Awakening Wednesday — All-Natural Skin Care Probably Isn’t (so natural)

By Rob Hardwicke, Product Master, Awakening Mineral Skin Care

There’s a blog that I follow called Personal Care Truth or Scare that keeps holding a mirror up to our industry — and the image most often reflected back at us can be most disconcerting.  Indeed, scary.

It’s May Be Poison,
But It’s At Least “All-Natural”!

A recent post raised the topic of just how natural “all-natural” skin care might be.  As a formulator of skin care products that we prefer to think of as pretty darned ‘natural’, I do acknowledge that this is a term that we — along with the vast majority of those within our industry’s ‘natural’ sector — struggle to make sense of.  The fact is that “All-Natural” looks so doggone good on the front of a product’s label.

Some compounds occur ‘naturally’ in Nature: Cyanide, for instance — a nice little carbon atom that’s triple-bonded to a nitrogen atom.  It’s something that is produced ‘naturally’ by algae and by mushrooms.  You can find it in the pit of an apricot or a plum.  But who in their right mind in the personal care business would want to promote a wildly deadly substance as “All-Natural” when it can linger for long periods at thoroughly toxic levels?   A company’s own little SuperFund Site!  On the other hand, there’s a preservative used by many in the skincare industry called a “paraben” that’s derived from the pigments that give flower petals their color.  It’s ‘natural’ but there indeed have been ‘degrees of processing’ to get it to the point that it’s dropped into the kettle during the process of whopping up a recipe for, say, hand cream.   Arguably, both cyanide and parabens are “All Natural” or at least “Nature-derived”.  Whoopie!  But, we at Awakening definitely don’t use cyanide — and we began pulling out parabens way back in 2006 when they started to become something of a hot potato issue on the web (despite some very authoratative analyses that assert that parabens likely aren’t a health issue at all).

But this demonstrates the very broad maneuvering room within the personal care industry when it comes to degrees of naturalness and just what it all means to the consumer.   What the author of the Personal Care Truth or Scare blog points out is that our industry’s labeling can be pretty flaky.  I’ve included a portion of that blog post below, since I agree that it’s good food for thought:

When traveling through various discussion groups…, one of the most common claims companies make for their products is “all-natural” or “100% natural”…

I have seen it written that there is no clear definition of “natural” and, also, that there are many interpretations of “natural”, but I believe that this is being confused with “organic” and that a definition of “natural” is both clear and simple.  Only two questions need to be asked:

1) Does the subtance exist in nature?

2) Is the substance extracted from nature without any chemical modification?

Only if the answer to both questions is “yes”, can the substance be truly described as “natural”.

If the substance does not exist in nature, it cannot be described as “natural”, even if natural substances have been used exclusively in its manufacture.  This can only be described as “nature-derived”.  However, taking the definition of “nature-derived” to its logical conclusion, unless you actually create new matter, everything is “nature-derived”, the only question is to how many stages of processing has the substance been exposed.  This introduces the concept of “degrees of processing”.  Given that so few cosmetic ingredients are truly natural, how many degrees of processing are acceptable to keep the ingredients as close to “natural” as possible?  This is where it becomes entirely subjective and crosses over into the realm of “organic” criteria, where there is an increasing number of different commercial organizations, each promoting their own (subjective) view of what constitutes “organic” for cosmetics.  This creates confusion for consumers on two levels.  The profusion of different standards is an obvious source of confusion, but it seems to me that many people confuse “organic” and “natural” — a situation not discouraged by those involved in the market sector.  These terms are NOT interchangeable.  A high proportion of ingredients certified as “organic” (by one or more certification bodies) are NOT natural, as they don’t exist in nature and, therefore a certified “organic” product cannot automatically be promoted as “all-natural, unless it truly is, of course!

Can I, therefore, claim that our Awakening Mineral Skin Care products are “all-natural”?  I think not, since many of our ingredients have been manipulated through a stage or two of processing.  But we do care about the quality of our products and their impact on the skin.  We do care about our natural (in this case, they’re really “natural”!) minerals, and the herbs and extracts that we use.   We also very much care about what our customers think of our products.  We care about the level of customer service we provide.

So, even if we have trouble saying that we’re “100 natural” in the purest sense of the term, we have no compunctions at all saying that we’re “100% nice”!

* * *

Awakening Mineral Skin Care is a boutique formulator of nature-derived, vegan skin care products utilizing concentrated mineral crystals isolated from the Dead Sea, essential oils and botanical extracts.  With only a few exceptions, we call our products by what they do: Awakening HANDS treats hands, Awakening FEET treats feet, Awakening BODY treats bodies, Awakening SCALP treats scalps — you get the idea.  However Awakening MUDFace is mud for the face (and feet!) — so, as with 9th grade English, there are always exceptions to every rule!

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