In the green beauty community we spend so much time focused on the term "natural", it can be easy to slip back into old habits of taking what we see on the label at face-value. 
It can be exhausting always reading labels, double-checking ingredients and deciphering terms - believe me, I've stood in the shop more than once or twice squinting at the small print on the back of the box, wondering what an ingredient is and what it really does. 
What does "natural" really mean, anyway? 

Well, when it comes to labels, not a whole lot. Marketing terms aren't regulated and companies - green or otherwise - can make whatever claims they like on cosmetic (or food) products with no legal ramifications. 
Often when we make the change to organic beauty we begin to associate or equal natural with safe. In regards to actual ingredients, natural in itself isn't enough. Lead is natural, but it certainly isn't safe to ingest or apply to the skin. Apple seeds are also completely natural, but are an accumulative poison, so you wouldn't want to eat them. 

Another term I've seen a lot of confusion and deception around recently is the term "naturally derived". This term does not mean that an ingredient is organic, natural or safe. In a sense, every substance in existence is naturally-derived. Petrol is naturally-derived. Paint is naturally-derived. Parabens (a preservative, with studies showing strong links to endrocrine disruption and possible links to breast cancer) also make the claim of being naturally-derived, with a natural version found in minute amounts in certain fruits. 
We are incapable of creating something from nothing and so everything we have - organic or synthetic - originated from the earth and from an organic source, therefore, is derived from nature. An ingredient may have been altered numerous times, processed, the chemical structure changed but it can still claim to be naturally-derived. 

The problem with naturally derived ingredients is they are no longer in their natural state, and may not be in a state safe for use, or applied in the same manner if it were in it's natural form. Take the berries and parabens, for example. Whilst there have been many claims that parabens are natural and found in "many fruit and vegetables", the truth is quite a different story. A tiny percentage of naturally-occurring parabens were found in organic acids of Cloudberries in one study. I also doubt anyone would consume the amount of cloudberries daily to equal the amount of synthetic parabens applied/consumed in cosmetics, personal care products, food and household cleaning products. 

Yes, there are plants in nature that will alter hormone levels - I recall a story from a chicken-rearing book of a rooster that began nesting and behaving like a hen after consuming too much of a high-estrogen plant.

The difference is that we don't then take that plant and use it as a preservative in many, many products that we use, consume and are exposed to daily. 

You'd be considered quite mad. Yet, it's "safe" if the endrocrine-disrupting substance was created in a lab by scientists (and not nature) and approved by the regulating body? Yeah, I think I'll pass.

So, what can you do? 

Sorry to tell you this, but research is always going to be key, so that you can make informed decisions about what you are and aren't comfortable with, without having to rely on brands or yes, even bloggers, to tell you what is "safe". 

My biggest tip is to find brands that meet your standards. Once you've checked up on them, you'll be confident in the knowledge that what you are purchasing is safe, and you can relax a little on that label-reading. 

You can find a list of MJ-approved brands here

Look for organic certification, wild-crafted ingredients or ingredients in their whole and wholly natural form. If you don't know what an ingredient is, or it's purpose, ask! Good brands will be more than willing to explain to you their ingredient sources, purposes and safety. 

Other Tips

I keep a basic list on hand for what I avoid. You can download a handy quick-reference here to print and keep in your purse for when shopping. Alcohol is included on the list, as a general rule of thumb, however, not all alcohols are bad (drying, ageing) for the skin. Organic grain alcohols are fine, as are long-chain fatty acids alcohols which dry/evaporate at a much slower rate. These are usually included as preservatives. I've also included Fragrance/Parfum on the list - avoid all unless denoted as organic or natural. 

You can also check out my quick-reference list of ingredients to avoid (and bookmark for online shopping). For research, start with the websites I love and go from there. 

Do you have any tips to share? If you've got any questions leave them below or pop on over to instagram and we can chat!

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