The Natural Debate: Why We’re All Being A Little Mislead

One of the buzz words on the beauty scene at the moment is definitely ‘natural’. Brands and consumers alike seem to be going crazy for the label, but what does it actually mean? Or perhaps the more useful question is: ‘what do brands class as natural?’ There’s definitely a lack of clarification on the difference between naturally occurring and naturally derived products, which mostly comes down to the extraction and manufacturing of the ingredient itself. In simple terms, ‘naturally occurring’ refers to a natural product that is delivered in a natural form, whereas ‘naturally derived’ means some ingredients deprived from nature have been used to artificially create a product that is delivered in an unnatural form.

Think of a rose petal; whether it’s delivered whole, ground up or dried, it would be classified as naturally occurring. Extracting some ingredients from a rose petal, and then biochemically altering or concentrating it, would be classified as naturally derived. In other words, something that is naturally derived has a natural source, but it has been put through a chemical process and artificially created by humans. Naturally derived can also be identified by the word ‘refined’; an ingredient that has been refined would have been biochemically altered from its original form, which will as a result have minimal benefits for the body. However, naturally occurring ingredients are sourced within nature and left in their natural state, with fatty acids and beneficial nutrients present (as opposed to being artificially concentrated.)

So how can we tell if ingredients are naturally occurring or have been naturally derived? Products can be identified as containing naturally occurring ingredients (or organic) by having a Soil Association stamp (or equivalent) present on the packaging; this means the product has passed Soil Association certification and been identified as being manufactured organically. Products that feature naturally derived ingredients within a product will not have this identification, as they’re simply including elements from nature that have been manipulated in a laboratory environment.

For consumers it’s incredibly frustrating to be mislead into buying a ‘natural’ product, only to find it’s about as natural as a bottle of Pantene Pro-V shampoo. Marketers have become very savvy in using buzz words, key ingredients and packaging design to lead us into a false sense of security and buy into a popular trend. Brands such as Naked, Original Source, Botanics, Organic Surge and many more are not offering any more benefit than buying shower gel filled to the brim with chemicals. However, brands such as Melvita, Caudalie, Burt’s Bees and Elemental Herbology have developed great products and formulations using naturally occurring ingredients. The key thing to remember, is that ‘organic’ ingredients are expensive, so don’t expect your £1.99 fruity shower gel to be full of goodness.

Although there is scientific evidence that identifies benefits to support both naturally occurring and natural derived ingredients within products, choosing organic is a personal choice – there is no right or wrong answer. Put simply, it all boils down to what you believe is best for you, as well as what your budget allows you to stretch to. The key thing is to be informed and understand what you’re spending your hard earned cash on either way.

Written by Amy Bambrick



  1. Lilac Ghosts
    April 5, 2014 / 8:27 pm

    I've never even thought of this before! You learn something new everyday! haha I'm always at war with myself when it comes to skincare because I want to give it all natural goodness but my bank account does not permit me to do that. I may just have to cut down on food and buy some Caudalie products XD Cat | LilacGhosts

  2. Bel
    April 5, 2014 / 9:29 pm

    Naked are ok though aren't they? They say they don't use sulphates or petro chemicals, surely there is some benefit in that? Have I been completely swizzed?

    • Hayley Carr
      April 6, 2014 / 10:28 am

      It depends what you're after – they may not contain some nasties, but they will only contain natural derivatives, rather than beneficial ingredients.

  3. Teffy Perk
    April 5, 2014 / 11:53 pm

    What a great post! There is such a gap in information when it comes to this, so interesting to read about it. I love Burt's Bees products, and it can be so tricky to know which brand to trust and believe when it comes to the whole "natural" concept. {Teffy's Perks} X

  4. Wonderlusting
    April 8, 2014 / 9:28 am

    There is no legal definition for the word "natural" it is purely marketing speak. Organic certification is great but it is also an expensive accreditation process that some smaller brands can't afford to go through (even though they are organic). Only 1 ingredient needs to be organic for a brand to slap "organic" on its product label. Ultimately us consumers just have to be keep ourselves informed and read articles like this!

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