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What makes a skin care product natural?

by Shanay Lumbuyaka

Are you someone who’s constantly on the lookout for gentle products free from harmful chemicals? Do you find yourself drawn to products that promise to harness the power of nature? Well, you’re not alone! The beauty industry has recently seen a surge in demand for natural skincare products. But what exactly does it mean for a product to be considered ‘natural’? 

There has been a lot of discourse in the skincare community regarding the usage of the term ‘natural’, as it is not a tightly regulated term. For example, a product consisting of 90% natural ingredients could be comparable to a product made up of 90% synthetic/chemical ingredients. As such, it is important to have an awareness of what it means for a skincare product to be considered natural.  Here we will debunk what exactly that buzzword entails and hopefully provide a more comprehensive understanding of its importance to ourselves and our community. 

As mentioned previously, there is no clear cut definition for ‘natural’ in the cosmetics industry, which has led to a lot of confusion amongst consumers and industry professionals. Despite this in the EU, Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals

(REACH)  offers some basic principles of ‘natural’ ingredients. 

  1. Substances Occurring in Nature: These are natural substances with minimal processing like manual methods or simple extraction.

  1. Not Chemically Modified Substances: These remain unchanged chemically, even after processes like removing impurities.

Examples of chemical ingredients include, but are not limited to: 

  • Parabens 

  • These are preservatives commonly found in skincare products to inhibit bacterial and fungal growth. However, they are associated with hormone disruption and may be absorbed through the skin, as indicated by various studies.

  • Oxybenzone 

  • A common ingredient in sunscreen associated with notable damage to the coral reef and disruptions to the hormonal balance in the body 

  • PEGs (Polyethylene Glycols)

  • These ingredients serve multiple purposes in skincare products, such as thickening, softening and carrying moisture. However, depending on how they’re made, they may contain impurities like ethylene oxide, a substance known to cause cancer in humans 

When we talk about natural skincare, this is about products that are formulated using ingredients derived from nature such as plants, minerals and naturally occurring substances. These ingredients are often sourced sustainably  and are minimally processed to retain their beneficial properties. 

Take for example aloe vera, cultivated in the subtropical regions of the world, it has been used for centuries for its soothing and moisturising properties, as well as for treating wounds and burns. As such, it is a very popular ingredient in many skincare products, from soothing gels to hydrating lotions. Aloe vera is considered a natural skincare product because of its plant-based origin and the minimal processing that it undergoes, which helps to keep the pure essence of the ingredient. It is also free from synthetic additives. 

Natural skincare also captures the essence of sustainability and ethical practices when sourcing ingredients, ensuring that they are harvested in a way that minimises the effect on the environment and supports local communities. Although this is not always the case, due to factors such as supply and demand and limited regulations on ingredients sourcing, ensuring ethical treatment and fair pay of workers who are sourcing these ingredients, as well as minimising the environmental footprint through production, zero waste packaging and the distribution process can help maintain eco-consciousness. 

Examples of skincare ingredients that are not only kind to the skin, but also do not damage the environment through their production are: 

  • Argan Oil 

  • extracted from the kernels of the argan tree, native to Morocco. Many brands ensure sustainable sourcing practices by working alongside cooperatives of Berber women who hand-crack the argan nuts, extracting the oil 

  • Shea Butter 

  • extracted from the nuts of the shea tree, shea butter is a rich moisturising agent that is perfect for rough, dry skin. 

  • Jojoba Oil 

  • derived from the seeds of the jojoba plants, this oil is another powerhouse for hydration and closely resembles the oils naturally produced by the skin 

So next time you’re searching the skincare market for safe and gentle products, why not give some naturally sourced ingredients a try? Not only are you treating your skin to the goodness of nature, but you’re also doing your part in ethical sourcing practices and aiding in the protection of our planet. Remember, when it comes to skincare, natural is the way to glow!

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