Natural Origin

DavidDavid Member
edited November 2014 in Formulating
I had a customer asking if the starting material of some ingredients were from natural origin.
Well, aren't ALL chemicals at some point from natural origin?
How do you define a "starting material"?

Comments

  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    edited November 2014
    Yes, you are correct ... ALL chemicals are from natural origin.  But, the consumer perception is generally that "Natural Origin" in this context generally means from plant-based (including microbes, yeast, fungi, seaweed, etc.) origins as opposed to petrochemical origins or sythetically-manufactured.

    Good example:  1,2-Propanediol (proplyene glycol) and 1,3-Propanediol.  Both can be produced from plant sources, but 1,2-Propanediol is generally manufactured synthetically.  Very similar chemicals, but most people in the "Natural" community would not dare put 1,2-Propanediol on their skin, but don't have a problem with 1,3-Propanediol since it is marketed as being the plant-sourced "natural" alternative to propylene glycol.

    Question is:  Is the ingredient you're using an extract from a plant source, or is it synthetically-manufactured?  And if the latter, is the "starting material" - the chemical moiety that is used as the base molecule for the synthesis, from a plant-source?
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • BobzchemistBobzchemist Member, PCF student
    Also, the vast majority of folks exclude, to some extent or another, any ingredient produced by, or derived from, animals. I have actually heard otherwise intelligent people argue that animal-derived products cannot possibly be "natural".

    So, gelatin made from animal hooves is out - not a big surprise, or a huge problem. But some people/organizations take this to extremes - nothing made from milk, for example, is understandable, but extreme - animals are not harmed by giving milk. Lanolin is out also, under this way of thinking, but so is beeswax, and carmine, and anything else made by or from insects...there is no logic to it, as far as I can see.
    Robert Zonis, Sr. Formulation Chemist, Beaumont Products "All opinions and comments expressed are my own, have no relation to Beaumont Products, are fully copyrighted, and may not be used without written permission."
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Yes, people can get quite ridiculous in their definition of "natural" ... And, it's not based on science, per se.

    I just follow the Whole Foods acceptable/unacceptable list as a guideline.  It contains a listing of 400 skin and body care ingredients that are either Unacceptable, Acceptable for Skin Care, or Acceptable for Premium Skin Care lines carried by Whole Foods.  If the chemical is on the Acceptable list, you're good to go from a "natural" perspective.

    But, you may encounter some ingredients that have not yet been evaluated by Whole Foods, in which case your best bet is to use a functional alternative that is already on their list.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Sadly, the Whole Foods acceptable/unacceptable list is not put together by anyone with scientific knowledge.
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I think the definition of natural depends on your consumer.  It is up to you as a company to tell people what is natural and if they believe you or not, it is (or is not) natural.

    What could be more natural than oil?  It comes right out of the ground!  I guess it's probably animal derived but Coal is natural and plant based.  Any compound create from coal should be able to be called plant-derived.

    If your consumer accepts that Mineral Oil is all natural you can feel free to call it that.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    edited November 2014
    In my discussions with Whole Foods, they have always referred to their panel of chemists who they have hired to assess ingredients.  What are their criteria, I don't know.

    But, if consumers are looking for "natural" products and they do some research, they will certainly pay attention to the Whole Foods list.  Like many things in life, it may not make sense from a scientific perspective, but from a market perspective, it is what it is ... and Whole Foods has the megaphone.

    If all things were guided by scientific fact instead of marketing and consumer perception, we would live in a very different world.  Remember, your average consumer knows nothing of chemistry and are susceptible to the babble of sources of information that they trust.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • Bill_TogeBill_Toge Member, Professional Chemist
    edited November 2014
    because there is no scientifically rigorous, legally defined or universally recognised definition of "natural" (as demonstrated in the discussions above), we avoid making "natural" claims like the cliche

    if you want to claim green credentials it's better to follow a recognised and documented standard, e.g. Ecocert, than it is to indulge in puffery, wordplay and vague hand-waving

    as my old boss used to say: never make a claim on the pack that you can't defend in court
    UK based formulation chemist. Strongest subjects: hair styling, hair bleaches, hair dyes (oxidative and non-oxidative) I know some stuff about: EU regulations, emulsions (O/W and W/O), toothpaste, mouthwash, shampoos, other toiletries
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    edited November 2014
    Actually, ECOcert does define "natural"

    http://www.ecocert.com/en/natural-and-organic-cosmetics

    The basic principles of the Ecocert standard

    To ensure an environmentally friendly cosmetic product, the Ecocert standard lays down: 

    1. The use of ingredients derived from renewable resources, manufactured by environmentally friendly processes. Ecocert therefore checks:

    • The absence of GMO, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them: milk, honey, etc.).
    • The biodegradable or recyclable nature of packaging.

    2. A minimum threshold of natural ingredients from organic farming to be reached to obtain certification:

    For the natural and organic cosmetic label:

    A minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 10% of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming

    For the natural cosmetic label: 

    A minimum of 50% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 5% of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    Ecocert is as good a guide as any (although isn't every agricultural crop technically a GMO?).  You won't go wrong following this standard but if it means nothing to your consumer it doesn't help you much.  If your consumer is perfectly happy with a greenwashed product, I see no reason not to sell it to them.

