What Does "Natural" Mean Anyway?

Posted by JUSU Body GURU on


Natural products now represent the biggest growth area in the cosmetic and skin care market around the world. 

That’s great news, HOWEVER, products that can truly be called “natural” only make up approximately seven percent of what’s out there!

So you ask what does “natural” mean anyway?  Does that mean it's one hundred percent sourced from nature?  Does it mean it’s food-grade?  Can it be processed?  Is petroleum considered natural?  

Websters’ definition of “natural” is:  “existing in or caused by nature”; NOT:  made or caused by humankind (that answers the petroleum question)!

However, it gets a bit more complicated when looking at the other ingredients in formulations – like the emulsifiers, for instance. Cosmetic emulsifiers are processed ingredients that hold a cream together and stop products from separating.  

To be as close to “natural” as possible, emulsifiers should be derived from sustainable, organic or wild-crafted plant crops; not created synthetically or made from petroleum.  They should be environmentally safe, biodegradable and pure enough to eat.     

Preservatives should be food-grade and naturally-sourced, like rosemary oleoresin and leucidal ferment (a Japanese radish), or be bio-identical (a compound that has the same molecular structure to a substance produced in nature; e.g. potassium sorbate). 
  • A natural product should not contain a preservative that produces ammonia or formaldehyde.  It should not contain traces of dioxanes or any ingredient that has been ethoxylated (created using the deadly poison “ethylene oxide”). 
  • The preservation system of a natural product should never accumulate in your body and burden your body’s organs of elimination. 
  • In a natural product, the preservative should not “embalm” a product so that it has a 2-3 year expiry date.  Any product with a  2-3 year shelf life is a red flag that the product is not natural...A natural product should be fresh and used soon after it is made.
Given these parameters, there are very few purely natural products on the market, but there is a lot of clever marketing.  There are products that are NOT natural, but they are “naturally inspired”; that means they are inspired by the IDEA of nature and have beautiful pictures of leaves and fruit on the product label. They often contain very few truly natural ingredients. Marketing for these products is misleading, and often they do not even contain the natural ingredient featured on the label.

There are no international standards defining “natural”.  There are many private company standards and symbols, like: EcoCert (Europe), Certech (Canada), USDA (USA), COSMOS (Europe), No animal Testing, Fair Trade, Wild Harvest, Carbon Neutral, Biodegradable… and on it goes. 
All kinds of nasty things could be in the bottle, but we buy it because it has a leaf and a FairTrade symbol…. or somebody recycled something.  We really don’t know what any of that means anyway and there’s a lot of “double talk” and left-out information.

So what can we do as consumers?  How can we see through the “greenwashing”, and find truly natural products?  

We can become educated. We can start reading labels and asking questions. We can refer to apps like Think Dirty or the “EWG Cosmetic Safety Database” when shopping for products. We can search out brands that have complete transparency when it comes to their ingredients and we can connect directly with the company and ask about individual ingredients. Then we can build relationships based on “brand loyalty” and trust.

We can make our own products from food and ingredients we have at home. Many cultures around the world are steeped in the history of natural toiletries and medicine made from local or gardened plants. Watch for our delicious JUSU DIY recipes coming in the next blog. 

Lastly, we can use our common sense and powers of discernment and look for ingredients that come from here - our home - Planet Earth - our garden!

Questions, concerns, queries or conundrums? We'd love to hear from you! Email us or follow along on our Instagram and let's start a dialogue. 

Art + Nature = Beauty. 
Karen Van Dyck





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  • Such an important topic! Thank you for this education … with rampant industry greenwashing it is difficult to find truly natural products. So grateful for apps like Think Dirty!

    Rachel on

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