What Makes Beauty Products Natural

Discover the true meaning of the word "natural" in beauty products. We delve into the use of plant-based and gentle ingredients, exploring how they differ from harsh chemicals found in regular products.

January 12, 2024


When a beauty product claims to be ‘natural’, this generally means it was formulated with natural ingredients, as opposed to materials that are chemically or synthetically manufactured. These ingredients are commonly plant-based, sometimes animal-based, and are more gentle on the skin than the harsh chemicals commonly present in regular beauty products.

Defining Natural

However, I say ‘claim to be natural’ because this terminology is not regulated in the cosmetic industry, so there’s little oversight over its use. In fact, Biologi notes that “ingredients that are naturally derived can still be chemically treated, which essentially defeats the point”. The specific terms used can help you decipher the degree to which a product is natural. If a label says “made with 100% natural ingredients'', this is a positive indication of the product’s quality. If the label states “contains natural ingredients'', this generally means some, but not all, of the ingredients are natural. Further, a label that says ‘made with naturally derived ingredients’ indicates that these may have been altered chemically and will not necessarily carry the benefits of the natural source.

While this may seem a little tricky to navigate, there are some terms you can look for that often go hand-in-hand with natural products.

Common Terms


Organic products are grown/produced without the use of chemical fertilisers, antibiotics, pesticides or GMOs, making them safer to use and less likely to cause irritation. A certified organic product or ingredient must undergo rigorous assessment and testing before it can be labelled as such. If you see an organic certification seal, it’s a good indication that the product is ‘natural’. However, the reverse is not true; if a product is labelled ‘natural’, this does not mean it’s organic.


According to Harper’s Bazaar, “‘non-toxic’ means that a product shouldn’t include any ingredient that’s been deemed toxic at any dose by a third-party resource”. This term is often used in conjunction with ‘natural’, as natural ingredients are generally safe. Natural cosmetic products are usually made with non-toxic ingredients to avoid the irritation harsh chemicals can incur.


Broadsheet defines a ‘clean’ product as being “free from irritating synthetic (and potentially harmful) ingredients”. This includes elements like fragrances, colours, and specific ingredients like sulphates, parabens, silicones and preservatives. Usually, natural ingredients are used in their place. However, the term ‘clean’, like ‘natural’, has little regulation and can be used in marketing without oversight.

Why Natural Over Synthetic?

So why the hype over natural products? Put simply, they’re better for you and better for the environment. 

The skin is our body's largest organ, acting as a sponge, interacting with the environment, and protecting us. It also absorbs 60% of what we put on it, so it’s worth being aware of what’s really in those bottles. The harsh chemicals in your average beauty product can cause irritation, redness, and soreness, and some can even be carcinogenic. The natural skincare movement prioritises and promotes natural and sustainably-sourced ingredients. These are more gentle on the skin, giving you the nourishing, cleansing benefits without the ‘nasties’. Natural skincare works toward equilibrium, regulating the skin’s oil production and restoring a healthy moisture and pH level. 

In terms of the environmental impact, many of the chemicals in cosmetics go down the drain and negatively impact soil quality and marine life. Slice notes that many organic and clean beauty products use natural ingredients and also “prioritise sustainable and eco-friendly production” in both the products and packaging. Additionally, many ‘natural’, organic or clean products are also cruelty-free, meaning they do not test on animals.

Common Natural Ingredients

Natural ingredients have tons of benefits - they’re gentle, moisturising, cleansing, balancing, brightening, softening and soothing. Some common natural ingredients included in beauty products include:

Coconut oil
Tea tree oil
Shea butter
Jojoba oil
Avocado Oil 
Rosehip oil
Hemp Seed Oil 
Green tea
Vitamin E
Vitamin C
Argan oil
Bentonite Clay 
Aloe Vera

Is the investment worth it?

So if you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth investing in a natural product over a ‘regular’ one, the answer is yes! But be sure to check the label and ensure the product is truly natural so you’re investing in products that are kind to you, and the environment.