In today’s world the words “Natural” and “Organic” are very important to most of us. We really want to trust every company that puts those two words on their products, but can you trust all of them? If you know what you are looking for, you don’t have to trust in them. You can trust in yourself! Here are a few tips and topics to help you in your journey on natural and organic knowledge:
Is “Organic” Really Organic?
FDA does not have regulations for the term “organic” for cosmetics. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates the use of the term “organic” for agricultural products stating that products labeled “organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). And any ingredients outside that 95% have to be on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited substances. If a product has one organic ingredient, they cannot claim the product is organic. Products that claim to be organic have to be certified, and if it is not certified, they cannot make any organic claim on the product or display the USDA Organic Seal. So just because one ingredient is organic, that does not mean the whole product is organic.
The long and short of it is: If your apple has the USDA organic seal on it, it is organic. YUM! If your cosmetic has the USDA organic seal, then it is made of agricultural ingredients and was deemed eligible for certification.
Are all our products certified organic? Nope, and we are OK with that. We use lots of certified organic ingredients including our oils, and many herbs. But we also use wild crafted herbs and beeswax from local sources that are not eligible for the organic label.
What About Natural?
The FDA does not regulate the term “natural”. The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic is added to a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy is only for food (and doesn’t take into account the manufacturing processes). So, if you are looking for a “natural” product, ask the manufacture how they define natural. For us, natural means as close to nature as possible, while still being safe.
For cosmetics and soaps, there are a few other things to consider when asking if it’s “natural”… scent and color.
Natural Products vs. Natural Colors:
This can get a bit tricky with soaps and cosmetics. Many soaps claim to be “natural” and yet they use artificial colorants. Here are some examples:
- Some colorants are made with Coal Tar, which is a mixture of many chemicals and is derived from petroleum. It is used extensively in cosmetics and is identified by “FD&C” or “D&C” followed by a color name and a number. P-phenylenediamine is one form of coal tar used in hair dyes.
- Artificial FD&C and Lake Dyes: These are popular pigment ingredients and create brilliant colors, however, they are not natural and (in our opinion) should not be in any product that claims to be natural.
- You want to avoid any labels that have the color dyes listed as Blue 1, Green 3, FD&C Yellow 6 etc.
- Yellow 5 has been associated with an allergy-like hypersensitivity
- Yellow 6 has been linked with adrenal gland and kidney tumors.
- Red dyes can block your pores which cause your skin’s natural oil balance to be off and leads to acne.
On the flip side, we color our soaps with herbs and roots (botanicals). Kandra even wrote a book about it. Here are a few examples of “natural” colorants:
- Fruits and Vegetables: Most fruits and vegetables oxidize when they are exposed to air. Some fruits can create a pigment that can be used in cosmetics but the pigment only works in water-based formulas, while most makeup is oil based. For our soaps, we leverage often use carrots for lovely shades of yellows, orange, and peach.
- Herbs and roots: These are our favorite by far. We use herbs and roots to color many of our natural soaps. We can achieve everything from a sunny yellow to a striking purple or luscious blue with various herbs.
- Carmine: Carmine is a colorant that is used in both natural and traditional (petroleum based) makeup lines. It is derived from the Cochineal Beetle native to Mexico and Central America. Yes, it is a bug, so it is natural, however this female beetle is used as a dye. If any product claiming to be vegan includes carmine, it is not vegan.
- Oxides: These are natural in origin but as the name suggests, they are derived from the oxidation process of iron, commonly known as rust. Iron Oxides create reds, yellows, browns, and black shades, they are great for the warm color palette but not the cool. Some soap and cosmetic manufactures consider these to be natural. We don’t, based on the amount of processing involved and sensitivity issues.
Are Fragrances Natural?
Fragrance ingredients are used in many products as most people love to smell a particular way. Even some products labeled “unscented” may contain fragrance ingredients. This is usually because a manufacturer adds just enough fragrance to mask the unpleasant smell of other ingredients without giving it a noticeable scent. Some products that have a strong scent are intended for therapeutic uses, such as easing muscle aches, soothing headaches or helping people sleep.
When looking at labels you might simply see “Fragrance” listed with no other details. The FDA allows this to protect “trade secrets”. Fragrance formulas are complex mixtures of many different natural and synthetic ingredients and are most likely trade secrets that companies do not want to divulge, and they don’t have to according to the FDA. But that leaves us wondering what’s in that fragrance. Here’s a short list of what some consider potentially harmful ingredients that may or may not be in the “fragrance”:
- Acetaldehyde which affects the kidneys, the reproductive, nervous, and respiratory systems. It is listed as a known or suspected cause of cancer in California. The National Toxicology Program classifies it as potentially carcinogenic to humans.
- Benzophenone is linked to endocrine disruption and organ system toxicity. It is listed as a possible human carcinogen in California. Derivatives of this are benzophenone-1 (BP-1) and oxybenzone (BP-3).
Also be aware of the label “clean fragrance” as it was created to convey the idea that the fragrance in the product is free of harmful chemicals. There are no standardized or regulatory guidelines to validate “clean fragrance” as an official label. A fragrance can be an allergenic regardless of whether it is natural or synthetic. What makes your nose happy may not make your skin happy!
