What does Natural Cosmetics mean to consumers?

Many cosmetic entrepreneurs are interested in producing all natural and organic cosmetics. We frequently get emails here on Chemists Corner that say something like “I want to make a natural and organic line of cosmetics that is chemical free.”

Ignoring the fact that nothing is chemical free, the request is still difficult to answer because the terms “natural” and “organic” don’t have any standard technical meaning. If you want to make a natural cosmetic you have to know what the term natural means to your consumers. We’ve had an interesting discussion about this on our cosmetic science forum. The question is what does “natural” mean?

My contention is that from the standpoint of a formulator, natural can mean whatever you want. It is up to you to tell your consumers what natural means. And if they like your story or brand they will believe you.

Consumers don’t know

Consumers are definitely confused about what things mean in this natural market. They look for ingredients that aren’t harmful, ones that don’t include allergies and many avoid fragrance. But who decides what ingredients are harmful? Parabens aren’t harmful but there are many natural organizations that tell people they can’t use them. For example, as in the Whole Foods Premium list.

Natural cosmetics

If you want to follow the Whole Foods natural list or Ecocert standards or any of the other natural standard, you can do this. But you can also create your own definition of what is natural. Arguably, petroleum is natural as is coal or natural gas. Coal is even plant derived technically.

The important thing is whether your consumers believe that you are producing a natural cosmetic. To convince consumers you are natural when you are not following someone else’s standards takes good marketing. But it can be done. The big brands like Aveeno are able to do it.

Incidentally, if you are interested in more information about formulating natural products, be sure to get our free natural product formulating report.

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