I've got nothing against natural. Some of my best friends are natural. However, I’ve noticed that many otherwise intelligent people become instantly and astoundingly idiotic at the mere mention of natural beauty products.
Something about the vague concept of “natural” makes a lot of people say sanctimoniously stupid things. I don’t know if it’s willful ignorance, denial, or a genuine lack of comprehension, but there seems to be widespread derpiness about natural beauty products, and a collective laziness towards understanding them.
Well, I’m volunteering to absorb the wrath of natural-product apologists if it means a few people will stop saying naïve and altogether incorrect sentences, like some of the ones I’ve heard recently that make it hard for me to pry my palm from my face.
While we were preparing for the launch of xoVain, a coworker in another department told me about a Dead Sea skincare line he swears by because “It’s all-natural; I love that it doesn’t have any chemicals.”
The only class I failed in high school was honors chemistry, but even I know that "chemical" is not the opposite of "natural." Everything is made of chemicals. All natural things are made of chemicals. Water is a chemical substance. You come out of your mother’s chemical-composed vagina made up of adorable baby chemicals. Check out this alphabetical list of natural chemicals, which is not an oxymoron.
When you say you don’t want to use a product with chemicals, you probably mean you don’t want to use a product with toxic, carcinogenic ingredients, which is totally understandable. But you can’t avoid products with chemicals, because every damn thing is made of chemicals.
One of my dearest, oldest friends, who I am much more reluctant to call out in an article than a new coworker, is all about natural, and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard her say the infuriating words “Natural is just better for you” as a defense of or argument for using natural personal-care products. But just because something is natural does not mean it’s more effective, and it definitely doesn’t mean it’s safe.
Perhaps you’ve heard of poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac—and those are the ones that wear their poisonousness like a pageant sash. There are hundreds of natural things that will less obviously hurt or kill you.
Even the essential oils that so many brands tout as a reason to buy their products can make you break out in hives while closing up your throat. Studies (those things by people who do actual research before forming opinions) have shown that they can seriously eff you up by causing an allergic reaction. Lavender will cut a bitch.
You can’t judge a product’s harmlessness by the amount of natural ingredients in it, nor can you write something off as bad-for-you just because there are artificial components.
Still insist on using only natural beauty products despite my riveting argument that they’re not necessarily better? Fine. But please don’t do what I witnessed at Sephora last week: an employee recommended a product to a shopper, and the shopper, examining the container, said, “Is it natural?”
Even if the name of the product is Dr. Natural’s Natural Naturalness, there’s no guarantee that it’s actually natural. A manufacturer can plop a droplet of tea tree oil into a jar of dimethicone and put "NATURAL!" on the label in green Papyrus font, and the FDA will just shrug. On their own website, fda.gov, they state that the “FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives.”
Basically, if you don’t have time to research each ingredient to determine if meets your standard of naturalness, you’ll have to decide how much you trust the brand and its claims.
Did I mention that I recently saw the term chemical-free on a high-end “natural” product? So good luck with that.