A new report says that 100 percent organic beauty formulations may be reaching the end of their shelf life. So what’s behind this nu-natural way of thinking? Julie Vuong reports
A new report says that 100 per cent organic beauty formulations may be reaching the end of their shelf life. So what’s behind this nu-natural way of thinking? Julie Vuong reports
According to some experts, in a bid to buy our beauty products ethically we have unwittingly championed purity over performance. As a consequence of our keenness to go green, the thinking process behind our consumer choices has altered, seemingly to the extent where efficacy is a mere afterthought. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology even found that people are buying into green products for their perceived social status.
Nowadays we’re taught the importance of buying into the most ethical brands; we’re growing into a nation of discerning shoppers alert to all the right eco labels. It’s why a seal of approval from the likes of the Soil Association, EcoCert and USDA Organic has the power to persuade us to pick one skincare cleanser over its non-certified neighbour. Yet, if a new report from Mintel is to be believed, the importance of going 100 per cent organic is about to change. In light of these findings, we’re set to tune into a nu-natural concept, which is ‘a new vision of natural that is less focused on certification and more focused on results, efficiency and safety’, as Nica Lewis from the consumer trends watchdog Mintel Beauty Innovation confirms.
She claims we will see a shift in thinking where ‘free from’ and ‘sustainable’ appear in products that simultaneously contain synthetic actives like peptides, hyaluronic acid, ceramides or collagen.
The rise in nu-natural represents a step away from wholly organic products being the last word. Supporters of this trend say it has been fuelled by a growing confusion of natural and organic in the beauty aisles, claiming that we’re finding it difficult to distinguish all-natural and organic products from those that only contain extracts. Additionally, an American study reveals that almost half of adults believe that natural and organic toiletries are better for the environment but there is little awareness of provenance or of the amount of freight milesthat the ingredients have travelled to reach the bathroom cabinet.
The rise in nu-natural represents a step away from wholly organic beauty products
Another factor behind nu-natural’s rise is a more relaxed approach to certification, with growing numbers of skincare companies seeking alternative non-certified options. Understandably, many people will ask if this fresh approach to beautywill damage the very communities and environment we have been so mindful to protect. Not so, say nu-natural backers: it’s a win-win situation all round. Geraldine Howard, founder of one of the UK’s pioneering natural ranges Aromatherapy Associates spells it out. “For many people, using organic is an understandable lifestyle choice,” she acknowledges, “but it’s important to appreciate that a product doesn’t have to be 100 per cent organically certified for it to be totally natural and ethically produced. Just because an oil has organic certification, does not necessarily guarantee effectiveness and we do not think it’s necessary to compromise the results of the product in order to become an 100 per cent organic brand.”
Accordingly, beauty products will evolve from today’s trend towards organic ingredients and start to revisit attributes like authenticity, provenance and local production. Right down to the product’s formulas, they will seek creative new ways to merge science, nature and sustainability for better results.
Market forecaster Euromonitor claims an evolved ‘360’ approach to beauty will be the Holy Grail where the winners will be products with a ‘story’ to tell; those that combine sustainability with generosity in their products to allow us to donate to worthy causes; and local heroes that inject a regional feel into their wares and products to resonate with local demands.
Noella Gabriel, of skincare brand Elemis, agrees. “As a company, we strive to make cleaner products by sourcing actives that are ‘skin-kind’ and deliver product performance and still create a wow factor that people want,” she says.
Look closely and you will find many mainstream beauty brands are already marrying science with sustainability. Sisley is a champion of phytocosmetology, which harnesses the natural power of plants with a real scientific edge, understanding the compositions and knowledge of active molecules with efficacy.
It’s true that this advice conflicts with our generally accepted idea of the need for regulation. But as Howard empahises, being non-certified can still be an ethical choice. “We source our wildcrafted frankincense from Somalia,” she explains, “it doesn’t have organic certification, but is produced without chemicals, and we believe it is the highest qualityfrankincense in the world. It is very difficult for many growers to get organic certification and we would not want to stop using our long-standing suppliers (who farm according to traditional methods, without chemicals) simply because they were not certified.”
Likewise, even the staunchest organic supporters believe that efficacy should be a priority and have gone in search of honest ingredients that do the job. Denise Leicester, director of organic beauty line Ila and founder of The Beyond Organic Foundation is a champion of certification but also believes performance shouldn’t be a secondary concern. “The Soil Association certifies a certain rose oil from Bulgaria but it has very high levels of a naturally occurring chemical-meaning only minute amounts can be used, so it effectively has no therapeutic value at all.”
She adds that to get real results from our skincare products, looking exclusively for certification may not be the answer. “This forced me to find my own source – a pure essential oil without any chemicals, which I found in India. They produce everything using ancient farming methods that work in harmony with the earth.”
Swot up on the latest scientific skincare ingredients with Lesley Saville of Dermalogica, who gives us an insight into the ones to watch
Try these ethically-sourced yet results-driven solutions
1. Don’t write off non-certified brands
Even if they aren’t certified by an organic body, brands can still be positively contributing to eco-projects, reducing their carbon footprint, and sourcing their ingredients with careful and sustainable methods. Log onto the company website and check out their ethical credentials.
2. Understand what’s really inside your products
There are three types of organic labels you should understand: generally speaking ‘100 per cent organic’ represent products containing 100 per cent organically produced ingredients; ‘organic’ means the product contains at least 95 per cent organic ingredients; and ‘made with organic ingredients’, reveals product content is less than 95 per cent organic ingredients.
3. Go local!
Beauty is following in the footsteps of the organic food trade in which farmers’ markets and community events are fertile grounds for local champions, who understand the regional nuances. Buying into local companies helps us minimise the ecological impact of our purchases and gives us a sense of authenticity too. Remember, even non-certified companies qualify!
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