From the natural and organic to the “non toxic” and “free from”, there are plenty of terms that describe the new wave of clean beauty brands. And they are proving incredibly popular.
In the US, NPD noted a 13 percent rise in skincare brands that have an environmental focus which promotes wellness or natural ingredients in 2017.
According to The Soil Association, 74 percent of people said they would believe a product was free from ‘nasties’ if it had organic on the label. However, there is no set definition of what makes a product natural or organic. In fact, the category has very little regulation.
What is the definition of natural skincare?
There is no hard and set rule for what makes a product natural, at least not legally. This Works products fit into what most people would constitute as natural as they’re free from phthalates, sulphates, synthetic colour and fragrance, parabens, GMOs, mineral oils, petrolatum and propylene glycol. The brand uses 100 percent natural fragrances and pure essential oils.
However, some might argue that some of these ingredients are natural in their own right. Take mineral oil as an example. It’s a refined form of petroleum found naturally in the Earth, but some experts argue that it is bad for your skin and can cause breakouts.
What is the definition of organic skincare?
Again, this isn’t regulated. However, you can look out for certain stamps of approval on product packaging, including the Soil Association or Ecocert. There is a difference between ‘organic’ and ‘made with organic’. The Soil Association only gives its ‘organic’ seal of approval to products that contain 95 percent organic ingredients. If a product contains at least 20 percent organic ingredients, then it receives a ‘made with organic’ stamp.
Natural vs synthetic
It’s usually assumed that natural is better and safer than synthetically made ingredients. However the lines are blurring and a lot of research is going into cultivating natural ingredients in laboratories, so brands can create effective formulas without damaging the environment.
“The natural versus synthetic battle is dated and not worth fighting, not all chemistry is bad,” says Lixirskin founder Colette Haydon. “There are simply good ingredients, safe, effective and formulated correctly. There are bad ingredients, harmful or ineffective.”
It should also be noted that some natural ingredients, such as essential oils, can cause irritation depending on your skin type.
The pros and cons of essential oils
Plenty of brands paint essential oils as pure, clean and skin-enhancing. And, there is evidence to show that some essential oils can benefit skin. Frankincense is known to help reduce inflammation – a study last year proved as much – while tea tree, eucalyptus and lavender are renowned antibacterial oils.
However, there is also evidence out there to suggest that some essential oils can irritate your skin. Take bergamot as an example, this oil can make you skin more susceptible to sun damage.
So, should we be giving natural beauty a wide berth? Absolutely not, there are plenty of brands that create incredible formulas that work for all skin types. Plus, you might not have any reaction to essential oils and could benefit from them. With the lines between natural and synthetic ingredients blurring, it might be better to focus on brands that follow the cruelty-free ethos and don’t test on animals. However, it is a personal preference and with so many brands and products available, it’s about finding the right formulas for your skin.