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Editor’s note: Cosmetics & Toiletries magazine recognizes that the consumer demand for natural products has impacted cosmetics R&D. In response, this new column, “Formulating with Naturals,” has been added to the regular lineup. Look for it quarterly to learn tips for developing products for this market.
When formulating skin care with natural ingredients the first question to ask is: With which definition of natural will the product conform? The definition might be significantly different for the general public than for consumers following lifestyles of health and sustainability (LOHAS) philosophies. However, one may wonder what even these purist consumers know about the myriad of natural and organic certifications out there. This author would venture that most consumers’ identification for natural products would be analogous to Chief Justice Stewart’s definition of obscenity—i.e., “I know it when I see it.”
While market research firms specialized in this market have undoubtedly conducted surveys to understand what consumers view as natural, the current picture is likely quite variable. When, if ever, consumers come to a general consensus and accept one or more of the various competing natural and organic standards, formulators can follow those standards; but right now there are simply too many.
Should the formulator choose ingredients from the multitude given the Ecocert imprimatur, or choose those on the Natural Products Association’s list of 800+ acceptable materials? Or should the formulator instead avoid ingredients found on the Whole Foods list of nearly 400 unacceptable ingredients? Then there are the criteria set forth by NaTrue or the National Sanitation Foundation/American National Standards Institute (NSF/ANSI);1 the European cosmetics standards working group, also known as the COSMOS consortium;2 as well as the Organic and Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS) industry group in the United States.3 Formulators may just want to follow the guidance of renowned expert Ken Klein and use only materials composed of the first 92 naturally occurring elements. Again, who defines what’s natural?
Further, official governing bodies provide little more guidance. For example, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives no formal definition for natural except to state that natural ingredients come from natural sources. Regarding foods, the “FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term ‘natural’ or its derivatives,”4 but a product is considered a natural food when it contains no artificial or synthetic ingredients and is only minimally processed according to the 2005 food labeling guidelines.