A Green Light for Naturals

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | June 15, 2011

Sustainable, naturally sourced ingredients are here to stay, according to suppliers.

The personal care industry is dominated by consumer demand for green beauty, according to analysts and suppliers alike. In fact, Down to Earth is being touted by Mintel Beauty Innovation as the key trend set to shape the personal care category in 2011. Meanwhile, as seen with the latest releases from industry suppliers, there’s no shortage of innovations to choose from when formulating the latest color cosmetics, skin care or hair care products.

Closely linked with sustainability, the Down to Earth trend addresses practicalities of making and marketing green beauty. Factors include managing price pressure due to varying supply and demand of natural and organic raw materials and learning to master the challenges of green chemistry—such as the use of sustainable surfactants, green solvents and alternatives to parabens.

“Free-from” formulas—a key trend in 2010—continue to evolve in an effort to avoid petrochemically derived ingredients, noted Mintel in its reports. In 2010, 13% of new skin care, hair care and cosmetics made the paraben-free claim (up 5% from 2008). Also in 2010, almost 9% of new skin care, hair care and cosmetics made the organic claim (twice as many as in 2007). In contrast, the all-natural claim was found in fewer than 3% of launches in 2010, according to Mintel.

Botanical extracts are still all the rage in personal care products today.

“Paraben-free claims actually outpaced organic and all-natural claims in new skin care, hair care and cosmetics launches in 2010, backing up Mintel’s Nu Natural trend that predicted that brands would emphasize results and free-from claims over certification,” said Nica Lewis, head consultant at Mintel Beauty Innovation. “This year, beauty companies will place increased importance on the environment, focusing on sustainable sourcing with attention to main- taining biodiversity. A renewed emphasis on repackaging to minimize waste will also be a factor.”


For the third straight year, the percentage of U.S. consumers purchasing organic products has held steady in the 38-39% range, according to TABS Group, Inc., a Shelton, CT-based marketing research and consulting company. While food represents the bulk of the organic purchases, skin care and hair care were the only two categories that registered consecutive years of gains. Skin care came in at 7%, hair care at 5% and cosmetics at 3%, according to the company.

Designation and Destination

So, how is an ingredient defined as natural? According to industry suppliers, it’s all about origins.

“Today, natural chemistry is based more on sustainability and efficacy than it is on just certification. As a result, natural ingredients are increasingly defined by how environmentally sound the practices sur- rounding their sourcing was, and are supported by proven efficacy and safety profiles,” said Julia Hernandez, marketing manager, The DeWolf Companies (DeWolf Chemical, Inc.-Glenn Corporation), Warwick, RI. “This, in combination with green certifications, which endorse finished products and help to bolster brands, helps to provide natural products with a competitive advantage in the eyes of the consumers.”

Amla extract is big with suppliers like Sabinsa.

Juan R. Mateu, director of new innovations, Jeen International, agrees.

“Natural must be an ingredient that is harvested. Harvested from land or sea, plant or mineral,” he told Happi. “The ingredients can go through a few processes that may clean them up or increase purity.
The method used to clean the ingredient should use natural ingredients such as water. Physical process can also render a natural ingredient. Filtration or distillation can be used. There should be no chemical altering of the ingredient.”

According to Mike Martinez, chief executive officer of Natural Plant Products, Inc., Salem, OR, it’s not that simple.


Natural formulations require unique ingredients.

“There is great debate. It seems natural is often defined by what it is not, namely synthetic or petroleum derived. The various private certifications available universally prefer botanically derived ingredients, and some allow for a measure of synthetic chemistry in the manufacture of botanically derived emulsifiers, esters or other functional ingredients. The strictest interpretations dictate botanically derived ingredients be processed using only water, physical processes, and, perhaps, ethanol,” he explained.

Although there has been no official agreement among the different associations within the personal care industry, Provital defines a natural ingredient as a raw material from natural sources that has not been transformed by any chemical process, according to Anna Balaguer, marketing manager, Provital Group, Barcelona, Spain. The company also tries, whenever feasible, to use solvents and preservative systems that are as natural as possible.

