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The Truth About Marketing Claims: What does "Natural" Mean?

Let me set the scene.


Choo Chooooo! The conductor shouts, "ALL ABOARD!!" 


The skies are dreary and filled with toxic smog, and the "natural" train is leaving the station for sunnier skies and tropical breezes. The highly sought-after destination? 


Utopia, of course!


No one wants to be left behind; the promise of endless sunshine and greener grass is too alluring to pass up, and since everyone else is frantically jumping aboard the natural train, we find ourselves following the crowd, desperate to get on board, too! 


Before we even pause and think to ask any questions, we find ourselves aboard the train. Smiling passengers are chugging along to a romantic destination that nobody fully understands, but that's okay because it sounds lovely! We are all just happy to be moving in the right direction, away from our toxic homeland. Utopia sounds perfect and is so sought-after that we forget about the details in our haste. Oh well! We trust that we are on "the right track," and the details are boring, anyway.


Which brings me to my point: have you noticed that almost every company on planet Earth is claiming to be "natural" these days? In all the rage, have you found that you have jumped aboard the "natural bandwagon" (err, train) without first having checked the facts? Like, are you really being swept off to Utopia, or are you going to get a surprise when you land somewhere less than ideal?


And have you ever stopped to ponder: what does the word natural even mean?


We will explore the definition in a moment, but by the end of this blog post, I hope to convince you that there is a more important question we must ask ourselves:


What does the word natural mean to you?


Because let me tell you, in the ten years that I have committed to reading beauty label ingredients, I have witnessed that it can mean virtually anything. How can that be?


The dictionary defines the word natural as "existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind."


That sounds about right. 


But guess what? There is a caveat.


There is no legal definition of the word in the beauty industry. Therefore, it can be used willy-nilly by anyone. And believe me when I say that it is! 


In other words, anyone can say their products are natural, and ultimately, it means nothing whatsoever because no governing body is breathing down their necks, checking in on their claims. For some companies, if an ingredient ever once (in any way) resembled something in the natural world, that's good enough for them. For others, the word is taken very seriously. 


So you gotta understand that when you read the word "natural" on a label, it might mean one thing to you but entirely something else to another. And since there is no legislation regarding the use of the term, beauty companies can use this to their advantage when marketing a product to you. Just like the word fragrance can indicate that there may be hundreds (if not thousands) of ingredients under its "umbrella" term, unfortunately, the word natural can have this many meanings, too.  


So hear me. "Natural" must be taken with a grain of salt. It is down to you, the consumer, to determine how seriously YOU take the word and be a detective to determine if a company you purchase products from aligns with your definition. I even want you to question the companies you could have sworn were 100% natural and honest - I promise you that you may be quite surprised if you dig a little deeper. 


So what do we do with this information? In a previous blog post, I shared a little tip for you to keep in mind when determining if a cosmetic is right for you, and I want to repeat it here. I think it's super fitting because we are always being barked at by companies to buy this and buy that, but in my opinion, we need to be doing a little B-A-R-K of our own:


Be skeptical - always. Never assume that a product is safe or has your best interest at heart. Sadly, profits over people seem to be the name of the game, and slick marketing ads will do anything to get your attention or attempt to earn your trust. When it feels like everyone on Earth is saying a particular company is "natural," don't believe it until you do your research! I can not believe how many times I have heard that _____ company is natural, and all I had to do was scratch the surface a little to see that they just managed to fool everyone.


Ask questions. If the company makes any products containing water (like lotion or cream), ask them what (complete) preservative systems they are using. Ask them to tell you every single ingredient that is part of their preservation system. They might only want to share a few (that have a better reputation), but often they hide other less favourable ones in their long and confusing ingredient lists. Be persistent! And don't just ask the company about the use of a specific ingredient; do your independent research. I see many companies put a benign "spin" on toxic ingredients they use to make them sound harmless and derived from nature. 


Read labels. I can't stress this enough. Here is where you will find the secrets a company tries to hide (right under your nose!) because they know people are not reading and researching.


Knowledge is power. Believe me; once you learn a few key (toxic) ingredients, you will be reading labels like a pro in no time and safeguarding you and your loved ones from sneaky tricks of the trade. Don't be fooled! Build your knowledge, and then let's all demand safer cosmetics - because we can't make a change if we don't even know there's a problem. 


So there it is! Albeit perhaps a bit frustrating initially to learn the hard facts, I can ensure you that the journey is overwhelmingly empowering once you set your mind to the challenge of uncovering the truths (or lies!). It's like a fun game to see who is attempting to pull the wool over your eyes, and it feels so good when you have the skills to see through it. And remember, I am always here for you, too! Let me know if you need a hand navigating your way through confusing ingredient lists or marketing claims. Comment below or email me, and I would be happy to help. 


By the way, if you have been reading our latest blog post series on "The Truth About Marketing Claims," you might have noticed a reoccurring theme. One by one, I am tackling popular marketing claims to help you understand if they hold any meaning. Ultimately, I want you to be a savvy consumer who can see through bogus claims and make healthier consumer choices, so stay tuned as we tackle more topics soon!


Sarah xo

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