The untold truth of natural products

natural products

BY AMANDA
LAUREN


Buying natural beauty products
is more than just a craze — it’s part of an overall healthy lifestyle. We all
know that natural is a popular buzzword, but what does “natural”
really mean? You would think it would accurately describe a product with no
artificial ingredients, perhaps is chemical-free, or made from things found
growing in the ground. But, that is not necessarily true. You will never look
at natural products the same way again when you learn their untold truth. 
It turns out that many natural
products are not natural at all. In fact, many can contain dangerous chemicals
that at the very least can irritate your skin and at the very worst can cause
life changing long-term illnesses. Just don’t forget to grab a garbage bag
because you might clean out your medicine cabinet in a major way after learning
these shocking facts.
The
definition of natural depends on what country you live in


world map


In America, the Food and Drug
Administration does not have an official definition of the word natural. From a
corporate standpoint, this is great for marketing, but the lack of standards
can pose problems when companies are trying to be forthcoming with consumers. I
spoke to Kristie Garduno, who owns Giving Soaps, which is a line made from 100
percent plant derived ingredients. 
“I am constantly trying
to educate the public on this,” she revealed. “My business is
making bath and body products, and I constantly get asked if the
ingredients are natural. It’s an impossible question to answer honestly,
because while vegan, organic, and other terms are legally defined, the
word natural has no legal definition. A manufacturer of literally anything
can write natural on the packaging and still be completely in the clear,
as far as the FDA is concerned.”
Some
“natural” products aren’t natural at all




In America, the Food and Drug
Administration does not have an official definition of the word natural. From a
corporate standpoint, this is great for marketing, but the lack of standards
can pose problems when companies are trying to be forthcoming with consumers
about natural products. I spoke to Kristie Garduno, who owns Giving Soaps,
which is a line made from 100 percent plant derived ingredients. 
“I am constantly trying
to educate the public on this,” she revealed. “My business is
making bath and body products, and I constantly get asked if the
ingredients are natural. It’s an impossible question to answer honestly,
because while vegan, organic, and other terms are legally defined, the
word natural has no legal definition. A manufacturer of literally anything
can write natural on the packaging and still be completely in the clear,
as far as the FDA is concerned.”
Kelli Connaughton, who is a
certified functional diagnostic consultant, revealed to me there is another big
problem with the FDA’s lack of definition for the word natural. “In the
US, personal care products have a ban on only 11 chemicals and the
products are not highly regulated. Europe bans over 1,300 chemicals.”
Natural
products can contain carcinogens


beans

Carcinogens are defined as
anything that can cause cancer. Many natural products contain chemicals that
are known carcinogens. Connaughton revealed one of the worst offenders is
deodorant, which can contain aluminum. “Aluminum is bio-accumulative
[meaning it] builds up and is stored in fat cells.”
It is also shocking to
discover another product many of us use to prevent cancer can actually contain
ingredients that may cause it. “Sunscreen usually has [nanoparticles]
of carcinogens. Nanoparticles are so small they are able to cross the
blood brain barrier, burrow into organs, cause free radicals in skin
cells, and damage the DNA. Nanoparticles are not required to be listed on
labels.”
If you want to avoid using
products with carcinogens, Connaughton suggests avoiding products with the
following ingredients: “Fragrance, parabens, petrolatum, petroleum,
polyethylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate,
ceteareth, triceteareth, retinyl palminate, aluminium, diethanolomine
(DEA), cocamide DEA, lauramide DEA, formaldehyde releasers, diazolidinyl urea,
DMDM hydantoin, quaternium, synthetic colors and dyes, glycol (labeled as
propylene, butylenes), mineral oil, talc, and siloxanes.”
Natural
products can contain ingredients that disrupt hormones


soy beans sauce

Natural products can contain
chemicals (both naturally-occurring and synthetic) that are endocrine or
hormone disruptors. According to Dr. Kalpana DePasquale, a board-certified ear,
nose, and throat surgeon, one of the worst offenders is sodium laurel sulfate
(SLS). She told me, “SLS mimics estrogen and there is concern that over
time greater than one percent of this ingredient can be absorbed into the
bloodstream and residual levels in your body can be higher.”
While you would think it would
be relatively easy to avoid just one ingredient, it is easier said than done.
As DePasquale explained, “This ingredient is found in more than 90 percent
of personal care and cleaning products that foam. If present in a concentration
of greater than one percent, SLS can cause severe irritation and even corrosion
of the skin.”
But that is not the only
hormone disruptor, Connaughton also suggested looking out for a few more
including, “Fragrance, parabens, triclosan, oxybenzone, octinoxate,
petrolatum, and petroleum.”
Preservatives
are a big issue when it comes to natural products