“The best natural ingredient can only be manufactured from the finest raw material,” explained Antoine Dauby, group marketing director, Naturex Inc. His company’s purchasing team travels globally in order to discover new botanicals and to maintain a close relationship with suppliers. According to Dauby, Naturex systematic analysis of crops and batches provide useful guidelines regarding specific cultivation methods.

“Growing wild or cultivated, we only purchase botanicals sustainably harvested. Because we work directly with growers and harvesters, we get the right plants,” he said.

Ultimately, natural ingredients are present in natural products or are produced in a natural way and are extracted from natural sources—plant, animal or microbial, according to Dr. Michel Fink, technical service manager, Jungbunzlauer, Basel, Switzerland.

“The ingredient should not be chemically modified during the production process. However, chemicals can be used for physical processing of the ingredients such as alcohol extraction,” he said.

For example, Jungbunzlauer xanthan gum is natural because it is produced by the natural process of fermentation and recovered by extraction with an alcohol. The company uses glucose syrup from non-GMO maize and sugar from sugar cane or sugar beet as raw materials for the fermentation with the non-GMO bacterium Xanthomonas campestris, noted Fink.

Demand in the Marketplace

From shea butter-based lip balms to biodegradable body washes, more and more consumers are seeking out natural alternatives in personal care. Some shop green for environmental reasons (to be eco-friendly); others as part of the beauty inside out trend (good for you)—but whatever the reason, the HBA aisles are stacked with a variety of green SKUs.

“Consumers aren’t singular in their reasons for seeking out products containing natural ingredients. Some research indicates specific consumers believe these products will be safer and offer a higher degree of efficacy,” said Martinez of Natural Plant Products.“Personally, I think some consumers really identify with products containing naturals. It might be a personal belief in environmental stewardship, or a desire to support ingredients with enhanced sourcing attributes such as fair trade or sustainability. The loyalty to brands such as Aveda and The Body Shop, which have long taken a deep view of naturals, seems to indicate this sentiment.”

Hernandez of The DeWolf Companies agreed.

“For the most part, today’s consumers see natural and organic products as being better for the environment. In this sense, there is a greater connection now between the industry and consumers’ perception,” she told Happi. However, despite the fact that consumers care about the environment, it is still questionable whether they are willing to pay a premium for natural products, she noted.

“Consumers seem to expect manufacturers to develop natural products as an imperative social and environmental responsibility practice, and also make them available at the same purchase points as conventional products,” said Hernandez.

Balaguer of Provital Group sees shoppers selecting natural SKUs for beauty benefits.

“Consumers are switching to natural more and more, as they perceive natural cosmetics as more compatible with their skin,” she told Happi. “A very high percentage of consumers believe that they have sensitive skin, therefore they feel that natural ingredients are most suitable for daily care…the consumer has also realized that a natural ingredient can be as effective as a synthetic one.”

Critical Components

Suppliers agree there is no dearth of novel ingredients on the market for today’s formulators—some new, some staples in company portfolios. Organic fats and oils, essential oils and botanical extracts are widely used natural ingredients—particularly notable in beauty innovation are cupuaçu butter and açai oil, according to Hernandez of The DeWolf Companies. DeWolf Chemical and Glenn Corporation offer high quality grades of these ingredients, which impart clinically tested, long-lasting moisturizing properties, making them ideal for skin elasticity restoring and after-sun products, she said.

Equally appealing to the natural formulators is Botany Lychee Extract, according to Hernandez. This new, patented material provides natural oligomeric proanthocyanidins A2 with strong antioxidant activity and significant inhibition of collagenase.

For other innovative formulations, Daniel Winn, director, personal care ingredients, Inolex, Philadelphia PA, suggests natural cationic materials from his company.

“Our Emulsense line contains the world’s first and only natural cationic agent. It allows the creation of natural hair conditioners that are truly compliant,” he told Happi. “What is really amazing about Emulsense is how ecologically friendly it is—its environmental profile is entirely benign. Companies that switch from petrochemical quats to Emulsense can claim a major positive impact on the environment.”

Emulsense has also proven to be a big winner for skin care, added Winn, as “the industry is already very fond of the light and dry feel created by cationic emulsions. Now that they have it in a natural form, the natural skin care lines are going to become much less greasy and much more appealing to the mainstream consumer.”

Mateu of Jeen International noted that extracted compounds will continue to be a main growth area for naturals.

