This sounds very appealing and seems to make a lot of sense at first. But what is natural? This segment of skin care has seen major growth, and more and more brands have jumped on the bandwagon. Unfortunately, most are using this as a marketing claim rather than as an underlying business philosophy that guides all aspects of their operations.
There is no established legal definition of exactly what natural is in Australia and so this is open to misrepresentation and manipulation. Irrespective of this, claims that a skin care product is natural need to be properly substantiated by brand owners, otherwise they can be in contravention of the Australian Consumer Law.
According to the Macquarie Dictionary, natural is defined as ‘existing in or formed by nature’, ‘not artificial’ and ‘not synthetic’. However even natural raw materials are transformed through manufacturing processes before being used in cleansers, toners, serums and creams. Many brands claiming their skin care products are natural also use ingredients that are synthetic.
To get around the ‘natural’ enigma, some brands claim their products are ‘chemical free’. But this is quite puzzling too as all skin care products contain ‘chemicals’, whether naturally occurring or not.
The final matter to consider is the use of preservatives. To preserve the product and protect the user, preservatives need to be used to stabilise the formulation and prevent microorganisms forming and multiplying. To achieve this, many naturally oriented brands are using various essential oils and this presents several challenges. There have been cases where the products have not had adequate testing to ensure they are correctly preserved and safe for the declared shelf-life. Higher levels of essential oils are needed compared with synthetic preservatives and this raises the potential for irritation, whether immediately or further down the track, with the skin becoming sensitised. Further, some essential oils, especially at higher concentrations, can cause reactions when skin is exposed to the sun.
Due to these reasons, it is not as simple as selecting your products based on claims that the product is ‘natural’. Always look at the ingredient list and ensure you stay clear of those ingredients that may not be good for your skin or you know you could react to, as they can come in both natural and synthetic forms.