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February 03, 2018
When people ask me about a cream or a serum:"Is this natural?"I wish i would have a simple "Yes" or a "No" for them, however, the cosmetic industry is not and can not be as straightforward as consumers may want, because of specific regulations which have been put in place for their own protection.
Here are a few main considerations to be taken into account when you are looking to start using natural/ organic cosmetics and how much you can demand from them:
1. Percentage of natural ingredients
How much and even how many natural ingredients you want in your cosmetics? 1%? 100%?
Creams and Lotions which contain mixtures of water, extracts and oils will never be 100% natural, unless they are dispensed from an airless pump and have a short life shelf.
Emulsifiers are the ones keeping the water, extracts and oils together in lotion or cream form. Natural emulsifiers are only a handful and even these need a bit of help from synthetic emulsifiers or feel enhancers to keep the fussiest of us satisfied with how that product looks or feels.
On top of this, manufacturers are forced by regulations to ensure public safety through preservation and most natural preservatives are not broad spectrum (against fungi and bacteria), hence synthetic preservatives need to be added.
Bacteria and fungi form in contact with water and air.
Only a small number of synthetic or nature identical (similar properties to its natural counterpart, but synthetically made) preservatives are accepted in Certified Organic cosmetics and even a longer list for Cosmetics using Natural Ingredients.
Natural doesn't mean Organic. Everything grows naturally, however, organic farming of raw materials it is more costly and time-consuming. Organic ingredients have a higher concentration of nutrients because they have been grown without the help of synthetic chemicals and fertilisers.
Not using synthetic fertilisers gives a lower amount of produce and if the demand for that product is high, the cost will effectively increase accordingly. Example: Argan oil has been used in North Africa as a beauty oil for skin and hair. In the past couple of years, more and more products have been introduced using Argan Oil. This oil is produced from the kernels of the argan tree that is native to Morocco only. Imagine the consequences of something which was used nationally, all of a sudden needs to go global.
Exotic Ingredients: Using rare imported ingredients is another factor which will add to the high cost of your natural and organic cosmetics. We want exotic baobab sap, manketti oil or Amazonian guarana extract to keep up with the trend or just to try and see how these work on our skin. As these ingredients grow only in specific parts of the world, it is impossible to replicate them closer to home for a lower price.
Method of extraction: Essential oils are revered for their benefits, but did you know that it takes approximately 5 tonnes of roses to obtain 1 kg of damask rose (Otto Rose) essential oil?
Same goes for Co2 extraction. A large quantity of ingredients is needed to make 10ml of an extract.
Other methods include oil maceration and glycerin extract, which take an enormous amount of time to make.
"Free of Parabens" is the marketing expression which annoys me the most! Correctly should be "Free of Synthetic Parabens". Why? Because there are Naturally occurring parabens in blueberries, mango, barley, strawberries, black currants, peaches, carrots, onions, cocoa beans, vanilla, to name but a few well-known natural products. You are eating "natural parabens" however they are not good enough to put on your skin?
As a side note, all of the parabens you are eating or find in your cosmetics have been approved by the respective regulators after rigorous research and testing.
4. Life Shelf
Would you buy a natural and organic product which needs to be used within 3 to 6 months or a product which has a life shelf of 2 to 3 years?
If the first is your answer, definitely look for manufacturers which make small batches to ensure freshness of the product. If you are buying a product which expires in 2 years you are guaranteed to have a little cocktail of synthetic preservatives in it.
The 2 + years of life shelf, it is not a regulation, but an unnecessary demand from stockists, because most of them do not know when a product will sell.
Is "Organic Certified" important to you? If yes, then definitely you should search for the respective certification logo on the packaging. This certification guarantees that the overall product has been formulated within the specific organic regulations.
If the certification is not very important, you can still get amazing quality products with organically certified raw materials (in my opinion this is more important than the overall product certification) and perform as good, if not sometimes better than their fully certified counterparts. In this case, just check at the bottom of the ingredients list for the usual "*certified organic ingredient" or "of organic origin"
Not all countries and certification bodies have the same standards. Ecocert and Soil Association have the highest and strictest standards.
Some products can be certified organic with as little as 30% organic ingredients.
It is not mandatory to certify organic cosmetics.
All manufacturers have to keep a record of their raw material certifications.
EU regulations are the strictest on this planet in terms of banned substances, followed closely by KFDA (South Korean cosmetics regulator) and Japan. They regularly update the list of banned or restricted synthetic ingredients allowed in cosmetics.
The US regrettably falls far behind with only a hand full. Hopefully, this will change with a push from the amazing Natural and Organic Cosmetics manufacturers arising in North America.
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