The Pink Sheet
Drinking the Natural Koolaid
Jul 11, 2017
It sneaks up on you, this all-encompassing need for natural products. I have always been a natural shopper when it came to my food – choosing organic, then locally-sourced, then cruelty-free and finally non-GMO for the food I choose to eat. Around the time I got pregnant with my first baby, I began looking more closely at the ingredients in my skincare. Suddenly my Neutrogena Healthy Skin* with Retinol didn’t sound all that amazing when I read the pregnancy and breastfeeding warnings related to retinoids in skincare.
The day I discovered the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database, it was all over for me. I was stuck in a world between my natural needs and my skincare realities. I was shocked to realize that brands that seemed to be natural were actually chock full of questionable synthetic chemicals. At the very least, quality brands that were aiming right for conscious consumers like me with a veiled marketing vibe of being “natural” like Aveda*, Origins*, Kiehls, L’Occitane, Lush, Burt’s Bees, etc., were not entirely and in some cases not even close to being natural. Right or wrong, I was starting to feel rather cheated.
I set off on a quest to find natural replacements for my favorite products. And that’s when I noticed two things: 1. the natural products I was buying from my local health food store didn’t seem to do anything for my skin over time. 2. the natural products like Dr. Hauschka, that seemed to promise actual department-store-beauty level of skin activity, were way outside of my tax bracket. Seventy dollars for a one ounce tube of eye cream? Not in my budget, sadly. I was running out of options. And then I realized that I wasn’t alone. I was only one woman in a small army of people who shopped at Whole Foods Market, Erewhon, or the local natural co-op or farmer’s market, but still secretly bought my beauty products at Nordstrom, at Saks, at Macy’s – all the while feeling a bit icky about the chemicals I was putting on my skin.
The truth is, the search for natural skincare can too easily become an obsession. It can feel as debilitating and neurotic as any eating disorder. There are lots of synthetic chemicals that do wonders for your complexion and have been used safely for decades. There are also loads of natural ingredients that have a high likelihood of triggering an allergic reaction, sun sensitivity, or a variety of other adverse effects.
But the broader reality is that of the thousands of synthetic ingredients used in the mainstream skincare industry, most started out as industrial chemicals, never created nor intended to be used on the human body. Very few have been proven to be safe for use in that capacity. In the US, the legal burden is on the individual consumer to prove that a chemical is unsafe, not on the manufacturer to prove that it is safe. So, where possible, I have learned to choose well-established natural ingredients from documented organic sources sold by highly reliable and ethical global suppliers. It is an absolute priority in any products that we manufacture at Kensington Apothecary.
Do I use the occasional product that uses safe synthetics when filling in my hygiene needs from other manufacturers? Absolutely. I am a realist, not an alarmist. But my team and I are also hard at work formulating amazing new products using our exacting standards of 100% clean, 100% natural ingredients. As I write this, we are coming up with eye serums, deodorants, mouth rinses, hair products, sunscreens and more. We are doing all of this because, at the end of the day, the truth is I drink the Natural KoolaidTM. If you are still here and have read this far, perhaps you do too.
*Full disclosure: I still occasionally use several products from Aveda, Origins, and Neutrogena. I trust and admire both the products and the companies that make them.