For many years 'Natural' has been used as a term for describing products positively in order to promote their purchase. However, what does 'Natural' really mean in the context of skincare?
To start we need to clarify a few points. the term 'Natural':
Is not protected; meaning there is no agreed upon or enforceable definition of the term used in the skincare industry.
Can be used to describe a skincare product even though there is; no way to, or requirement to, prove that a product is in fact 'Natural'.
Does not represent a description of an ingredient as being superior to or safer than a 'Synthetic' ingredients. All ingredients in skincare are subject to the same testing regime and should be looked at on their individual merits. Often the volatile compounds found in some essential oils have the potential to be more irritating than synthetic fragrance.
Given that there is no set definition of the term 'Natural' we are left with the term being defined across a broad spectrum from pure to more pragmatic. Formula Botanica (https://formulabotanica.com) give four definitions of what could constitute a 'Natural' ingredient in a skincare product as set out below.
1 - Naturally Obtained and Chemically Unchanged
This is the purest of definitions. You obtain the ingredient from natural resources and the form which you use in your skincare products retains its original chemical shape and structure. A good example of this would be a cold pressed oil. Products containing these types of ingredients are often more able to obtain organic certification.
2 - Naturally Obtained but Chemically Changed
Under this definition you obtain the ingredient from natural resources but this time the form which you use in your skincare products goes through a process to adjust its chemical structure. this may be something such as fermentation or hydrolysis.
3 - Synthetically Obtained but Nature Identical
Many would not agree that this counts as 'Natural'. However, there are ingredients such as citric acid, used as a pH regulator, for which it would not be sustainable to produce them from citrus fruits. Instead it is much more environmentally friendly to produce this in a lab and the resulting ingredient is chemically identical to that which you would extract from the citrus fruit.
4 - Naturally Obtained but Synthetic Identical
A slightly confusing definition. However, there are mineral oil glycols used as preservative boosters which were initially synthetically created but are now being recreated using the processing of sugar cane. In this case the plant resources are mimicking a synthetic molecule.
So when you look at skincare products know that the definition of 'Natural' can be a complicated one and that often the lines between 'Natural' and 'Synthetic' can be blurred.
Here at SKIND we decided to put together a line-up of products that are free from synthetic fragrance and also free from the EU's list of 26 fragrance allergens often found in essential oils. We feel this is the best way to reduce the risk of irritation for those with sensitive skin. We have a skincare collection made up of wonderful products which fall into the purest definitions of both 'Natural' and 'Synthetic'. Our only requirement is that they work!
You can view the collection here.