Thursday, December 16, 2010
Question: What does natural mean?
When I think of natural ingredients, I think of those that I consider minimally processed. All of our botanical or natural ingredients have to be processed in some way so we can use them in our products. Bees and honey have to be removed from beeswax, olives have to be pressed, extracts have to be dried and ground into powder. So they aren't truly as nature intended as they have been interfered with in some way before we get them, hence the concept of being minimally processed.
When I look at things advertised as natural emulsifiers - for instance, Ritamulse (aka Natramulse, ECO mulse) - they don't strike me as natural (INCI: Glyceryl Stearate (and) Cetearyl Alcohol (and) Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate). The original source might have been coconuts, but we don't just scoop out some cetearyl alcohol along with the coconut milk; it has to be processed in some way to produce the various fatty acids, fatty alcohols, and so on.
I get similarly confused when I see surfactants listed as "derived from coconuts" or "derived from almonds" or "derived from sunflowers" because most, if not all, of our surfactants are derived from some kind of oils found in fruits, seeds, and so on. I see something like decyl glucoside being called natural, but I don't understand how the process to turn this sugar based surfactant is different than making something like disodium laureth sulfosuccinate (DLS mild), which is derived from coconut or palm oils.
I guess this is where I'm getting confused. I can't understand how something that has been modified in a manufacturer's lab - an emulsifier or surfactant - can be considered natural in the way beeswax or glacial clay could be considered natural. So I turn to you for some assistance here. When you are asking for recipes for a natural product, what do you mean? What ingredients do you consider natural? And why are some considered natural and some aren't?
An addendum to this post specifically to the people who have been writing to me asking for natural products - can you please e-mail me or comment as to what you mean by natural? I'm happy to do formulate some recipes, but I need to know what you are defining as natural!