I often get asked, what is the best (insert product here) that is natural? And I have to ask, what do you consider ‘natural’? The truth is, it’s not black or white. There are shades of ‘natural’. Perhaps not 50, but I couldn’t resist bringing a little sexy to the post ;o)
This post is divided into two parts – Part 1 talks about the spectrum of ‘natural’ beauty from an ingredients/brand perspective and Part 2 looks at certifications used for natural/organic products.
Shade 1: Greenwashing
This is truly not natural. Greenwashing is when a very not-natural company adds a single natural-ish ingredient and then markets the product as natural because it’s cool right now. (For the record, I was using natural products BEFORE they were cool)
For example, Dove’s Cream Oil Shea Butter Body Lotion even has Shea Butter right in the name! It has “A moisture-loaded mix of two of the most powerful ingredients – rich hydrating Shea Butter cream and skin-nourishing oil” Ooooooo, that sounds nice.
Well let’s forget for one that Dove continues to test on animals and let’s just focus on the ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Stearic Acid, Capric/Caprylic Stearic Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Glycol Stearate, PEG 100 Stearate, Petrolatum, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter), Cyclopentasiloxane, Acrylates/C10 30 Alkyl Acrylate Crosspolymer, Glyceryl Stearate, Cetearyl Alcohol, Fragrance (Parfum), Stearamide AMP, Phenoxyethanol, Triethanolamine, Carbomer, Disodium EDTA, Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Titanium Dioxide.
Wait….where was that shea butter? Oh there it is – it’s the 9th ingredient down. I’m not sure what “skin-nourishing oil” they were referring to. All I see is water, artificial emollients, fillers, fragrance (which probably contains phthalates) and then some ingredients which are just plain not natural: Triethanolamine, Methylparaben, Propylparaben. More on these ingredients on my beauty ingredients to avoid page.
So sure it has shea butter! But is this natural? No, this is greenwashing. Dove is just one example, I’ve seen this with Aveeno, Cover Girl – you name it.
Shade 2: Paraben-Free
Oh parabens. If you want to learn more about them, visit my Beauty Ingredients to Avoid page. When all the hype about parabens came out, a lot of companies immediately hopped on the paraben-free bandwagon and simply replaced parabens with phenoxyethanol. Is phenoxyethanol much ‘greener’? That is up for debate. We will say yes for now….I guess.
But just because a product is paraben free, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have lots of other not-so-great ingredients. Like that triple negative I used there? Let me re-phrase: paraben free can mean diddly when it comes to other ingredients it contains. Ulta’s Body Lotions are one example of this. They market their lotions as not just free of parabens, but also DEA and gluten!
So let’s look at the ingredients list: Water (Aqua), Stearic Acid, Fragrance, Glycerin, Mineral Oil, Isopropyl Palmitate, Benzophenone-4, Caprylyl Glycol, Carbomer, Cetyl Alcohol, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Acrylate/Acrylic Acid Copolymer, Panthenol, PEG-100 Stearate, Propylene Glycol, Retinyl Palmitate, Silk Aminio Acids, Tocopheryl Acetate , Triethanolamine, Phenoxyethanol May Contain: Yellow 5(CI 19140), Blue 1(CI 42090),Red 33(CI 17200),Yellow 6(CI 15985,Ext. Violet 2(CI 60730),Red 40(CI16035)
Well there certainly are no parabens – but is this natural? The first 6 ingredients are artificial emollients, water or fragrance. The artificial emollients make a lotion feel nice and soft, but don’t have the truly good-for-you ingredients like jojoba oil, shea buttter or other oils. Since they did not say free of phthalates – I’m also guessing the fragrance has phthalates. And while they market the lotion has free of DEA, they go ahead and include it’s sister – TEA. Oh fun. So while I love shopping at ULTA, I’m not super impressed with their paraben-free lotion.
Shade 3: Natural by a Not-So-Natural Parent Company
This is a controversy among the green-beauties. What do you do when a natural company is owned by a very not-natural company? Have you heard of Toms of Maine, Burt’s Bees, Bare Escentuals? Pretty natural right? (well, I could sit and debate this but let’s not for the sake of moving forward)
How about Clorox, Colgate, Shiseido? Well, they own those companies listed above. Colgate (Toms of Maine), Clorox (Burts Bees) and Shiseido (Bare Escentuals) all test on animals, are not known as being environmentally-friendly or eco-conscious and yet have bought these companies that are, for the most part, natural and eco-friendly.
Some people continue to buy from these companies because they are still helping an eco-friendly brand. Others are against it because ultimately it is supporting the Colgates, Cloroxes and Shiseidos of the world. It’s really up to each person to decide what they want to do.
Shade 4: Naturalish: Safe but (mostly) Synthetic
So I consider naturalish companies that heavily market themselves as natural, but sometimes its a bit questionable on how ‘from nature’ these companies really are. For example, its perfectly possible to have a body lotion that is free from all harmful ingredients listed on my Beauty Ingredients to Avoid Page, yet is still mostly synthetic. So sure the product may be ‘safe’, but is that REALLY natural?
Even within this shade are more shades. An example is Aveda, Origins and Tarte. Aveda and Origins are both owned by Estee Lauder (see Shade 3 above) and heavily market themselves as all-natural. Aveda is “the art and science of pure flower and plant essences” and Origins is “Powered by Nature. Proven by Science.” For the most part, they are pretty safe from harmful ingredients – but not free of synthetic ingredients by any means.
Tarte is a little similar, but do own themselves and so can be considered 100% cruelty free because you don’t have to worry about supporting a parent company you disagree with. But once again, if you sit and look at the ingredients list, you may not be able to pronounce half of them.
Now don’t get me wrong – I don’t mind Aveda, Origins and Tarte. I don’t personally use Aveda and Origins because I have found greener alternatives that aren’t owned by an Estee Lauder or L’Oreal of the world, but I do love Tarte. Tarte has some great cosmetics and I use some of their stuff (like their eyeshadow primer) daily.
BUT, I do think its important to keep in mind the difference between natural, safe and synthetic. Synthetic doesn’t always mean bad, but it also doesn’t come from nature. Some eco-beauties don’t use even naturalish companies. I do, because I love everyone :o)
Shade 5: Very Natural, but Not Organic
So this shade is for companies that are hands-down natural. They use natural, from-Earth, ingredients. You can pronounce most if not all of the ingredients. The products are good for you and are free from harmful chemicals. They are pretty much super awesome in every way – they just aren’t organic. I’ll get more into the various kinds of organic in Part 2.
Sometimes you can’t get certain ingredients as organic (like minerals so you won’t find organic mineral makeup companies), other times it’s just super expensive so to keep prices lower they don’t include organic ingredients. It just depends on the company.
Some examples of this are Alima, ARCONA, Burnout Sunscreen, Purely You Minerals and Weleda.
Shade 6: Organic
So this shade is for companies that are organic. Of course, within this shade are more shades as you can go from having a single organic ingredient to 100% organic.
What is interesting is you can in fact have a naturalish company where all of their natural ingredients are organic. So it’s possible to be both organic and highly synthetic. But lets assume those naturalish yet somewhat organic companies don’t apply here…
I would list these Shade 6 products as very natural, very awesome, and very organic. Sometimes this means very expensive – but not always! As organic becomes more popular, demand will go up which means supply will go up which means prices should come down with more competition. Fingers crossed.
Some examples of this are ILIA beauty, John Masters Organics, Juice Beauty, and Pai skincare.
Next on the list: Part 2 – Label claims and logos
So what do you think? Are there shades I have missed?
What are your favorite companies and what shade do you think they belong in?