    Also, as far as I know Ecocert doesn't actually sell any cosmetic products and few if any cosmetic consumers have ever heard of Ecocert.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    @Perry:

    Yes, you are correct.  ECOcert is a standards body that has been around for a decade of so and is based in Europe.  To give them credit, they (and Whole Foods) are creating a framework within which "natural" and "organic" formulators have some established guidelines on ingredients.  Hey ... they're instrumental in helping shape a growing niche market in cosmetics.

    Some of their restrictions do force you to get more creative if you are trying to formulate within their guidelines.  So, all-in-all, it's a good thing.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    It's probably a good thing.  It would be better however if there were actual scientists involved in picking the standards.

    The author who wrote the blog posts about the Whole Foods standard spoke with someone at Whole Foods about the standards and the many of the inconsistencies on the list.  It turns out there were no scientists involved in creating the list.  They made the list based on the ingredient list of products already on the market.  This is the same problem I have with the Skin Deep database.  Toxicologists were not involved in coming up with the ratings.

    I would much rather see a scientific organization put out some standards.  

    Additionally, I think some of their restrictions actually lead to potentially less safe products.  How many companies are out there who have made underpreserved products because they aren't allowed to use traditional ones that have been proven to work?  This well-known natural company had to recall children's sunscreen because of bacterial contamination (http://www.badgerbalm.com/t-recalls.aspx)  That's a direct result of following standards like these.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Well, all I can say is that I received some information from Whole Foods to the contrary regarding chemists being involved in the creation of their list.

    But, I certainly agree with you that it would be better if more scientists and/or industry participants were involved in setting these standards.  And, yes, some of these standards can be misguided and lead people down the wrong path, as you point out, especially regarding preservatives.

    For instance, Phenoxyethanol is a no-no from an ECOCert perspective, but acceptable from a Whole Foods perspective.  There are ECOCert approved preservatives which are proven to be effective and are in line with "traditional" preservatives.

    The Badger recall ... the company should have had to good common sense to use proven preservation systems.  They made a bad choice in trying to be "too natural."  It looks like they went with Leuconostoc Radish Root Ferment and Gluconolactone as a preservation system.  Gluconolactone, on its own, is not a preservative and Radish Root Ferment, well, what can you say.  

    Had they used Gluconolactone/Sodium Benzoate, which is ECOCert approved, at sufficient levels they may not have had a problem.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    To their credit Whole Foods has taken some criticisms of their list to heart as they've made some changes recently.  But there are still things about the list that make you scratch your head.
  • RubenRuben Member
    edited November 2014
    @Perry Not all agricultural products are GMOs. Most crops are improved by hybridization, which is the cross of compatible plants of the same variety. This is normally done in the fields under controlled conditions but also it can take place in nature without human intervention. GMOs, on the other hand, are the result of taking genes from one species, or kingdom, and inserting into another species, or kingdom, to develop certain traits, such as resistance to specific diseases or agrochemicals.

  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    @Ruben - I guess I see hybridization as genetic modification, just a slower, less efficient version of it.  All of the agricultural crops we use have been genetically modified from what exists in nature.
  • DavidDavid Member
    edited December 2014
    I think the term GMO is unfortunate and confusing, for example WIKI states: "In Europe genetic modification is synonymous with genetic engineering while within the United States of America it can also refer to conventional breeding methods" 
    It should be defined precisely which modification technique is used before discussing whether it is safe or not. I mean, isn't every newborn baby a genetic modification of his/her parents DNA? :)
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    The confusion is primarily from people not bothering to look up exactly what the terms mean ... the definitions are very clear:

    GMO or Transgenic:  The introduction of a living organism that had been genetically modified by inserting a gene from an unrelated species. Incorporation of genes from an unrelated species that does not occur in nature through sexual reproduction.

    Cross-breeding or Hybridization:  Inserting a gene from a related species that does, or could, occur in nature from sexual reproduction.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    I don't find the terms confusing, I just don't see any difference.  In the end whichever technique you use you end up with a genetically modified organism.  
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    There is a huge difference between something that could occur in nature without the intervention of man (hybridization, cross-breeding) and something that would never occur in nature without the intervention of man (GMO).
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • DavidDavid Member
    edited December 2014
    Mark, you are correct. GMO is a clearly defined scientific term and differs from hybridization.
    (hybridization is a modification of genes but not GMO according to the definition...)

  • Perry, that is exactly why it is confusing - you have the same word for two different things.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    Yes, David.  That's what concerns people about GMO's ... they unnaturally affect the natural order of plant species and can have unintended consequences, which may not be perceptibly evident for many years to come.  And, that can be a good thing or it can be a bad thing.  Everything in nature is interconnected.  We'll all find out in due course.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
  • PerryPerry Administrator, Professional Chemist
    It seems we agree that hybridization and GMO are both genetic modifications.  We just differ on the result.  I don't agree that there is a difference, certainly when it comes to safety.  

    Just because something could occur in nature doesn't mean that it is safe.  For example, the hybridization of African bees with European bees didn't turn out so well.  Hybridization is just as "unsafe" as GMO.  In some ways it's less safe because there is more chance of a mutation plus they are much less regulated.  

    You are correct though, we'll find out eventually.  GMO technology is here and it's not going away.
  • MarkBroussardMarkBroussard Member, Professional Chemist
    All-in-all, a plant species that can genetically produce its own enzymatic insecticide, pretty cool stuff!  Better than pesticides.
    Chemist/Microbiologist formulating in the Organic & Naturals arena under ECOCert/Natural Products Assn/Whole Foods/National Organic Program guidelines focused skincare & haircare products. 

    See website for details www.desertinbloomcosmeticslab.com
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