Everyone's definition of "natural" is different, however, According to the FDA there is no true definition of "natural". Therefore, using this term is by no means legal. Take the extra precautions to protect your products and brand by using the correct terminology.
What does it mean when a cosmetic is labelled "Natural "?
What constitutes a "natural" product to one person may not be "natural" at all to someone else. There is no accepted definition of the term "natural" according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All skincare ingredients are chemicals by definition. And, "derived" ingredients are unnatural both because they are extracted from an original (natural) substance and because the method of derivation is generally chemical and performed in a laboratory.
Why is "Natural Skincare" such a big deal anyway?
There is considerable market value in promoting natural skin care cosmetic products to consumers, but dermatologists say it has very little medical meaning and the FDA states the claim has no legal meaning. The FDA has not defined what “natural” is or how to achieve it. Contrary to popular belief, the FDA does not regulate the sale of skincare and cosmetic products before they are sold. Therefore, anyone can call a product "Natural" regardless of the quantity or quality of "natural" ingredients in the formula. Since the term has no definition nor is it regulated, “natural” holds no value beyond that of a marketing tool.
Use due diligence and be suspicious of labels:
Words like “natural” or “hypoallergenic” look reassuring on a product label, but they’re meaningless for consumers as the FDA has no guidelines for these claims. Products labeled “natural,” for example, may contain some natural ingredients; but they may also include synthetic dyes and fragrances. “Hypoallergenic” merely means that the most common irritants are left out, but other potentially problematic chemicals may still be in the mix. “Fragrance-free” means a product has no perceptible odor—synthetic ingredients may still be added to mask naturally occurring odors.
What recourse do we have when clients demand "natural"?
Be honest about your formula and whether it is indeed naturally derived. Do your research and determine the "value" of the natural ingredients used. Educate your customers so that they understand the benefits of your product. If your formula contains one natural ingredient and the rest are synthetic, you do your customers a disservice by generically advertising the product as "All Natural".
Investing in third party certifications, such as Organic Certification, Vegan Certification or Gluten-Free Certification, adds value to your product line through outside confirmation of your claims. Because certified products are verified by a third party, consumers can be assured that your claims are valid. Although you may not use the official USDA, Vegan or Gluten-Free seals until you become certified, you may still list in your ingredients the organic, vegan or gluten-free raw materials used.
If major corporations are making “natural” claims, why can’t my small business?
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 food and beverage makers, had a panel in February that discussed “natural” claims. Part of the problem is that consumers are looking for healthier products and companies have responded by creating and branding their products as "all natural." Orange juice manufacturer, Tropicana, was recently hit with a series of lawsuits claiming its “100% pure and natural” orange juices are so heavily processed, that the “natural” label is misleading and deceptive. As seen in the Tropicana lawsuit as well as the recent suits brought against Dr. Bronner’s, the Court held that the USDA had jurisdiction over the regulation of the terms “natural” and “organic”. While the USDA rigorously regulates the term “Certified Organic”, it has not shown any indication that it will regulate the term “natural”.
Usage of the terms “natural” and “all natural” are in no way illegal; however, as consumers become more educated, there is a growing movement demanding proof of these claims and companies perceived to be exploiting “natural” are playing a dangerous game likely to end in litigation. Take the extra step to protect your company and brand by utilizing clearly defined terms and third party certifications that put your customers at ease.