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Home Cosmetic Science Talk Cosmetic Industry Are the days of “natural” cosmetics coming to an end?

  • Are the days of “natural” cosmetics coming to an end?

    Posted by OldPerry on June 27, 2022 at 8:35 pm

    If this lawsuit succeeds, I think that could kill the “natural” claim on most every beauty product.  According to the natural cosmetic lawsuit, Oars + Alps is being sued for claiming natural despite the fact that they use ingredients like dimethicone. 

    But what is more interesting is that they also included common “natural formulating” ingredients like caprylyl glycol, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, propanediol, ethylhexylglycerin, and citric acid in the lawsuit.

    Of course, I don’t think it would be such a bad thing if companies had to stop with the pretend natural claims. If natural cosmetics could only be made using truly natural ingredients, they wouldn’t be nearly as successful in the marketplace. 

    What do you think?

    PhilGeis replied 10 months, 2 weeks ago 11 Members · 145 Replies
  • 145 Replies
  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 27, 2022 at 9:20 pm

    According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture Draft Guidance Decision Tree for the classification of materials as either synthetic or natural, a substance is natural if it is made, produced or extracted from a natural source and has not undergone a chemical change so that it is chemically or structurally different than how it occurs naturally. Likewise, a substance is natural if a chemical change affecting it was created by naturally occurring biological processes, such as composting, fermentation or burning, the suit states

    If this suit prevails, this may actually a good thing because it provides clarification and a definition of “Natural” ingredients as being essentially minimally-processed extraction or biotechnological manufacturing.  Note most of the ingredients they objected to are preservatives.  It will take a couple of options currently used to preserve natural products, primarily Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate, off the table.  No, it won’t be the end of Natural, it’ll just result in some posers changing their labelling and marketing.  

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 27, 2022 at 10:31 pm

    Perhaps, but it will knock out a ton of ingredients and make the ones left really expensive. How do you make something like cetyl alcohol using a biological process?  And are they going to count genetically modified yeast or bacteria as “natural”?

    I agree natural won’t disappear but it may be relegated to products like a tub of coconut oil or shea butter. I don’t see how you can make a natural surfactant-containing cleanser.

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 27, 2022 at 10:43 pm

    @Perry:

    I think it will affect the marketing language more than anything else.  With the pandemic, consumer preferences have shifted more to skinminalist performance products … more to what has been defined as Clean Beauty, although that term is also under pressure.  Yes, you are correct, it may well knock a few product formats out of being marketed as Natural.  Until such time as the FDA adopts the USDA Draft Guidance Decision Tree as a defintion of Natural, if it ever does, it will continue to be an open question as to what exactly is a Natural ingredient.    

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 12:49 am

    “Natural” in  cosmetic context is clearly and most frequently a sham for the suckers.   But most cosmetics are sold on that basis.
    Some care to engage some not.  Ethics are calibrated to economics.

  • Pharma

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 7:44 am

    Perry said:

    …And are they going to count genetically modified yeast or bacteria as “natural”?
    …I don’t see how you can make a natural surfactant-containing cleanser.

    Sometimes they are genetically modified but more often a slightly different approach is prefered: biotechnology. Not that there would be any ethical or functional difference IMHO but biotech isn’t GMO.
    The knowledge is around for about two decades and industry is finally picking up pace with larger scale porduction of sophorolipids and rhamnolipids: EXAPLE 1 and EXAMPLE 2 (both are from Evonik… I think they bought up the original French inventers).
  • ketchito

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 11:53 am

    Defining a natural ingredient shouldn’t be so complicated from the technical point of view. Nevertheless, by using only natural ingredients, not only performance of most products would be drastically impaired, but most suppliers would not be able to sell (almost) anything.

    So, it’s again favoring the manufacturers rather than the consumers, to make the natural CLAIM a very profitable and long-lasting one. It seems like an impossible goal to make companies more honest and ethic. 

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 1:00 pm

    @ketchito:

    You actually need two or three ingredient definitions.  (1) Natural (The USDA definition is a good start; (2) Naturally-Derived, meaning ingredients that use precursors that are naturally derived, plant-based, but synthetically modified to yield the final ingredient; (3) Nature-Identical, but synthetically manufactured.  But, I doubt that will ever happen by the FDA.