“There is no doubt if you consider all of the different species of plants available,” he explained. “Many plants seem to have their own beneficial profile. Some of these ingredients can be isolated to a specific active. There can also be an available synergy present in these plants that work best in its natural state.”


A Pandora’s Box in the Beauty Industry?

Soaring oil prices and developments in green chemistry are encouraging chemical companies to switch to plant-based materials. Many companies have started to promote these “green” ingredients on their environmental credentials, however Organic Monitor believes this development could open up a Pandora’s Box in the beauty industry.

Chemical companies often cite environmental benefits as a reason for the switch to plant-based raw materials. Apart from a renewable source, these cosmetic ingredients often have a lower environmental footprint than petroleum-based counterparts.

However, the diverting of agricultural land from food crops to make cosmetic ingredients raises many ethical and ecological questions. There has been much debate about using agricultural land for bio-fuel crops while many developing countries suffer food shortages. An increase in plantations of plant crops for cosmetic ingredients could spark a new debate about food vs. beauty crops, according to Organic Monitor.

Food security is becoming a major global concern because of rising food prices and scarcity of agricultural land. The global population is expected to rise 50% to over 9 billion by 2050, however agricultural land is projected to decrease over this period. If agricultural land needs to be diverted from food production, at the very least the beauty industry must ensure that the ingredients are sustainably sourced.

Organic Monitor sees some early indicators that the beauty industry is moving in this direction. L’Oréal and Unilever have already made commitments to sustainable sourcing. Unilever, which has received much criticism for its raw material sourcing in recent years, has made ingredient sourcing a key part of its Sustainable Living Plan. In the U.S., Walmart is putting pressure on its suppliers to adopt sustainability practices via its Sustainability Index program. Apart from the supply chain, the media and NGOs are putting pressure on companies to become more sustainable.

Such developments could make sustainable sourcing mandatory in the beauty industry, rather than a preferred option at present. More ingredients, especially commodities, could go the way of palm oil; leading beauty firms have pledged to only source from Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)-approved companies. Similar sustainable roundtables exist for soya and cocoa, and others are in the pipeline. A number of other sustainability schemes, labels and standards are emerging.

Biodiversity, another element of sustainable sourcing, has become fashionable since the United Nations declared 2010 as the year of biodiversity. A number of ingredient and cosmetic companies are signing biodiversity charters.

The growing importance of climate change is making companies more aware of their carbon footprints. Some beauty companies propose giving their carbon footprint data on product packaging; this move is likely to push ingredient companies to start measuring and reducing their carbon emissions, especially in plant-based materials.

In summary, plant materials are gaining popularity in the beauty industry because of burgeoning demand for natural and organic products as well as their growing use as feedstock. Agricultural land scarcity and concerns about food security are raising many ethical and environmental questions about these beauty crops. Cosmetic ingredient companies that adopt sustainable sourcing practices are likely to find success, while those that do not may struggle with the demons coming out of the Pandora’s Box.

Jeen has developed cold process waxes that contain natural waxes and polyelectrolytes. The newest on its line of cold water dispersible waxes are made from sunflower wax combined with carrageenan, sodium alginate or guar.

Naturex launched a new Dragon’s blood extract, which is an innovative revitalizing active, according to the company. Dragon’s blood (Croton lechleri), called both Sangre de Drago and Sangre de Grado, is the primary topical aid for skin care in the Amazon, according to Dauby. It helps to protect the skin, due to its high content of proanthocyanidins, providing a powerful antioxidant activity.

Dragon’s blood extract, standardized to taspine, stimulates the early phase of wound healing, by stimulating the fibroblasts. Dragon’s blood sap helps to protect the cells of the skin and regenerate the whole tissue—therefore, it’s ideal for skin care products.

In fact, skin sensitivity is a specific growing concern for consumers, noted Victor Low, marketing executive, botanicals, Croda, Edison, NJ.

“Even though everyone’s skin possesses different characteristics, all of us are susceptible to changes within ourselves and our surroundings. The results range from minor skin blemishes to major skin ailments,” he explained.

Phytessence Blue Daisy, Crodarom’s latest extract for sensitive skin, has been shown to help reduce skin inflammation by inhibiting two molecules responsible for skin inflammation. The results are less irritated, more natural looking skin, said Low.

