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Natural Skincare – What that means to us


The word ‘Natural’ is used a lot in the skincare and beauty world and if you’re anything like us, you’re attracted to the image it conjures up of ingredients picked straight from nature and popped into our moisturiser or body wash.


The problem is, ‘Natural’ in the beauty world has no legal definition, it’s open to lots of different interpretations and sadly, is also a favourite word for marketeers which means if we only pay attention to the headlines and don’t check out the small print, we can become the victims of greenwashing.


We were asked on Twitter recently to explain what we meant by Natural when quoting our company ethics, we tried within the restrictions of 140 characters to do that.  This is a more detailed response to that question.


We feel it is particularly important to explain this now because of the introduction of the new EU Cosmetics Regulation, which comes into force on 11 July 2013.  From this date it will be much harder if not impossible for companies to make ‘free from’ claims on and for their products.  This means understanding ingredients, or trusting someone to do the ingredient filtering for you, will become all the more important if you want to avoid particular ingredients in your skincare and beauty products.


We spend a lot of time investigating natural beauty companies and their products before deciding whether or not they should become part of our family.  If we find they’re using ingredients we’re not happy with we may reject the whole company or just some of their products, depending upon the ethos of the company and the product range as a whole.


Okay, back to ‘Natural’ and what it means to us.


A Natural beauty product to us is one that contains ingredients derived from nature (preferably plant origin not animal – and certainly not dead animal. Vegetarian rules apply!).  I’m sitting here struggling to think of even a ‘simple’ skincare ingredient which doesn’t have to go through some sort of processing before it can be used so derived is a key word here.  It’s origins must be from nature not a synthetic or petrochemical by-product.  Even water goes through a filtering system, be it mother natures in the earth or the local water treatment facility and that to us is processing!


Today’s natural beauty buyer wants their products to perform as well as or better than the mainstream beauty products but also wants their products to be as close to natural as possible – that’s a difficult line to walk!  For example, when you first see the ingredient Decyl Glucoside does your heart sink thinking it’s some nasty chemical ingredient?  Well, it’s considered a natural ingredient as its derived from sugar.  For those wishing to avoid sulphates, it’s used as a gentle and non-irritating surfactant in shampoos & body washes.


It may be difficult to make a product wholly natural and for it to perform as it needs to.  This is a particularly tricky area when it comes to preservatives.  If a product contains water then it must have a preservative.  The only way around this is to make the product yourself, keep it in the fridge and use it very quickly!  Though we will never accept products containing parabens we do have some that contain phenoxyethanol.  We accept that this is a controversial preservative for many natural beauties but it is used by quite a few natural brands (unless they are certified by a body which does not allow it), in particular the smaller ones who are perhaps unable to invest in the development of effective alternatives to it.   We look forward to the time when a better, safe and natural alternative is found for all to use.


As well as the preservative issue, there are exceptions for us when it comes to natural and sometimes we’ll take a synthetic over a natural ingredient if it conflicts with our Vegetarian beliefs.  Two examples are carmine (aka cochineal, crushed beetles) and squalene.  Squalene can be animal, vegetable or synthetic.   The animal version is from sharks livers and the vegetable version can be very expensive (shark is cheaper!) so, we would accept a synthetic version if it was a price sensitive issue for the product.


We hope this has helped to explain what we mean when we say that we stock natural haircare, skincare and beauty products, as always if you have any comments or queries we’d love to hear them!


We are I Choose What I Use, the 100% vegan (as of 1 May 2015), cruelty free, natural and organic beauty and skin care online store.


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