The bottom line is there is no fixed standard for what is considered a ‘natural’ ingredient. There are many beauty and cosmetics products out there that claim they use natural ingredients but when you look through the ingredient list, it may show an ingredient which arguably may not be fully derived from a natural source, or perhaps the process of obtaining the ingredient could be deemed as non ‘natural’. Regardless, this is a difficult and divisive topic to be sure.
Generally though, the term ‘natural’ refers to skincare or haircare products that contain ingredients such as dried (powdered) herbs and cold-pressed, unrefined oils and butters. However there may be other ingredients that need to be present in the formula that helps to hold everything together.
For instance, when you create a lotion that uses oil and water, they don’t mix naturally - and as such you need an ingredient called an emulsifier to hold them together. Emulsifiers come in many forms - they can be fully synthetic, semi-synthetic or derived from plant material. It is these ingredients that fall into a grey area.
This is because there is no formal industry body which determines if a particular ingredient is natural or not. Recently however, the situation has gotten a lot better, thanks to the increase of the number of artisan formulators who - as a collective - have begun to determine and argue what makes an ingredient natural or not. Schools like Formula Botanica have also been providing a standardised list - but again, this is still a journey and such debates continue to take place.
Many formulators have started using Eco-cert or Cosmos certified ingredients - these are certification bodies that have helped to determine if the ingredient meets these labs’ standards of what is considered a ‘natural’ ingredient. At Patrichory, we do our best to procure our ingredients that are compliant to these standards when they are available and whenever possible.