Guide to ingredients used in natural beauty products

Label reading 101: What's really in your natural beauty products?

 

Choosing safer beauty products not only protects your overall health, but also protects your skin's moisture barrier. It's this barrier that helps keep your skin hydrated, supple and resilient for years to come.

But what do terms like  'natural', 'green beauty' 'non-toxic', and 'clean beauty' really mean? What should you look for on your product labels to make sure your products are safe?

Unless you’re an ingredient expert — buying ‘natural’ beauty products can be super confusing.

And its no surprise ...

Legally these terms mean very little. Generally it means the product contains at least some natural ingredients.

But, they may also contain harsh chemicals, synthetic ingredients or even be tested on animals.

What does natural really mean? How to avoid being "greenwashed".

Reputable natural beauty brands and stores generally agree on a “dirty list” (no toxic or harsh ingredients (like endocrine disruptors and carcinogens). But defining natural is a little more complicated.

Cruelty free products can still contain animal derived ingredients (such as lanolin, beeswax, collagen, silk or carmine).

And, natural products can still contain ingredients not found in nature.

Call us crazy, but we don't think buying safe products that won't harm people, animals or our planet should be so complicated.

Read on for our take on some of the more common terms you might hear. PLUS some tips on how to decode your product labels. 

Hopefully these tips will help you feel a little more confident that you are buying the best products for you and your family. 

 

natural beauty products ingredients explained

Read on to learn what some of the most common terms really mean.

1. Natural ingredients

prickly pear plantFor us this means pure, natural ingredients. Ingredients that are as close to their natural state as possible. Face oils (made with plant oils like pomegranate seed oil, Shea butter and avocado oil) often fit this bill. Face oils are often water free and do not need preservatives. Please note they sometimes contain naturally derived and synthetic ingredients.

 

 

Tip: Plant ingredients are easy to spot. A truly natural ingredient will be listed on the label by its botanical name, its common name or both. For example, take a look at the ingredient list from our best selling Mokosh Certified Organic light face cream:

Ingredients: Butyrospermum parkii (Shea) butter⁺, Camellia oleifera seed oil, Simmondsia chinensis (Jojoba) oil, Adansonia digitata (Baobab) oil, Macadamia ternifolia oil, Cocos nucifera (Coconut) oil, Borago officinalis (Borage) seed oil, Hippophae Rhamnoides (Sea Buckthorn) Fruit Oil, Sambucus nigra (Elderberry) seed oil, Salvia hispanica (Chia) seed oil, Vanilla planifolia fruit oil, Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) and Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) leaf extract.

2. Naturally-derived Ingredients

Many 'all natural' products will contain ‘Naturally derived’ ingredients.  This simply means a natural ingredient is chemically or physically altered in a lab to isolate a specific component.

essential oils with flowerNaturally derived ingredients can play an important role in improving the effectiveness of your products. Although they are generally safe and effective – they no longer resemble the original plant and are made in a lab. On labels they will include words like “from coconut/sugar/vegetable derived’. While most companies call them natural – we think clean is probably more accurate.

For example, caprylic/capric triglyceride naturally occurs in coconut and palm kernel oil. It is created by splitting oils and isolating the specific fatty acid and recombined with glycerin to form pure caprylic/capric triglyceride. It is an oily liquid used to create a barrier on the skin’s surface. It is sometimes used in makeup, skincare and deodorants to decrease moisture loss and make them easy to apply.

3. Nature identical

Nature identical’ ingredients are synthetic ingredients made to mimic a natural ingredient. Ingredients might occur in nature but may be unethical or unsustainable to extract.

For example, mica is a mineral widely used in makeup to give products a beautiful sheen. While it is a naturally occurring mineral – human rights issues involving child labor can make it difficult to source ethically. Obviously, using child labor for ingredients in our makeup is not something we support – and we accept brands substituting synthetic mica when necessary. Synthetic mica is believed safe and biodegradable.

4. Clean Beauty

Clean beauty brands embrace both natural and man-made ingredients. The focus is on safety over source. Not all “natural” ingredients are safe and not all synthetic ingredients are bad.

In clean beauty each ingredient is carefully evaluated for safety, efficacy and its broader impact (e.g fair trade, sustainability). No ingredients linked to harmful health effects (e.g. hormone disruption, cancer or skin irritation) are permitted.

the bottom line ...

In truth, all ingredients, even natural ones, require some degree of processing. This is what makes them usable, more effective and removes harmful contaminants. For this reason, we believe Clean Beauty is the most accurate description of most natural beauty products.

Did you know? Vitamin C is one of the most well known beneficial active ingredients in skincare. It is also most likely synthetic. While chopping up vitamin C-rich fruit and vegetables may be possible for DIY recipes it is highly unstable. For this reasons, vitamin C is usually synthetic — even in natural skincare products.

How to natural are you?

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how natural you want your products.

Some people are purists and prefer products that are 100% natural or contain naturally derived ingredients.

Others are comfortable using clean beauty products as long as they are safe.

All Natural Collection curates gorgeously clean and natural brands.  

Some of our brands are super-dedicated to natural and only use 100% natural ingredients. Other brands make a conscious choice to use naturally derived or safe synthetics and/or preservatives to improve the efficacy and/or safety of their products.  

We believe each and every product in our collection is safe and effective.

Explore our best sellers.

LEARN MORE ABOUT US