Natural Cosmetics

Hello everyone, 

Has anyone ever encountered customers/brands that request natural formulations?

What is your definition of natural? Does it simply have to be derived from plant, animal or mineral sources? 

It is quite difficult for me to make that claim because there are no specific guidelines. 

Let me know what you think!

Thank you. 

Comments

  • MicroformulationMicroformulation Member, Professional Chemist
    We try to tie them down to a definition and also to educate them on the fact that "natural" has no legal definition. We use the term "plant-based {minerals if needed} minimally processed. It isn't quite perfect, but at least it gives you a metric to select ingredients. Otherwise. you may spend most of your per-R&D (Product Development) defending each and every ingredient. You are essentially trying to hit a moving target otherwise.

    Natural is also incomplete as a marketing term. It doesn't deal with sustainability, value, or performance. It is also ubiquitous in the markets they will likely start out in and as such, it is in no way a differentiating quality. It is almost an expectation. Hence a monolithic "natural" marketing story is a missed opportunity in today's market.

    "...While it may at first glance appear to be a popular trend to avoid key ingredients in cosmetic products, do you understand the true impact that avoiding certain materials can have on your cosmetic formulations?

    For example, there is no scientific reason to avoid using sulfates, PEGs, parabens or propylene glycol, or even synthetic ingredients based on safety because all cosmetic ingredients, when used within regulatory limits, are safe when formulated properly and within those limits. Yet it has become a popular catchphrase and marketing terminology to avoid some of these materials because of fear campaigns designed to scare consumers into using – or avoiding – certain ingredients over others. But when you avoid sulfates in cleansing products, for example, you can dramatically reduce the performance, foam, and cleansing power of the finished product while increasing the cost. When avoiding PEGs, you can miss out on some very important sensory and stability benefits. When using ‘all-natural’ ingredients, you can miss out on some crucial performance benefits – sometimes to the point where your consumer just won’t want to repeat purchase your products or question its value in the first place!"

    https://knowledge.ulprospector.com/12780/pcc-avoiding-certain-ingredients-the-true-impact-of-going-free-from-in-your-cosmetic-formulas/



    markfuller@microformulation.com Microformulation.com Microformulation Cosmetic Consulting provides Custom Formulations for both large Commercial accounts as well as smaller entrepreneurs. We can provide Naturally compliant Formulations under the NSF, NPA, Whole Foods and USDA Organic Certifications. BS.Pharm Albany College of Pharmacy, Union University.
  • You can use ISO 16128-2:2017 standard https://www.iso.org/standard/65197.html
    Manufacturers usually provide a document confirming whether the ingredient meets these standards.


  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    Decide your policy and be prepared to defend.  Cosmos and ISO offer some shelter from challenge but nothing to your ethical decisions.
  • So if I were to say X% of the formulation has natural origins' would I be making a fair statement to address natural formulations? Given I also explain natural origins means derived from plants animals or minerals? 

    For example, for surfactants I use sodium c14-16 olefin sulfonate, Cocamidopropyl betaine and coco glucoside - all derived from coconut. 
    Can I say these have natural origins? 

    I just don't want the customer to come back accusing me of giving false claims..
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    What would fail the definition?
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    My question too@PhilGeis.  
    What would not qualify as animal, plant or mineral?

    In my opinion everything is naturally derived because anything that is not from nature is supernatural.

    But if you restrict yourself to only molecules that exist in nature then an olefin sulfonate would not in any stretch of the imagination be natural.
  • I have. And the issue is not usually with the brand. They can be reasoned with. The issue is the retailers they sell to. Each has a no no list. They all vary so there is no one standard to formulate. These brands sell in these forums so must comply. And it sucks. For me. Lol 
  • PharmaPharma Member, Pharmacist
    edited February 12
    Perry said:
    ...
    But if you restrict yourself to only molecules that exist in nature then an olefin sulfonate would not in any stretch of the imagination be natural.
    From an academic chemistry/biology/pharmaceutical point of view, natural is indeed 'what living organisms can create'. Olefine sulfonate might be natural derived (from renewable feedstock) or petroleum based but it's not natural.
    Along the same line of thoughts: What exists is real, what we don't know yet is the mystery which drives the researcher to do its best to uncover it (there's no debate going on wheter the undiscovered is supernatural or the believe in inexistant stuff). For some fields, natural is from nature and includes everything not man made... Even the scientists have no clear definition of 'natural'... However, the ones working with organic molecules mostly stick to the natural molecules/products can be made by living organisms (even if sold as synthetic stuff afterwards) or they're synthetic (or fictional/hypothetical).
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    @Cosmetic_Chemist

