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Does Natural Skincare Really Mean Natural?

Natural is a description we see everywhere today; natural skincare, haircare, food, ingredients and fibres. But what does the term ‘natural’ really mean?

In New Zealand, the term natural isn’t regulated. It’s often applied to beauty products regardless of how few natural ingredients they may contain. This type of greenwashing is used to create a positive impression for consumers.

How can I ensure that my products are natural?

The best way is to seek certification of your products using a natural certifier. There are 2 major global certifiers for natural cosmetics. We use NATRUE who are represented by Biogro in New Zealand. The other global certification body is the COSMOS group which includes ECOCERT and the Soil Association. This group does not have a presence in New Zealand.

NATRUE sets limits for ingredient types that allow us to formulate functional, stable, high quality products that meet the needs of the modern consumer and make verifiable and credible natural claims.

These ingredient types are:

Natural / Naturally Occurring

Natural / Naturally occurring ingredients are derived by mechanical, heat or solution processes from natural sources. Examples of each are:

  1. Cold pressed vegetable oil
  2. Salt from the evaporation of sea water
  3. Plant extracts by extraction of plant materials into aqueous solution

These ingredients may be used without limit in naturally certified cosmetics.

Nature Identical

A few important natural ingredients are not present in nature in economic quantities. Citric acid, widely used as a stabiliser, is found in citrus fruits but it’s expensive and difficult to extract and there simply isn’t enough citrus fruit in the world to meet global demand.

So its synthetically manufactured using biofermentation. This process is scrutinised to ensure the result is identical to the natural product. 

There are only a handful of these ingredients that are certified and their use is limited to a minimum.


Naturally-derived ingredients are sourced by the combination of natural ingredients using processes found in nature. For example, glycerine is a by-product of the saponification of oils and fats by lye in the manufacture of soap. 

Like Nature identical ingredients, there are limits on the amount of these ingredients that can be incorporated.


Organic ingredients are natural materials and can be plant, animal or mineral derived. The growing, extraction and processing methods used are closely controlled to eliminate synthetic materials including but not limited to man-made fertiliser, pesticides, growth regulators, livestock feed additives, irradiation or genetically modified organisms.

Certified Organic

Like Naturally certified products, certification of Organic products is carried out by trusted certification agencies like BioGro. In New Zealand, you can’t trust a certified organic product as authentic unless it has a certification logo like the BioGro logo on the packaging. It is important to beware of imitations which claim to be organic but don’t have a genuine certification logo.


Here the ingredients are derived directly from plants. Sweet almond oil, kale, and green tea fall into this category. These are largely natural but may contain a small amount of Nature Identical preservatives to maintain their integrity.

How brands communicate with their customers is changing. The values of openness, transparency, and authenticity are highly valued by consumers, and help to build relationships with brands and products.

At Shieling Laboratories, we work with brand owners to understand the ethos of their brand and the relationship they are looking to build with their customers. By knowing our clients, we can help them formulate products that will deliver upon the promises their brand gives their customers. 

We’re keen to hear about your brand and identify how we can help you honestly use the term natural skincare for your products! Get in touch with us today.

© Copyright 2020 by Shieling Laboratories.
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