Dr. Riccardo Matera
The consumer increasingly requests that a cosmetic reflects the naturalness requirements.
Generally, natural cosmetics contain ingredients of vegetable origin while they do not include substances such as silicones, petrolatum, mineral oils, polymers and synthetic preservatives.
How do we get to the bottom of the ingredient list?
The analysis of the ingredients or better of INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) is not really in the public domain, but the answer to our questions always remains.
In this article we give you some advice to be able to read a label of a cosmetic product especially if we want to distinguish a traditional product from a natural one or even more organic.
We offer you an excerpt of one of our interviews with the cosmetologist Mara Alvaro of Cosmesidoc in which we clarify some important questions:
What are the useful indications on the label that allow you to understand if a cosmetic contains substances of natural origin or not?
All natural ingredients (waxes, vegetable oils, botanical extracts, essential oils) are described with the scientific name in Latin and with the English wording in brackets: for example Citrus medica limonum (Lemon) Peel Oil represents the essential oil of Lemon as well as the most common vegetable oils are easily recognizable especially by the English name for example. Almond, Jojoba, Avocado, Sunflower etc.
The structural products of a cosmetic (surfactants, emulsifiers, etc.) of natural derivation are generally described by elements that refer to the natural products from which they come, for example. coco-glucoside derivatives between glucose and coconut oil, glyceryl stearate citrate: glycerine derivatives between stearic and citric acid etc.
The petrochemical-based surfactants, on the other hand, are for example the famous SLES and SLS i.e. sulphate products such as Sodium laureth sulfate (recognizable by the suffix –eth which indicates a chemical reaction of ethoxylation) or non-ethoxylated as Sodium lauryl sulfate.
The most common rheological modifiers of natural origin are xanthan gums, carrageenans, cellulose of natural derivation, identifiable in INCI by the words Xanthan gum, Carrageenan, Cellulose and so on, which replace the most different acrylate-based polymers such as acrylates copolymer used in formulations not natural.
In shampoos, shower gel and green detergents, the silicones identifiable by INCI wordings with the suffixes -thicone, -xiloxane, for example cyclopentasiloxane, dimethicone are absent. Ingredients of petroleum origin such as mineral oils, paraffin (paraffinum liquidum) are absent in natural cosmetics and should not be present in green formulations.
Synthetic preservatives, formaldehyde cessors (e.g. Methylisothiazolinone, Imidazolidinyl urea) and parabens (Methylparaben and the like) should generally be absent in natural cosmetic formulas, where instead preservatives such as Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate, Benzyl Alcohol are used, synthetic products, but admitted by certification bodies for organic and natural products.
Furthermore, many ingredients can have both synthetic and natural derivations. The presence in formula of a derivative of natural origin can be accurately highlighted in INCI since they are obtained with greener production methods. Note the wording pentylene glycol of natural origin.
Sometimes the label reads “100% natural cosmetic”. Is it possible to have a cosmetic with such characteristics?
Natural cosmetics are complex mixtures of natural raw materials generally reworked, but few products can really be 100% formulated with entirely vegetable ingredients if some massage oils and body oils are excluded. But natural cosmetics don’t stop with oils! The different types of natural cosmetics include: creams, lotions, gels, serums and detergents.
Most of the structural raw materials of these products (e.g. emulsifiers, surfactants, rheological modifiers, etc.) are substances obtained by physical or chemical modification. The European regulations on natural cosmetic productions allow a series of ingredients that have different specifications in terms of “naturalness”. For brevity we distinguish three classes of ingredients allowed in natural cosmetics:
- The natural ingredients are substances of vegetable, inorganic origin and their mixtures obtained and processed with physical extraction procedures.
- Natural-identical substances found in nature, but synthesized with simple transformation methods.
- Natural-like substances of natural derivation are modified with chemical processes that do not leave toxic waste and contaminants.
All cosmetic products (not only natural ones) comply with European regulations. The national association of cosmetic companies Cosmetica Italia, provides useful information for the protection of consumer health. In addition, the ABC cosmetics website – developed for a greater awareness of the world of cosmetics – provides useful information about it and we often recommend it in case of doubts or questions.
Do you want to know more about organic cosmetics?
Read the following article Why can’t cosmetics be 100% organic?