To make sure a natural ingredient is truly sustainable, brands need to consider a few criteria: the actual harvesting and planting methods, the sourcing, and the labor and ethics involved. It’s a tall order and every ingredient (natural or synthetic) may not make the cut.
Let’s start with harvesting and planting: “You can have something that is natural and even has a really good safety profile, but it can be grown or created in a way that isn’t sustainable,” said Mia Davis, vice president of sustainability and impact at Credo. Perhaps the most famous example is palm oil; in terms of skin safety, it is generally well tolerated and therefore popular in many personal care products, but palm planting and harvesting can wreak havoc on surrounding ecosystems. “It’s often planted in plantation-style farms,” Davis says. “So [people] get rid of all those beautiful native plants that are necessary for a healthy ecosystem and plant palm.” Because consumer demand is so high (you can find it in almost half of all packaged products), we create these monocultures that reduce the natural biodiversity of the forests.
Some natural ingredients also take up a large amount of natural resources during the harvesting or extraction process. Take “thirsty crops” for example: “Certain crops in the world require an insane amount of water to grow,” says clean cosmetic chemist Krupa Koestline. “Sugarcane, rice and soy are classified as thirsty crops.” Pure vanilla bean is also known to require a lot of water to grow and extract – according to the Water Footprint Network, it can take up to 126,505 liters of water (about 33,000 gallons) to produce 1 kilogram of vanilla beans.
And to produce an ingredient on such a large (sometimes global) scale, brands need a lot of the plant to meet demand. This is often the case with natural fragrances: “It can take 50 roses to make a single drop of rose essential oil,” board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, told a recent TikTok, so imagine how many roses it would take to make a whole sweet-smelling face cream — let alone hundreds to spread across the country. Not to mention that some fruit essential oils, namely citrus, are way too strong for the skin (remember, our clean beauty philosophy emphasizes safe ingredients for your skin and the planet).
This post Why Green Beauty Doesn’t Always Mean All-Natural was original published at “https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/green-beauty-doesnt-always-mean-all-natural”