naturalista (or not), the myth of “natural products” and what you should know…

I love the blog Black Girl Long Hair. In this post, she breaks it down to the very last compound {literally.. a scientist wrote this piece}.

As a scientist, I am actually very liberal with the word natural and my view is that everything has a natural origin. However, I am deeply aware that for most consumers when purchasing a product from a company using the words for curly hair, botanical, natural or organic, there is an expectation of many natural unadulterated ingredients.

However I would urge you not to trust labels as they are often about marketing rather than genuine differences. In this article, I am taking many firm natural favorites to task. This does NOT mean that they are not good products or do not work well. My aim is to get us all to question what is the definition of natural and does it really matter or do certain products just work well because of their key ingredients?

Consumer Trickery – Listing extracts first

I really deeply dislike it when extracts, which typically are not more than 1% in content within the product are listed at the top. I have learned to completely ignore the extract list and just read it as water. Many extracts are leaf, bark and fruit-based and if they were present in high amounts, you should expect the product to have a green or brown tinge to it but often hair products are in the white to cream spectrum. Many companies list extracts first as they give the product a perception of being more natural – it is much more attractive to read ‘organic peppermint extract, organic chamomile’ than it is to read ‘C14-C16 olefin sulfonate’ yet it is the latter that is actually the key ingredient and that you should really know about to assess whether the product works.

Examples of products that list extracts predominantly – Aveda (generally across the range), Kinky Curly Knot Today, Jessicurl Deep Treatment (website makes an effort to list extracts below the full ingredient list but the label on the product itself has the extracts listed first), older versions of Trader Joe Nourish Spa shampoos.

Not fully listing ingredients

Repeat after me – Water must always be the first ingredient in a water based conditioner – let this be your mantra. Ages ago now, a reader wrote to me to say how Aubrey Organics Honeysuckle Rose was a very concentrated conditioner without water which was wholly wrong in my opinion. I then went into investigation mode and found that the company was using coconut fatty base as an ingredient which ended up being made up of several ingredients including the missing water at the top of the list and even alcohol when the company changed the label to comply with listing regulations. Some people thought this was a formulation change but it was not at all, they just expanded ‘coconut fatty base’ into the individual ingredients. Another recent example that I have found is Kinky Curly Knot Today where the ingredient list excludes water and makes you believe that the greatest component are extracts. It makes me wonder, what really is in the product?

What you can do: Learn to Read Labels

Here are the key notes to reading ingredients labels especially for water based products:

-Water must be first
-Delete all extracts that appear in the top 5
-Delete all flowery descriptions (e.g coconut derived/organic etc)
-Pay attention to the top 5 Ingredients (read the rest later if you are avoiding certain ingredients or are sensitive)

read more..


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