How Do We Develop a Natural Standard? – Saffire Blue Inc.
Formulation Tools & Guidelines Industry Standards

How Do We Develop a Natural Standard?

As I read through my previous Blogs I see that I could be perceived as being “anti-natural” or not a huge advocate for Formulating in a “natural” manner. This is far from the truth. In fact my emphasis is producing products that are Naturally compliant/Certified in an ethical and effective way.

As I have mentioned numerous times, the term “natural” without amplification is a useless term. On one hand leaving it undefined serves to scare most Crafters away from many great, effective raw materials that are approved under the Natural standards. On the other hand purposely leaving this term vague has allowed mainly less altruistic lines to greenwash their products. I see this case on a daily basis. Make a Sulfate shampoo, add a smattering of a Botanical blend at 5 parts per million and put some pretty green Aloe leaves on the label and you have a “natural” product. Is it “Naturally compliant?” Hardly.

To counteract this I urge my clients to use the term “Naturally Compliant.” Under this philosophy we will endorse a standard such as the National Science Foundation (aka NSF), the Natural Products Association (aka NPA) or the USDA Organic standard. Imply that your products are safer since they are naturally compliant. Only imply they are safe and avoid the “Naturalistic fallacy” or the inflexible belief that Natural always equals better. Remember, Hemlock is natural but I wouldn’t advise drinking a tea made form hemlock needles! Imply that they are safer and move on to what is important, Performance!

When I present this approach I am often met with skepticism from clients. “How do I know that the Natural standard is right and not just a way to sell dangerous products?” It is with this in mind that I would like to address “How do we create a Natural Standard?”

I will purposely keep the definition broad since there are some minor differences and I will not endorse any particular standard. This addresses the regional issues. A Natural Standard in the US may not be the prevalent standard in Canada or the European Union. While fortunately we are seeing these standards starting to sync up or “harmonize”, we are still a long way from one single endorsed standard.

Firstly, any Natural Standard will have the following goals and criteria;

  • Contain no ingredients linked with potentially suspected human health risks.
  • Not be processed in ways that significantly or adversely alter the purity of its natural ingredients.
  • Include ingredients derived from a purposeful, renewable/plentiful source found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral).
  • Be minimally processed and avoid the use of synthetic or harsh chemicals so as not to dilute the material’s purity.
  • Should contain non-natural ingredients only where viable natural alternative ingredients are unavailable, and only when they pose absolutely no potentially suspected human health risks.

As you can see these are criteria we can all endorse and feel good about. I would wager that perhaps this is the first time we have seen the vague goals of our lines written so succinctly.

So what we have is a standard that avoids chemicals with valid safety issues, not be processed in manners not available in nature and lastly requires all feedstock (the initial raw materials) to be from sources in nature.

To address the processing of these materials I would like to use a graphic the COSMOS (COSMetic Organic Standard) Guide. The COSMOS standard is prevalent in the EU and representative of all standards.

cosmos
cosmos2

On reviewing this list we see that there is an intelligent and clear definition of how the raw feedstock can be processed. Also it explains many of the banned ingredients. Why do we avoid PEG’s (Polyethylene Glycol’s) in Cosmetics? Avoid the scaremongering and simply know that these are ethoxylated products and ethoxylation does not occur in Nature.

Lastly, many will ask, “How do I communicate this standard to my clients in such a way that I can show the safety?” Simply state that you are Naturally compliant (or preferably as money allows Naturally Certified). Another way to amplify this stance is to have an Ingredient Declaration behind your line. For example “XYZ Cosmetics strives to produce the safest naturally inspired products while also delivering good effective skincare. We avoid the use of Sulfates, Parabens and other products not allowed under the “X” Natural standard.” We told our customers they are safe, effective and we gained third party validation. Defining these standards and adhering to them allows us to move on and make great products that deliver credible benefits to our customers. These are the goals we should have to be safe, ethical and successful.

In summary I am not “anti-natural” but rather an advocate of doing it right while simultaneously making great products. If you take this approach you will thrive in this lucrative market without compromising on your values.

Now go make some great products!

Mark Fuller is a professional cosmetic formulator and would be happy to help with any formulation needs that you have. Mention that Saffire Blue sent you to save $200 off your formulation advice fees.  You can contact him through his website Microformulation.com

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