When asked by clients or marketers to develop a 100% “natural” product, a product development chemist might experience some angst – and for good reason. The first task would be to ensure that there is a mutual understanding of what exactly is meant by “natural.”
Since the Food and Drug Administration and other governmental agencies have not defined “natural” for personal care products, various industry associations have implemented standards to guide formulation efforts in supporting such concepts. For example, the Natural Products Association (NPA) has put forward guidelines that are used in determining whether a product can be deemed truly natural. According to their standards, “natural” ingredients are defined as follows:
“Ingredients that come or are made from a renewable resource found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral) with absolutely no petroleum compounds.”
The NPA’s certification standards also contain guidelines for the use of synthetic non-natural ingredients, which can be included in products labeled as natural, specifying what is allowed and at what percentage of the total formula. The personal care chemist is well aware of these and other standards as they have been widely discussed and documented in various industry forums.
However, there is an apparent disconnect between how the industry defines “natural” and what the average consumer/client considers to be “natural.” In discussing a brief with a client, it’s not unusual to discover that they equate “natural” with “not chemical” or not “chemical-sounding.” Such a mindset could have been shaped by advertising (mostly in the food industry), which implied that if an ingredient on the label was too difficult to pronounce, it was not natural and therefore not good for you. This is a scenario that presents a clear dilemma for development chemists in the personal care industry who are tasked with formulating natural products.
A keyword search in Prospector for “natural surfactants (EU)” would reveal several product options that meet the industry standards for “natural” but have INCI names that might not be reassuring to the skeptical client in search of a 100% “all-natural” product. Check out these examples:
Amilite® ET-CS-12 – anionic surfactant (EU)
INCI: Disodium Cocoyl Glutamate (and) Sodium Cocoyl Glutamate (and) Sodium Threoninate (and) Water
Origin: Vegetable-based, derived from coconut oil and amino acids.
The moral of the story? The natural heritage of these and similar products should be emphasized when discussing their suitability for use in support of a natural-based concept – an approach that could help gain the client’s confidence and support for the proposed formulation approach.
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