We do not use “fragrance” in any of our products, our scents wash off, and are all created from the natural ingredients of the product. Some examples include cocoa butter (smells very chocolaty!) and lavender essential oil. If you want a long-lasting scent, we recommend using our body butters. We offer Lavender, a seasonal limited-edition blend, and you can add your own scent to our Pure Body Butter (or leave it naturally unscented).
While we’re here, we should probably mention “Greenwashing”…
Greenwashing is when an organization markets themselves as environmentally friendly when their practices are not. It is meant to market to consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands. This may come from a place of deceit but sometimes is more about enthusiasm. According to Nielson’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report, 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, and that figure jumps to 73% among millennials. It’s easy to see why marketers are enthusiastic to jump on the Organic, Sustainable, and Eco-Friendly band wagon.
Here are some things to watch out for:
- Fluffy language: using words or phrases that have no clear meaning.
- Companies that have green products, but those products are made in a factory that is polluting rivers.
- Irrelevant claims: Only one attribute of a product is green when the rest is not.
- Not credible designations: saying a dangerous product is green to make it seem safer (“eco-friendly cigarettes”)
Read Those Labels!
Knowledge is power these days and we can’t be too careful with what we put on and in our bodies. Stay strong and vigilant and read those ingredient labels! And remember, just because something is “natural” or “organic” that doesn’t mean it’s safe or that your skin will love it. When in doubt, pull out your smartphone and Google the ingredient that you are questioning. It is better to spend a minute researching it at the store than to buy something that can aggravate your skin.
An Un-Natural List: Common Hair, Oral, and Skin Ingredients to Avoid
Before we go, here’s a list of ingredients that we DON’T consider natural, and that you’ll ever find in our products. We have respect for nature and handcraft our products with natural ingredients. Our product labels are clear and you can trust that our products are truly all-natural.
Un-Natural Hair Care
- Parabens: have been linked with skin irritation, reproductive issues, and neurotoxicity. Other names are butylparaben, ethylparaben and methylparaben. They are found in many personal care products including shampoo and conditioner.
- Triclosan: A known endocrine disruptor which can be associated with infertility, depression, and weight gain. It is added to haircare products to reduce or prevent bacterial contamination.
- Formaldehyde releasing preservatives: This chemical is a carcinogen and has been linked to cancer. It can also cause toxicity and asthma if inhaled.
- Polythylene Glycol aka PEGs: This has been classified as a “developmental toxicant”, which means that it may interfere with human development. It is used as a thickening agent.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) / Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES): This has the potential to interact and combine with other chemicals to form a carcinogen, which can lead to issues like kidney damage. They are used to create the foam you see in personal products.
- Phthalates: Known as an endocrine disruptor and has been linked to an increased risk of breast cancer, early breast development in girls and brith defects. It is used to increase the flexibility and softness of plastics. It is also what makes scents last on your skin.
- Dimethicone: this is a synthetic polymer and a form of silicone with two methyl groups attached. It is very cheap and creates synthetic softness and smooth your hair. It can build up on your hair and can cause an itchy, burning scalp.
- Triethanolamine: This is used to alter the pH of products and acts as an emulsifier to help other ingredients mix together. It can lead to the irritation of the eyes and skin. Continuous use has been linked to asthma and allergic reactions.
- PVP/VA Copolymer: This is used in haircare as a filler or binder. It is derived from petroleum and is used as a styling aid. It has been linked to respiratory problems in some people.
Un-Natural Oral Care
- Artificial Coloring: Toothpaste should not have color. Look for the same coloring labels used above, such as Yellow 5.
- Aspartame & other artificial sweeteners: saccharin and aspartame are commonly used to make toothpaste sweet. The buildup of aspartame in the body has been linked to neurobehavioral issues like migranes and headaches, as well as more serious problems like mood disorders, depression, and ADHD.
- Triclosan and antibiotics: Our mouths have a microbiome of their own which is super important for gum and oral health. Added, unprescribed antibiotics can wreak havoc on this delicate system, and Triclosan may inadvertently drive bacteria into a state where they are able to tolerate normally lethal concentrations of antibiotics.
- Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS): As pointed out above, we don’t want this ingredient on our hair or skin, so why would we want it in our toothpaste where it can get directly into our bodies? Make sure your toothpaste is SLS free.
- Polyethylene Glycol (PEG): PEG’s are listed following a number like 6, 8, or 12, which represents the molecular weight. The smaller the number, the more easily absorbed into your bloodstream through the mouth. When Polyethylene is paired with Glycol, it becomes a sticky liquid that stabilizes the toothpaste formula, and keeps it from drying out. It can also contribute to dangerous levels of dioxin, which is linked to cancer and disorders of the nervous system and can accumulate in the body for prolonged toxicity.
Un-Natural Skin Care
- Some are the same as listed above, like: Parabens, Artificial Fragrance, SLS and SLES, Phthalates, PEG, Formaldehyde, and Triclosan.
- Diethanolamine: This is a foaming agent that is a known carcinogen and respiratory toxin. Despite this, it is still used in bubble bath, body wash and shampoo in the United States. On the label, it can be abbreviated as DEA.
- Oxybenzone: The most common sunscreens use chemical or mineral filters. Oxybenzone is a chemical filter and is used in common sunscreens. It is known as an endocrine disruptor and can alter thyroid function. It is very important to avoid using chemical sunscreens, especially on children. Watch out for the other “O’s” including octinoxate and octocrylene.