day, and not immediately washed off, a natural option is advisable.

Start with leave-on products and do research brands and ingredients making natural claims. You are your best advocate for your health and every small change you make will add up to big results for your body, and the environment.