The 23rd of November is the International Day of Natural Cosmetics.
This is a global awareness day to inspire and motivate both the beauty industry and the beauty consumer to choose natural and organic cosmetics. The day is spearheaded by NATRUE, an international non-profit association that promotes and protects natural and organic cosmetics to the benefit of consumers worldwide.
So what are natural cosmetics?
Surely as the name suggests, they should be cosmetics made with lovely natural ingredients; doing good for you and the planet.
Unfortunately natural beauty is quite often a confusing and grey area. Brands can essentially call their products what they like. They can emblazon their packaging with the word natural, regardless of how many ‘natural’ ingredients the product actually contains. This becomes incredibly misleading for the customer; but why would a brand want to mislead their customers?
As more and more consumers are looking for natural beauty options, brands that maybe aren’t so ‘natural’ still want to retain or attract more customers. This can end up in them exaggerating or even making up natural claims. This is known as greenwashing – companies promote environmentally friendly practices and advertise that their products are ‘good for the planet’ when in actual fact they are not. This unfortunately happens a lot in beauty.
It is so easy to fall for as well – I like to think that I know my stuff but even I have fallen for marketing hype. Short on time in a Boots aisle, I have picked up products that on closer inspection when home, are not what I thought they were.
Beat the greenwashing..
When buying beauty products (or any products for that matter) I think it is really important to have your own criteria of what is important to you. There are so many beauty buzzwords that can have different meanings to different people. If you’re unsure about what really makes a cosmetic product natural than NATRUE’s certification can be really helpful. They have strict requirements that a brand and its product must meet in order to be certified natural or organic.
Being truly committed against greenwashing, the NATRUE Label can only be granted to a product if at least 75% (8 out 10) of the products of the same brand or sub-brand (if this has been specifically created to develop the natural and organic product line of a brand) undergo certification to obtain the NATRUE seal. This rule prevents brands from marketing one or two “hero products” as NATRUE certified cosmetics while keeping the rest of the line as conventionally formulated ones, which can be misleading for consumers as they might believe that all the products of the brand are certified as natural or organic cosmetics under the NATRUE Label.
Choosing a product that has been certified by NATRUE guarantees that
Formulations are made with non-GMO renewable raw materials
No ingredients from mineral oils or silicones
No parabens or synthetic fragrance
Microplastic free to protect oceans and waterways
Palm oil must be certified sustainable / organic quality
Biodegradability of ingredients is taken into account
Products bearing the NATRUE seal are not tested on animals
Why do I use natural cosmetics?
I’ve chosen to use natural cosmetics for a long time now. I first started to use them on myself in my early 20’s and then started to switch my professional makeup kit about 15 years ago. At first it was from a health point of view – there was a lot of talk around that time about ‘suspect’ ingredients and indeed there still is today. There are always statistics flying around about how much product we absorb through our skin and how quickly it reaches our blood – there is much debate around this. For the majority of product, the molecule size is too big to penetrate that far – however some will – essential oils for example. Think about transdermal patches such as nicotine and hormone – there is no doubt that they are absorbed into the body through the skin; so therefore some of what we use on our skin will get absorbed – but exactly what we don’t know. The condition of the skin will also determine how much, and how far the components of a product are absorbed; a compromised skin, for example one inflamed with eczema, will absorb more than a skin with a strong intact natural barrier.
Bonafide natural products will avoid a lot of the ‘suspect’ ingredients such as parabens (there is a lot of debate around these preservatives that I won’t go into here) and phthalates. They will also avoid a lot of the synthetic ingredients that are known skin irritants such as SLS and SLES.
That is not to say that someone can’t react to a natural ingredient – indeed plants can be very active and some skins cannot tolerate certain plant ingredients. Anyone can react to anything. I’m also not of the belief that all synthetic ingredients are ‘bad’.
I believe that skin health can be supported really well by using natural products – choosing those that are packed full of nutritional plant oils and actives that feed and nourish skin. A lot of the time ‘conventional’ products can be full of water and cheap fillers such as mineral oil and silicone, that don’t really too much for the skin.
Silicones along with other microplastics which are commonly found in skincare and makeup, are another reason I choose natural cosmetics. Anything we wash off our face, or use to wash our face, body and hair goes down the sink and into our waterways. If those products contain microplastics and the formulations are not biodegradable, then they will contaminate our waterways – and ultimately us – as is being found more and more.
Environmental issues are another key reason why I choose natural cosmetics – I like to use products that respect the planet so that means thinking about their packaging, their ingredient sourcing and replenishing, their supply chains – also the people working along that chain too; have they been treated fairly? Ensuring that animals have been looked after is also important – so no animal testing.
It can be challenging to meet all of this criteria – especially with our changing climate. Farming has become harder and sometimes the synthetic version of an ingredient can be more sustainable and stable. Prices of natural ingredients can also change a lot depending on how successful crops have been. This can add to the price of natural cosmetics, which can typically be more expensive anyway; although not all the time. However often the formulations are more ‘nutrient dense’ so to speak (no cheap fillers) so therefore you need to use less product. Many can also be multi-taskers which means you need less products in your routine anyway. Personally I prefer to pay a little more if needed, to support the farmers and the brands that are doing good and not compromising our health or that of our planet.
On top of all of this the products also need to work! Compared to when I first started switching my kit – the products available now are brilliant. Back in the day, the textures and colours weren’t so refined and couldn’t compete with ‘conventional beauty’.
Natural cosmetics quite often used to get a bad rap – they were associated with muted browns, beiges and chalky textures. This couldn’t be further from the truth now – the natural products now can certainly hold their own in the beauty aisles. Also (despite my main image for this post!) it isn’t all about pretty flowers and soft images.There are some really amazing brands making brilliant products with high-tech textures and bold colours.
I’ve written about lots on this blog so have an explore and a read. I encourage you this International Day of Natural Cosmetics to give something new a try!
What are your favourite natural cosmetics?Let me know in the comments below!
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