Thursday, June 24, 2010

Why am I perceived as hating "all natural" things?

I love my all natural babassu butter body butter! You can find the recipe here

I received an e-mail last night from someone who notes she is a formulator of mostly natural bath and body products, and that she was writing to  me "even though I know you have little love for formulators like me", meaning natural bath and body formulators. Where did this idea arise that I don't like natural formulators or their products?

I like natural bath and body products and I like natural bath and body formulators. I make a lot of what some people would call anhydrous natural body products like lotion bars, oil based sprays, and whipped butters - products without preservatives or synthetic ingredients - and I have seen some amazing natural products made with natural (or as I call them, minimally processed ingredients) like my favourite anise flavoured lip balm from Prairie Naturals.

I think of natural ingredients like oils, butters, extracts, and so on as minimally processed as opposed to natural. All of our natural ingredients have to be processed in some way - bees and honey have to be removed from beeswax before its cleaned, olives have to be pressed, extracts have to be dried and ground into powder - because you wouldn't just throw an olive into a lotion! 

I get upset over three things when it comes to the all natural crowd (although these tend to be the actions of the larger companies, not smaller formulators...)

The first is the "we don't use this" crowd, and I've already blogged about that. These types try to make their products stand out by stating what they don't use, and they tend to forget to include what they do use. "We don't use SLS" in our lotion bars. Well, of course you don't; no one would.

The second is the "hide it under something else" crowd, the ones who put preservatives under "perfum" and claim to be preservative free!

The third is the "strainin' to do some explainin' " crowd who actively lie about their products, saying silly things like silicone comes from sand, therefore it must be natural.

I love natural products and those who formulate them, as long as they are being safe and truthful. If a formulator is leaving the preservative out of a water based creation because they want to be all natural, they're being unsafe, and that worries me. If a formulator is leaving ingredients off their list or cutting corners to qualify for the category of "natural" or to gain customers, that's when I lose all respect. On the other hand, if someone can formulate a lovely product made from minimally processed ingredients that is effective and safe, then I will stand up and applaud their efforts.

Each of us started on this wonderful journey through the land of bath and body products for different reasons, and over time we have developed different philosophies about which products we make and which ingredients we use. That's the great thing about making our own products - we can pick and choose what we make, what ingredients we leave in or take out, and how much of each we want to use. We can truly customize each product to represent who we are, what we need, and in what we believe. As long as those choices are made with safety in mind, I respect and honour those philosophies.

Personally, I like to use a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients for their skin feel, effect on my skin or hair, ease of use when formulating, stability, or cost. I make these decisions based upon my research on the ingredients, my crazy mad experiments in the workshops, and the comments from my testers. I would never use just synthetic ingredients as there are far too many botanical extracts, hydrosols, oils, butters, proteins, and complexes that take my creations from nice to awesome, but I like to have a full pallet of ingredients from which I can choose. But that's just my opinion, which is reflected in my recipes and this blog. 

I like all natural stuff, as long as it's made properly and safely! I hope this clarifies my position on this topic.


Tiffany said...

I am truly sorry my comment was taken that way - I meant it tongue-in-cheek. Having read VERY much of your prolific writing (for which I am very grateful), I had picked up a certain suspicion (if you will) of formulators who claim to try to make natural or ecofriendly products. If I truly felt that you "hate all natural things" I would not be a regular reader, or have felt comfortable approaching you with my question. I admire your work immensely. I am sorry to have offended you. I did not mean any harm.

Susan Barclay-Nichols said...

Hi Tiffany! I wasn't offended and an apology is not necessary - you gave me an opportunity to clarify something! I get that a lot from people, and I thought it was time I wrote a post of this nature.

There was a situation on another forum a month or so back where someone was trying to make it look like I was some synthetic obsessed on-the-verge-of-insanity type woman who wanted everyone to condition their hair with harsh, evil, toxic chemicals instead of going the all natural route (which is always safer, no matter what the all natural product might be), despite the fact the other person had no proof, and this perception has been bugging me for a while. So I posted!

Sierra Snow Soaps said...

Susan, I just love reading your blog. I don't get the idea you are anti natural, not with all the extracts and such that you use. I have such respect for all the ingredients you provide information for (specially after getting a shampoo bar in the latest Patchouli Swap). There is something for everyone, thank goodness. I always tell people what is in my products and why. I cringe when I hear about all natural lotions with nothing in them to fight the nasties!
Thanks again for posting all your research!
Michelle in NV

Fortunate Face said...

I too agree with your 3 criteria- i know from reading their labels that even some major mineral makeup lines are either leaving ingredients off their labels (specifically preservatives) or failing to adequately preserve their products containing ingredients that should always have a efficacious preservation system!

Anonymous said...

Natural MEANS safe. I thought everyone but the most ignorant of people knew that.

Now I'm off to add the colour to my latest batch of soap...
Arsenic give such a lovely green hue, and Nightshade berries provide a shade of crimson to die for!

JackiJill said...

Hi. Ive come to enjoy your website.
I have fairly similar views. I am trying to research and formulate some products of my own and like to stay with things that are fruit vegetable plant based ingredients there are alot of things that come 100% from nature look at the table of elements and decide weather youd eat breath or rub half of them on your skin. I wouldnt. Cyanide is "natural". My ex-husband would be considered natural and He made me physically ill. Any way Ive told my fiancee that you have to squeeze apples to get the juice and we can take that to other plants and such so we can get the good stuff out of it. I would just to stay away from harmful and non renewable resources. I just got tired of buyng tons of lotions and then reading all the things they put in them that were harmful or breaking out from them. I have Fibromyalgia and it helps me just to do something good and who knows maybe I can find something that will help if not me some one.