    In looking at their products, the Oars + Alps natural claims focused on the natural ingredients they did use in their products, but completely ingnored the PEGS and other synthetic ingredients they also used, so it was a pretty blatant case of making false natural claims.  They clearly were not following any natural standards, so they can’t use that as a defense of any kind.

    I think given the egregious violation, this case will get settled out of court.

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 1:23 pm

    @MarkBroussard - The USDA does not regulate cosmetics and what the FDA does defer to the USDA is for the term “organic” not “natural”.

    I think Oars + Alps could certainly make a case that their definition of “natural” fits with the legislation that is making its way through congress. According to the Natural Cosmetics Act, ‘natural’ means a product consisting of at least 70% natural substances and ‘naturally-derived ingredient’.  I haven’t looked at their ingredient lists but I’m sure the lawyers at SC Johnson have thought of it.

    I agree with you that I doubt we will ever get a definition from the FDA. What I think will happen is the same thing that happened when they tried to define “hypoallergenic”.  They’ll set some definition, a court will rule against it, and natural will just become an empty, fluff marketing claim.

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 1:41 pm

    Be aware, the debate re natural and other cynical marketing claims goes on within companies as well.   Amoral folks in marketing too often win.  

    I’ll offer as relevant example that very few major companies have converted to “natural” preservatives (so many here pursue) despite their eager marketing folks and careerist managers.  The reason being that they know manufacturing and consumer risks with the contrivances even to Shakespearian eye of newt.

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 1:51 pm

    @Perry:

    Yes, but there is nothing preventing the FDA from adopting/using the same definition of Natural that the USDA does.

    Actually, I don’t think Oars + Alps would be in compliance with the proposed Natural Cosmetics Act … they use Ethoxylated ingredients which would be prohibited under the Act.

    It would be nice if the Natural Cosmetics Act became law to put an end to the nonsense surrounding the definition of Natural.

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 3:12 pm

    In looking at this closer, this lawsuit will not change anything.  The lawyers have SC Johnson dead to right on intentionally misleading consumers.  There is no way they can justify that they did not know they were using several synthetic ingredients in their products, including PEGS.  

    And, unfortuantely, the Natural Cosmetics Act is dead … it did not advance in Congress.

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 4:47 pm

    @MarkBroussard - how do you figure? The lawsuit specifically calls out things commonly found in natural formulating like “caprylyl glycol, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, propanediol, ethylhexylglycerin, and citric acid”

    I would agree with you if the lawsuit focused on things like PEGs and Dimethicone, but it is much more expansive. PEGs aren’t even mentioned. The lawsuit makes no allowance for “nature identical” or “naturally derived”. 

    If you are formulating in the natural space and you want to use something like citric acid, you can’t (if this lawsuit succeeds). As I’ve implied before, practically all useful ingredients in cosmetics are synthetic. Deodorant doesn’t grow on trees.

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 5:19 pm

    @Perry:

    Because no one legitimately formulating in the natural arena would ever include Phenoxyethanol, EHG, Dimethicone, PEG-100 Stearate in a product and call it natural.  Also, note this is a proposed class action lawsuit, so it seems more a law firm fishing for a lawsuit.  You would have to read the entire filing to understand what they are specifically claiming … the authors of the article could have just cherry-picked some ingredients and it’s not a full listing.

    With Propanediol, Sorbate, Benzoate, Citric Acid, SC Johnson could claim they were following a particular natural standard as these are allowed in most standards and that they were either bio-derived or nature identical.

    Here’s the heart of the claim “The lawsuit alleges that S.C. Johnson and Oars + Alps are aware that a reasonable consumer would interpret “natural” to mean that a product is without synthetic ingredients”  By including PEGs, Dimethicone, PE9010, SC Johnson clearly knew those were purely synthetic ingredients.

    The lawsuit is between one specific plaintiff and defendant.  As I said, I think it may have an impact on the marketing language companies use, but won’t go beyond that.

  • grapefruit22

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 6:32 pm

    Maybe they mentioned caprylyl glycol, propanediol, and citric acid, because they can be of natural origin or synthetic. If Sodium Benzoate or the ingredients above were to be illegal in natural cosmetics, then what about organizations such as Cosmos or Natrue, which for years have been offering certificates according to criteria that accept such ingredients?