Natural Plant Products markets vegetable oils and fats. There has been growing interest in its meadowfoam seed oil as well as favorable initial interest in daikon radish oil, according to Martinez.

A broad view of the segment shows increasing use of emollients such as shea butter, jojoba and traditional oils such as sunflower and sweet almond, too.

Another growing trend, according to suppliers, is ingredients from plants that live in extreme environments, according to Balaguer of Provital Group. Their ability to survive makes them synthesize specific substances and use specific mechanisms that can be very useful in cosmetic applications. This is the case with Provital’s Xeradin, a moisturizer extracted from a plant, which lives in very dry environments, as well as Provital’s Rhodiola Complex, a strengthening and anti-frizz active for hair care.

Moving Ahead

The future of green ingredients is not in the products themselves but the actions of the suppliers, say industry insiders. From sustainable sourcing to disclosing components, companies are striving to satiate the needs of the eco-friendly consumer.


Green Seal Launches Standard for Personal Care & Cosmetics

Green Seal, Inc., a non-profit organization founded in 1989 to safeguard health and the environment, and recognized as the original “green seal of approval,” is introducing a standard for certification of personal care and cosmetic products, GS-50.

The new standard is the first in the personal care and cosmetics category in the U.S. to cover the whole product lifecycle. It establishes environmental, health and performance requirements for products intended to be left on the body and hair including, but are not limited to, lotions, hair spray and styling products, sunscreen, nail polish, insect repellent, makeup, antiperspirant and deodorant.

This standard, along with the Green Seal standard for Soaps and Shower Products (GS-44), provides tools that manufacturers can freely download and use to improve their products, and to validate those improvements through certification. And the standards provide a guide for consumers to know that their favorite products are safer, greener and perform as well as they should.

Certification allows manufacturers to feature the Green Seal, an eco-label that assures a product is safer for health and the environment, awarded by an independent third party. The upcoming release of the new FTC Green Guides for Environmental Marketing Claims will likely result in more scrutiny of claims made on products and how the claims are substantiated. As information about the basis of the claims becomes more transparent, independent verification will be key.

More info: www.greenseal.org

“Just recently our distributor and I discussed the increasing information requirements of our customers,” Martinez of Natural Plant Products told Happi. “We are increasingly being called on to provide detailed information on our supply, manufacturing techniques and safety data. Customers are now taking a very deep look at the natural and botanical ingredients they are sourcing, whereas five years ago, it seemed we received only occasional inquiries.

“I believe the demands for transparency and disclosure will increase in the future as manufacturers work to increase supply chains security and obtain data that can justify green claims,” Martinez continued.

“I think it is also possible that we’ll see the core principles of sustainability enter the dialogue about green ingredients.Green ingredients may no longer be judged solely on their origin, but rather on a combination of environmental performance, social justice, such as fair trade, and economics.”

Fink of Jungbunzlauer agreed.

“The trustworthiness of the manufacturer will be increasingly questioned. The manufacturers must provide evidence that the specified quality and safety of the products is guaranteed,” he said.
“Accordingly, then the importance of sustainability standards will increase. Congruently, certain ingredients that do not measure up will be removed from formulations and/or partially replaced by other, more natural and sustainable ingredients. Moreover, fair trade approaches will be increasingly demanded.”

Green ingredients can be “green” but they don’t need to be “natural”—noted Mateu of Jeen.

“A green ingredient should minimize harm to the user directly or indirectly. Can we produce our products while minimizing the environmental impacts?” he asked. “Future trends will be focused on cleaning up the way we produce chemical ingredient—a minimization of all possible avenues of harm. Less harm to the consumer whether they buy our product or not. How we make it, to where it goes when it’s disposed, will continue to grow.”

The anti-aging sector remains a goldmine of opportunity, noted Hernandez of DeWolf.

“There is an emerging trend toward combining natural and organic ingredients with actives as the basis for scientific and marketing claims,” she told Happi. “This is specifically seen in products with anti-aging, protection and brightening benefits.”

All in all—whether simply natural, designated organic or in-between levels of eco-friendly, industry advancements will pave the way for the future of green ingredients, according to Winn of Inolex.

“Technology. Better things always come from technology, whether derived from nature or from petrochemicals,” he said.