Part 2 Naturals Focus

How do we know what’s really natural?

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

How do we know what’s really natural?
We asked Belinda Carli what we as consumers think we’re buying when faced with a natural label, scientifically and from a formulations perspective, what they actually are, and what needs to be done to help consumers make assure and intentional purchasing decisions.

1. What properties or characteristics do products need to have to make them natural?

I always follow the processing guidelines that Organic and Natural certifiers specify – to be certified the final product needs to meet strict compositional guidelines.

Even if these are not certified, following their guidelines as to the types of processing they will allow at least enables chemists to ensure they are using ingredients that certifiers recognise as truly natural, naturally derived and nature identical materials.

In some cases, certifiers allow certain synthetic processing which may be where part of the confusion comes from, but to make an aesthetically pleasing, stable and high performing product, this may be needed.

Again, following Certifiers standards — even if not their compositional guidelines and full certification process — at least enable chemists to follow a standard accepted by the industry and consumers.

2. How can we tell if a formulation is truly natural?

Certification by a recognised certifier is the best way – but just because something isn’t certified doesn’t mean it isn’t following natural rules.

Brands may not do the extra certification step. There are a number of accepted methods and materials commonly promoted as ‘natural’ that is not in fact natural.

3. Is there currently deception within the industry relating to this?

Yes – some intentional, some unintentional through misinformation, needing to compete with those who are deceiving, and lack of knowledge/conformity.

As far as regulators are concerned, misleading claims about ‘natural-ness’ are low on their radar compared to products that pose actual safety issues in the market. 

It doesn’t make it okay, it just means regulators are too busy ensuring the safety of products to often pick up on all the companies saying and/or doing the wrong things. Even if it is unintentional, it is still misleading.

4. What safeguards are in place to recognise this?

Consumers and competing companies can complain to regulators, but it is not something a regulator has time to actively monitor without a complaint being generated.

5. Does more need to be done on outreach and public awareness to prevent consumers opting for unnatural natural cosmetics? 

Yes – but the misinformation is on such a large scale I don’t know how it would be tackled.

6. What else can be done to ensure we choose products that are truly natural?

Truthful education sources like my video ​which follows currently accepted Certifier standards.

Ensuring marketing departments and chemists use Certifier standards, even if they aren’t looking to be certified. Encouraging those who are formulating natural to seek certification.

Consumers selecting only products with natural certification to drive brands to certify – if they really want to claim natural then take the extra step to prove it! These actions combined is the only way.

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