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 7:29 pm

    Cosmos and Natrue are simply organizations that just made up their own standard. There is nothing official about them. There is nothing stopping anyone from starting their own competing natural standard and providing certifications.

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 8:08 pm

    Somebody establishes an organization that defines/certifies as natural chemicals produced synthetically.  Their credibility lies with those who care to share the concept for financial gain.   

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 8:10 pm

    Maybe they mentioned caprylyl glycol, propanediol, and citric acid, because they can be of natural origin or synthetic. If Sodium Benzoate or the ingredients above were to be illegal in natural cosmetics, then what about organizations such as Cosmos or Natrue, which for years have been offering certificates according to criteria that accept such ingredients?

    Can you help me find the reference for caprylyl glycol in nature?

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 10:08 pm

    This is exactly why the FDA should define Natural and Naturally-Derived.  Apparently, the Natural Cosmetics Act is now incorporated into the Personal Care Safety Act sponsored by Feinstein & Collins in the Senate.  Everyone in the personal care industry would benefit … small companies, large companies and consumers.  It would provide clarity for all.   

    The Natural Cosmetics Act is very well written … it’s a good proposed law.  Without it, organizations like NPA, Natrue, Cosmos are the best guidance anyone has, although not legally binding.  It is confounding that it did not make it out of Congress particularly given the size of the market and strong consumer demand. 

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 28, 2022 at 11:08 pm

    Wonder if Feinstein Collins will get any more traction than previous attempts.
    Also wonder if COSMOS Ecocert guidance is “best” or just license to fudge.

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 11:19 pm

    PhilGeis said:

    Wonder if Feinstein Collins will get any more traction than previous attempts.

    Hope so, Phil.  I have a hard time imagining why anyone would oppose it.  It brings clarity to a market, that at $50 billion annually, I’m sure most companies would want to participate in.  But, they’re going to also have to allow Nature-Identical synthetics in the definition to make it work properly. 

    The bill calls on the FDA to establish definitions of natural and naturally-derived.  If it passes, I suspect they will look to COSMOS, Ecocert, NPA, ANSI 305 as starting points.  And, you’ll probably have a Natural or Naturally-Derived certification of specific ingredients, just like you do in Organic.

  • OldPerry

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 28, 2022 at 11:33 pm

    @MarkBroussard - Color me skeptical that anything like this will pass. Clarity to the market is not desired. Once you codify “natural” every company, big and small, can start claiming it. No one will use non-natural any more and natural would cease to be a separate market. Small companies will then have to compete directly with big companies without the benefit of fear marketing. I don’t see that going well for them. 

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 29, 2022 at 12:08 am

    @Perry:

    I’m a bit in disagreement with that.  I think lots of companies will continue using Retinol and other ingredients that don’t fit into a Natural classification because they are superior in performance.  But, they will hop into the Natural market for select products, so you’ll continue to have a Natural market separate from a Non-Natural market with companies offering products in both market segments.  Fear marketing … that’s exactly something you want to get rid of.  Instead of “Does Not Contain” if your product qualifies, it will simply be labeled Natural and you’ll have to compete on the merits.

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 29, 2022 at 12:29 am

    I’m with you Mark with the potential valuusefulness of that legislation and sure agree the definition shouldn’t be left to self-appointed credentialing folks.
    Feinstein Collins Senate bill  has been around for going on a decade.  It’s not so much opposition - industry supports it - it’s apparently not a priority. In it’s current version - it was read and referred to comm. over a year ago with no subsequent movement.

    Natural Cosmetics Act is a House bill - are you sure they’ve been combined?  It has only a few Dems as sponsors and hasn’t moved out of comm. since introduced in late 2021.  

    Who knows what will happen.  The original FD&C Act took about 5 years and multiple versions before it passed.

  • MarkBroussard

    Professional Chemist / Formulator
    June 29, 2022 at 12:49 am

    @PhilGeis

    Correct, NCA is a House Bill reintroduced by Mahoney in November 2021.  I read that it had also been incorporated into the Feinsten Collins Senate Bill. 

  • PhilGeis

    Member
    June 29, 2022 at 12:57 am

    Don’t think so.  No amendments to Feinstein Collins and don’t see Natural in table of contents.

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