What are actually natural cosmetics?

We love nature. We escape to the countryside from the hustle and bustle. Nature is an exhaustible source of inspiration for us and the most popular resource of amazing ingredients for our cosmetic products. Well, what are actually natural cosmetics? Is “natural” composition of cosmetic products always the best option? An engaging interview with dr. Josef Novák, a nestor of Czech cosmetology who was our production manager for many years and who has been collaborating with our development team as a consultant and a professional trainer after his retirement will answer tricky questions and disclose much more interesting information.

What are actually natural cosmetics? How should we interpret them?

This is a very difficult question at the beginning. Unlike foodstuffs, there are no rules in the EU about what cosmetics need to comply with in order to bear denomination “organic” or “natural”. Every manufacturer can define their own rules about which products will be denominated “natural” or “organic”.

So, there are no clear rules in the world, or at least in the EU?

When large manufacturers started to promote the concept of natural cosmetics in 1990s, many companies came up with their own certificates and their own rules. Some of them very quite grotesque, e.g. cosmetics containing at least 80% of natural substances complied with the principles of a certificate of Nature. However, water was considered a natural substance too within this certification. So, basically every product met these conditions.

Several companies the certificates of which are used today have emerged during the last years. Namely, German BDIH, controlled natural cosmetics, or French Ekocert. Czech certification of CPK, certifikovaná přírodní kosmetika (certified natural cosmetics), is based on Ekocert.

What are the main principles of such cosmetic certification?

I think the most important is a list of materials that cosmetic products cannot include. They are particularly petroleum products, i.e. white mineral oil and petroleum jelly. Next, it deals of silicones, synthetic colouring matter, synthetic scents and most preservatives. Synthetic UV filters and many tensides, i.e. substances that should lather and remove dirt, are unacceptable as well.

Can we say that certified cosmetics are always better and more beneficial than non-certified ones?

Definitely not. I perceive the whole concept as marketing rather than scientific. By surfing the net you can quickly find out that part of society considers the adjective natural as confirmation that such a substance is always beneficial and can never do any harm. But nature includes also death cap mushroom or herb paris, viper, mamba, curare, ergot, Ebola and others where we can really doubt about their benefits to human health.

I think that nowadays it is a good job to scare people by saying them what terrible stuff they eat or drink, or what cosmetics they use. A letter of a caring mother whose teenage kid fancied lavender shower gel is a good example. She learned from the label that the gel contained blue colouring and from the net that it could cause hyperactivity in children. She had the feeling that her kid was too hyperactive. This colouring is authorised in the food industry, it has been tested many times and it is represented only in ten thousandths of a percent in products. We consulted the strictest world food regulations and we could assure the mother that her child would have to drink 230 litres of the shower gel every day to reach the authorized limit of the colouring.

Another problem is e.g. prohibition of use of synthetic scents. It sounds good that certified cosmetics could be scented only by natural means, i.e. essential oils. However, they have a high allergenic potential and it is basically impossible to manufacture cosmetics that would smell good and not contain proven allergens at the same time. Also preservation only by means of authorized natural substances does not have to be sufficient in many cases. There is a risk of growth of moulds, yeast or bacteria (for which most cosmetic products are perfect food) and such products could be very dangerous to our health.

When selecting cosmetics it should be essential how substances are composed, whether substances and their combinations are efficient and particularly whether they are safe to our skin and the whole body. Some natural cosmetics should be included in cosmetics products, but some cannot be applied to skin at all.

And how about chemistry in cosmetics?

According to one extreme view chemistry is not part of cosmetics and only natural resources without chemical treatment are correct. However, in this case it would deal only of natural oils or extracts. They are great materials but they are included only in a tiny part of cosmetic products. In all other applications, i.e. cleansing, washing, etc. – chemistry is irreplaceable.

The second extreme view says that chemistry is everything around us. If a “natural” consumer, i.e. chemistry objector, knew chemical names of the materials he considers correct, he would not only stop using cosmetics but he would starve to death. When you look at the composition of e.g. a completely natural bilberry that you can pick at clearing in the cleanest forest, you discover twenty one E numbers plus 3-methylbutyraldehyde, butylated hydroxytoluene or methyl parahydroxybenzoate. The correct name of panthenol – nobody doubts about its amazing effect in cosmetic industry and foodstuffs - is (2R)-2,4-dihydroxy-N-(3-hydroxypropyl)-3,3-dimethylbutanamide.

How about use of natural substances in Manufaktura products?

All our products contain the largest possible amount of natural ingredients; every range includes both natural oils and extracts and their combinations as active substances. Part of our products would comply with certification but this is not our priority. The most important for us is caring and protective effect of our products on consumers and environment. We strive to respect the principles of sustainable development, so we use local materials. We prefer to use beer, oat beta-glucan or daisy oil extract over importing ginseng halfway across the world. We reduce the quantities of packaging, we use plastic containers with maximum portion of recycled material, even though the containers are uglier and more expensive. We resist offers of cheap production outside our country, especially in Asia, and we manufacture in Bohemia. We prefer local origin – our containers are made in South Bohemia and boxes in Czech printing houses.

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