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What are the pros and cons of natural body products?

Posted by Allison Ritto Almstedt on

Natural is better! Always, right?

Did you know that sandalwood is an endangered species? Or that many naturally mined pigments have lead in them? Or that it takes 40 pounds of lavender to make an ounce of essential oils?

If you read my last blog post about soap, you read me rail against syndet bars, aka fake soap, aka what most people use. 

However, there's a tricky part of anything we buy, use, or consume. 

The FDA defines "natural" as: just kidding, they don't have a definition. So technically, anyone can sell a cosmetic, drug, or food and call it natural because really, every cell comes from nature somehow? So if we manipulate it, in a lab, and create a new molecule, somehow the administration doesn't draw a line.

Therefore, it's up to companies and consumers to decide what to use.

I can define natural differently than any other person or company, which is confusing! 

Since I strive to keep all my products vegan and sustainable, that actually can mean that a synthetic ingredient is a better choice. Let me outline why:

First: wax, oils, butters: These are all products I use and would feel comfortable calling them natural. They are from a plant, whether it's avocado oil in a soap or soybeans for the wax. Some people can argue that beeswax is more natural than soy wax because it's not created by humans, but by bees. However, that's just transferring the work and labor to animals, so I am not a fan. Most candles are paraffin, or a blend of it with plant waxes, but I avoid anything petroleum based in favor of plant products. Trust me, I've been in some facebook group arguments with the pro-paraffin people and it's probably boring to all of you all so I will digress.

Second: colors. I use a combination in body care of micas, oxide pigments, and botanicals (fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers).

Mica: I only use sustainably and fairly mined micas with fair labor, from reputable companies. Child labor in Indian mica mines is an issue, so I only trust my suppliers. While mica itself is a powder from earth minerals, it is color treated (yup, in a lab!). This product is what's in eyeshadow, blush, and all mineral makeup. It's strictly regulated and body safe.

Oxide pigments: these are powders that come in various colors like micas but without the sparkle or shimmer. They are also lab-created but tested, safe, and in some cases better than raw earth pigments. Extracted colors from the Earth can contain lead, arsenic, and other things on the periodic table you don't want on your body.

Botanicals: I can naturally color lovely shades from dehydrated spinach leaf, alkanet, indigo, paprika, turmeric, and other items I buy from an organic bulk farm in Oregon. It's pretty cool how the palette from edible products can mimic synthetic dyes, but not all. These colors don't have the same pop as micas and oxides, but if I make a soap with one, the other, or a combination, I will state so.

I like giving you, my customers, the power to choose if you prefer a product that fits your definition of natural. So, send me any questions allisonsgoods@gmail.com!

In my next blog post, I'll tell you all about natural versus synthetic fragrances.