Natural vs. Non-toxic: How are they defined and what makes them different?

Posted by Michelle Beaudette on

There is a lot of confusion in the beauty industry surrounding the concept of “natural.” As most of us are aware, this is because there is no FDA approved definition for the term, making it nearly impossible to establish not only the benefit of natural products but also their functionality. While some brands actively take the time to define their standards for creating and developing natural products, the word itself is still rather ambiguous. 

While there is no encompassing definition for the word natural in the beauty industry, at Kaolin Beauty, we define it as the practice of utilizing pure and un-refined ingredients from the earth that do not undergo any form of processing and are not lab-replicated or produced. Essentially, by these standards not all of our ingredients are natural, so it would be highly unrepresentative to label the entire brand as such. Instead, we use the terminology, “non-toxic,” which we define as skin safe and health conscious ingredients that are harvested or produced using practices that are not harmful to the environment, people, or animals. 

Additionally, a misconception that consumers have regarding beauty products is that everything “natural” is healthy and everything “unnatural” is unhealthy or toxic. While this might stand true for some ingredients used in the industry, for example, parabens are not considered natural and are extremely harmful, it fails to acknowledge that there are additional layers to sourcing that must be considered, and this is addressed in the Kaolin Beauty definition of non-toxic. For example, iron oxide, which is a pigment used in makeup, is a naturally occurring compound, rust, that if applied directly to the skin can cause blood poisoning through toxic bacteria entering the bloodstream. In order for iron oxide to be skin safe, it must be either lab-replicated or oxidized and processed to remove harmful bacteria. While the ingredient is completely safe to use as a pigment following lab manipulation, according to the limited definition set by the natural cosmetics industry, and the Kaolin Beauty definition above, it is not natural and, therefore, would be considered harmful. 

As a consumer, you might be wondering how to know if a product is non-toxic. Some important certifications and ingredient labelings to look out for include the following: 

  • Organic: either indicated by the USDA emblem or the ingredients list attached to the product. Kaolin Beauty is not certified organic, but we use mostly organic ingredients and that is a key indicator of the non-toxic status of our brand. 
  • Regenerative Organic: encompasses organic farming and then raises the bar, prioritizing building soil health as a way to fight climate change. At Kaolin Beauty, we infuse our products with herbs that are grown using regenerative farming practices.
  • Leaping Bunny: the only internationally recognized symbol guaranteeing consumers that no new animal tests were used in the development of any product displaying it. Kaolin Beauty is proud to be Leaping Bunny certified!
  • Ecocert: provides certification for 150+ standards in the food, farming, forestry, textiles, cosmetics, and eco-products sectors worldwide. These highly respected and well-recognized certifications result in better practices and marketplace recognition.
  • COSMOS: a consumer guarantee for organic and natural cosmetics that you can trust. To date over 32,000 products in 71 countries carry our COSMOS ORGANIC or COSMOS NATURAL signature. Over 13,000 ingredients carry our COSMOS CERTIFIED signature. 

In conclusion, it is important to understand that the word “natural,” when used loosely by brands, is a marketing tactic with no concrete definition in the industry. At Kaolin Beauty, we are transparent about our ingredients and the language that we use to describe them. To us, non-toxic is more representative of the evolved state of the clean beauty industry given that there are a number of skin safe ingredients that are slightly modified or produced in a laboratory for the safety of the environment, people, and animals. 


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