In late 2017, global information company “The NPD Group” released the Women’s Facial Skincare Consumer Report, which showed that 40 to 50 percent of women purchasing skin care products are actively seeking products that contain natural or organic ingredients.
There seems to be a widespread perception that natural beauty products are somehow inherently better than synthetically made products, in some cases that is the truth but not always.
At the time of writing this, in the USA the word “Natural” literally means nothing as far as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are concerned.
This is not only the case in the USA but in most countries around the world. There is some legislative movement towards creating regulations regarding ingredients cosmetics brands are using but nothing concrete.
Currently there is no rule stopping any brand from creating a leafy-looking design and adding the word natural on their label, providing they do not make any claims that are misleading.
A “100% Natural” Label Doesn’t Always Mean Chemical-Free
It’s always important to read the ingredients label, and not just rely on the language on the front of a bottle that implies something is natural. In saying that the label is only required to list the ingredients not how the ingredients were made or extracted.
For example, to create a high quality 100% natural cosmetic grade oil, first you cold press the oil and then refine oil in a physical or steam refinery. This process costs more, it takes longer, the yield from the raw produce is less but the result is a 100% natural product that is chemical free.
Most cosmetic grade oils are not extracted this way. They are made in a chemical refinery, they use Petroleum (yes what we put in our car), Hexane and other nasty chemicals to refine or extract the oil from the plant-based produce.
What is Hexane? “In industry, hexanes are used in the formulation of glues for shoes, leather products, and roofing. They are also used to extract oils (such as canola oil or soy oil etc) from seeds, they are also used for cleansing and degreasing a variety of items, and in textile manufacturing.”
Is Hexane dangerous? According to the World Health Organization, a single exposure to hexane can cause vertigo, dizziness, and drowsiness. It is also a skin irritant. Long-term exposure may cause neuropathy, anorexia, and diminished reflexes.
A large majority of cosmetic grade oils are manufactured by using harsh chemicals to extract the plant-based products and they are then sold as 100% natural products.
This is widespread and not just common to oil-based products. Cosmetics companies are required by law to list the ingredients used in their products but are not required to place on the label how the goods were made.
If a product is claiming to be 100% natural, a legally required and regulated logo or statement such as “Manufactured Naturally” or something similar on the label would reduce some of the confusion in the natural skincare industry.
How a natural product is manufactured is arguably as equally important as using products that are 100% natural. It potentially defeats the purpose of using natural products if chemical residue is present from the extraction process, especially if the chemical residue can be a skin irritant as is the case with Hexane.