Is _________ natural?

This is a pretty hard question to answer as, chances are, if you’re asking me, there’s no straight answer. I’ve yet to have anyone ask me if coconut oil or beeswax is natural! The ingredients this typically pertains to is stuff with more “chemically” sounding names—surfactants, emulsifiers, that sort of thing.

Generally speaking, I really don’t like this question. Knowing if something is “natural” or something tells you absolutely nothing about the ingredient. Arsenic and botulism are perfectly natural; knowing that doesn’t mean I’d put it in my skin care concoctions!

Better questions are “is this ingredient safe to use in the recommended amounts?”, or even “is this ingredient responsibly sourced and environmentally sustainable?”. Please do that research yourself. Cosmetics Info is a great database; the EWG’s Skin Deep Database is not. I’ve written a post on how to evaluate sources to help prevent you falling into the fear-mongering wormhole that can be the internet.

Remember: the dose makes the poison. Water and oxygen are dangerous in high enough quantities, so if you are reading about how X ingredient makes rats sick when they eat 10x their body weight of it… is that relevant for an ingredient you’ll be applying topically at 0.5%? Likely not. The dosage is WAY lower, the use method is entirely different, and also—you are not a rat.

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether you decide something is “natural”, and whether you’ll use it. Generally speaking, you can make an argument for most things being natural as everything is made from something that occurs naturally on our planet—you just might be a bit particular about how much intervention is required to produce an end product. Even plastic is made from dead dinosaurs and really old plants (to put it very simply), and that sounds pretty natural when you put it that way.

However, if you decide not to use something purely based off of your determination of its “natural-ness”, I can’t promise to offer much in the way of useful alternative ingredients. You may simply be out of luck for that recipe, or even entire categories of recipes.

Here’s some more reading:

Happy making!

Posted in: Ingredients