    Your best approach is to formulate to a specific Natural Standard such as Natural Products Association, COSMOS, etc. There is significant overlap between the various standards as to what ingredients they classify as "natural".  The issue you may run into is retailers who have their own definition, but again, these are really quite uniform.  For instance, if your client wants to formulate NPA compliant products and sell them through Credo and Whole Foods, then it narrows down significantly what ingredients are going to be acceptable to those retailers.    
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals & Clean Beauty arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program/Clean At Sephora/Credo Clean guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    Selling on hype.
  • I have. And the issue is not usually with the brand. They can be reasoned with. The issue is the retailers they sell to. Each has a no no list. They all vary so there is no one standard to formulate. These brands sell in these forums so must comply. And it sucks. For me. Lol 
    @Cosmetic_Chemist

    Your best approach is to formulate to a specific Natural Standard such as Natural Products Association, COSMOS, etc. There is significant overlap between the various standards as to what ingredients they classify as "natural".  The issue you may run into is retailers who have their own definition, but again, these are really quite uniform.  For instance, if your client wants to formulate NPA compliant products and sell them through Credo and Whole Foods, then it narrows down significantly what ingredients are going to be acceptable to those retailers.    
    Exactly, unless you have your own selling channel then you can defy your own "natural". 

    @Perry - There're some products claimed supranatural ingredients or powers, well they are just only marketing claims tho.
  • Perry said:
    My question too@PhilGeis.  
    What would not qualify as animal, plant or mineral?

    In my opinion everything is naturally derived because anything that is not from nature is supernatural.

    But if you restrict yourself to only molecules that exist in nature then an olefin sulfonate would not in any stretch of the imagination be natural.

    I was thinking something like fragrances or tetra sodium EDTA would not be classified as natural. 


    Follow up question, isn't olefin sulfonate derived from coconuts? Wouldn't that be okay to call natural?

    I really appreciate everyone helping out! I hate how vague these claims are and always struggle to make any with integrity. 
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    edited February 14
    @Cosmetic_Chemist

    Your better approach is to use the term "Naturally-Derived" as opposed to "Natural" and also to avoid trying to calculate a % Natural composition.  As was stated earllier, if you follow the guidelines of the NPA, for instance and the "No No" list from the target retailers that your client is interested in using as distribution channels, you will then have a defined list of ingredients that are acceptable to both.  If an ingredient is in question, use the rule of thumb:  Is it plant-derived, minimally processed, mineral-based, biotechnologically-manufactured ... or, is it a naturally occurring molecule from a plant base and not derived from synthetic chemistry.  Natural-identical compounds are generally acceptable although they may be manufactured chemically.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals & Clean Beauty arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program/Clean At Sephora/Credo Clean guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Fragrances are complicated mixtures of mostly ingredients that occur in nature. For the most part, I would think a fragrance is more "natural" than an olefin sulfonate. I guess I see Tetra Sodium EDTA as a mineral since it's a salt.

    When it comes down to it, almost every molecule made was originally discovered somewhere in nature be it plant, animal or mineral. Many of the more complicated molecules were started as isolated materials from nature that were modified to produce some new synthetic material. 

    Olefin Sulfonate requires a multiple step, non-natural synthetic chemical process (sulfonation, neutralization, and hydrolysis) to create it even though one of the starting materials is coconut oil. Is it still natural?  Perhaps.  But Sodium Lauryl Sulfate can be made from coconuts too. 

    I don't really think integrity comes into play in the field of natural cosmetics. Cosmetics are not natural. There is no skin moisturizer bush or shampoo tree. You can't pick lipstick off a plant and start using it. When people claim "natural" they are inherently being disingenuous. And that's because consumers have a lot of mistaken beliefs about natural products.

    Consumers believe natural products are better for the environment. They aren't.
    Consumers believe natural products are safer to use. They aren't.
    Consumers believe natural products work better. They don't.

    It's hard to have integrity & sell products based on inherent lies. Unfortunately, it's also hard to sell cosmetic products without leveraging these lies. Especially when the competition is doing it.

    This is why I leave it to the marketers to do this stuff.
  • PhilGeisPhilGeis Member, Professional formulator
    Amen, Perry
  • Thank you so much everyone! I was very lost when I initially posted the discussion but all your responses have been a huge help! 

    @MarkBroussard I just looked at their guidelines and feel a lot more comfortable about naturally derived ingredients! Thank you very much! I really appreciate it!

    @Perry Your reasoning for olefin sulfonate makes sense, I didn't think in that direction. I hate how much misinformation is out there regarding cosmetics and how limiting it can be as a formulator to satisfy all these claims and still provide a performing product. 

    You're absolutely right about how these products are not better for the environment. I especially hate how these 'eco-friendly' and 'natural' products are going to be filled into plastic containers.

    Instead of finding ways to make a formulation more natural, I think our efforts would be better spent finding more sustainable packing solutions. 

    As for making the claims for the customers, I think I will go ahead with using the NPA guidelines for naturally derived ingredients.

    Once again, thank you so much everyone! 
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