natural soap


Truly natural products or
products with natural ingredients tend to have shorter shelf lives. While
natural preservatives exist, there is a caveat, which Connaughton explained.
“For a preservative to be effective it needs to prevent against
gram positive and negative bacteria, mold, and yeast. There are natural
preservatives, which are natural antioxidants, that are meant
to preserve products but they do not protect the product from
bacteria and yeast or mold, as long as synthetic. So true natural products
expire sooner.”
Furthermore, labels can be
even more deceiving than they appear to be, especially if preservatives are
listed. Connaughton told me this can be problematic and dangerous. “Like
‘fragrance’ the industry may use catch all terms such as ‘preservative.’ Catch
all terms should be avoided because different ingredients are able to hide
behind it.”
Connaughton also revealed that
preservatives used in natural products can be very dangerous. “Common
preservatives, [such as] Germaben and Germaben II are used often with
natural products. These may cause skin irritations or reproductive or organ
toxicity. Another preservative, LiquaPar Oil contains parabens, which are
carcinogenic, and endocrine disruptors.” 
Vitamin
C is a scientifically proven natural ingredient


orange oil vitamin c


Vitamin C, which is an
ingredient in many serums and other natural products, has been extensively
studied. Janice Rosenthal who is the owner of Garden of Essences explained
to me, “Once vitamin C is absorbed into the skin cells, the production of
collagen increases up to eight times.” Additionally, Rosenthal shared that
according to a government study, “Vitamin C also reduces melanin
production, which in turn, reduces age spots and pigmentation.”
Vitamin C can be derived form
natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, but it can also be made synthetically.
Rosenthal revealed, “Many expensive serums contain the cheapest, least
effective form of vitamin C, ascorbic acid, which are largely man-made in a
laboratory. That is why using a plant oil will always be superior, because
natural vitamin C will be vastly more effective.”
Rosenthal also told me that
not all vitamin C is created equally. “Some vitamin C serums have claims
to contain these natural plant oils, like sea buckthorn oil which contains a
vitamin C content 12 times higher than oranges, but that does not compare
to goji berry seed oil, which contains 500 times more vitamin C than found in
oranges. And secondly, if the serum’s ingredients do not state what percentage
of sea buckthorn oil it contains, you could be applying a filler of 90 percent
sunflower oil to your face!”
Natural
doesn’t always mean vegan


bunny

Many people believe natural
products are vegan, but that is untrue. Something can only called vegan if it
contains no animal or animal-derived ingredients. But making sure you are using
vegan products is not as cut and dry as it sounds. This is because there are
some natural ingredients that can come from both vegan and non-vegan
sources. 
An example of this is
squalane. Squalane is a chemical compound naturally found in the human body. It
helps us retain moisture, but unfortunately as we age our body makes less and
less of it. However, there are several sources of squalane that are used in
skincare products, such as shark liver. While shark livers are natural, they
aren’t vegan. Luckily, there are vegan and way more sustainable sources of
squalane such as sugarcane.
Some more potentially animal
derived ingredients commonly found in skincare products and cosmetics include
allantoin, amino acids, albumen, beeswax, biotin, carmine, castor, emu oil,
honey, hyaluronic acid, lanolin, glycerin, royal jelly, and snails.
Additionally, any product that says there are “naturally derived
ingredients” on the label can contain non-vegan ingredients. 
Natural
products aren’t necessarily a better choice


natural products

While many people think
natural is best, it can depend on both the person and product. For example,
according to Christophe Merville, who is the director of education and pharmacy
at Boiron USA, herbs are natural, but they can be problematic for some people.
He told me, “Herbs are usually concentrated extracts that could
trigger side effects or counter indications.”
Furthermore, due to a lack of
labeling standards, natural products can contain ingredients that can be
irritating to any number of people. We can avoid this buy understanding what
the ingredients listed on the label really do. If a “natural” product
has ingredients with side affects or can potentially cause an allergic
reaction, it is not necessarily the best choice for an individual.
Products
labeled homeopathic aren’t necessarily natural


homeopathic medicine

Enter any health food store
and you will find plenty of products labeled homeopathic, but that doesn’t
necessarily mean they are natural products. According to Merville, “Homeopathy
is a 200-year old therapeutic method that is based on a series of observation
and empirical knowledge and uses the principle of similars. A homeopathic
preparation of a substance will relieve symptoms similar to the ones caused by
the same substance in high doses.” Merville also revealed,
“Homeopathic medicines are prepared from raw materials (plants, minerals,
metals, animal parts, microbiological cultures) that are usually highly
diluted, but not always.”
Merville thinks consumer
perception can be blamed for this misunderstanding. “Homeopathy is
perceived as a ‘natural’ medicine, not just because of the raw materials that
make up its active ingredients, but because it seems to stimulate the natural
(i.e., physiological) reactions of the organism to heal itself, rather that
counter acting or suppressing symptoms.”
He also explained that
although herbs are unregulated, homeopathic medicines are still drugs and the
FDA regulates them as so. “Homeopathic medicines are defined as drugs and
regulated as such. They undergo more quality controls than dietary supplements
and must be labeled with clear indications.”
SOURCE:
THE LIST
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.