As you begin formulating your first products, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the abundance of available ingredients! Keeping it simple to start with means you can build skill upon skill, and still create dynamic, powerful products without needing to make a sizable investment.
(If you’re just starting out on your natural product making journey, you’ll be amazed at what two- and three-ingredient products you can make!)
But keeping it simple has benefits that extend beyond your first few products. The philosophy of simplicity is about stripping back what’s unnecessary to get at the core of what’s effective.
The Push Towards Simplified Skincare
There is a movement right now in the natural and organic beauty industry towards simpler products, fewer ingredients, and greater transparency. Connected to the broader social movements of simplicity and even minimalism to some degree, this push for simplicity in skincare reflects a wider change in consumer values and awareness.
Because of this change, brands are positioning themselves in a variety of ways:
- There are brands that are building their entire product range on a few specific ingredients.
- There are brands that take one ingredient—an extract, a butter, a carrier oil, or a fragrance—and make it their focus.
- There are brands who are calling for greater transparency of labels so people know what’s in them, in plain English.
…and these are all amazing goals!
Tied with this shift is the idea that everything that is natural is, by its very definition, pure, gentle, and safe. And while we love and advocate natural and organic products, it’s important to say that this isn’t necessarily the case.
We wanted to take a look at what simplicity in natural products really means, how to define your own natural standard, and how to empower yourself to create safe, simple, nature-inspired products without compromising your values.
What Does Natural Mean?
We’ve spoken before about how the word itself can have so many different meanings. There is no one defined standard for “Natural” ingredients. How the ingredient is processed, what it’s derived from, and what, if any, certifications it holds can all be deciding factors into what you personally define as natural.
And the thing is, you might not know some of these factors until you follow the research, and put in the time for proper study.
There are plenty of reasons to eliminate harmful synthetic ingredients from our skincare, but let’s not give science a bad name. Science is important, and there have been many amazing advancements in natural skincare because of scientific research! Improvements in extraction and processing, farming and cultivation, cleaning and quality control, packaging and safety, not to mention the research in finding natural ingredients with the right therapeutic properties and characteristics suitable for use in cosmetics.
But things that sound artificial or too synthetic can often be intimidating, unless you’ve empowered yourself with the proper knowledge! One great example of this is the use of INCI names ingredient lists. The International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) is simply a standard which means that anywhere you go in the world, a product will have the same name on it, so you know what’s being used and there’s no confusion. But from the outside, seeing something like Citrus aurantium var amara might sound like a chemical or synthetic product. It’s just the botanical name for neroli essential oil…and this comes from a fruit tree! The orange tree!
This is just one of many examples of how something might sound scientific, synthetic, or intimidating, but really be perfectly fine.
The key thing to remember is that it’s not about simply avoiding chemicals—because everything is a chemical. Even water! It’s about knowing what products do, how they are made, and from what sources, so that you can incorporate the best, safest, most effective ingredients. And avoid the ‘chemicals’ you want to avoid because they are either too harsh, have caused irritation for you before, don’t conform to your value system or are simply something you consider to be undesirable.
Even a natural ingredient can cause harm, if it’s not used correctly. Which means you need to know how to use them correctly!
What Natural Means For Your Products
There is something simple, wonderful, and empowering about knowing how to use natural ingredients. In many ways in our current world, we are so disconnected from each other, and from the earth itself, and that disconnect can, we believe, cause all manner of problems, distress, and sickness. And yet we are a part of nature, not separate from it, despite all of our advancements.
We come from the earth, and will, in time, return to it when we depart. We rely on mother nature for our survival, and it seems to make sense to us that working in harmony and mutual respect with nature is a way for us to become connected once more. On top of all of the tangible benefits that natural products and ingredients provide to our bodies, we believe that there is often an intangible but no less powerful benefit they can provide to our being.
By using natural and organic ingredients we are—in our own small but significant way—honoring mother nature, accepting her gifts, and using them to sustain and nourish our being. There is something sacred in that.
Simplicity here is in having a connection with the ingredient you are using because it comes from the same place that we do: Nature.
When “Natural” Is Just a Word
When we truly move towards natural solutions, we move towards a greater level of openness, honesty and transparency.
With natural solutions, there isn’t any need for clever marketing strategies, or misleading labels, names, slogans, statements and headlines. When something is truly natural, it isn’t only “inspired by nature” (a statement we found on a popular high street bath soak/bubble bath that contains zero naturally derived ingredients) it is wholly from nature!
We don’t need to hide anything, cover over anything, give our products a gloss. We can just say what it is and know that people will be drawn to it. We also feel a sense of safety behind our claim because the only thing we need to do to substantiate it is refer to the ingredients to prove their natural origins and the tests and certificates to prove the safety.
Like we’ve shared before, there is no one standard definition of what “Natural” means. Because of this, not only does it become the individual formulator’s responsibility to use the kind of products which honestly uphold his or her own natural values, it also becomes each individual customer’s responsibility to inform himself or herself about what to look for on the label of a so-called natural product.
The growth in the natural cosmetics sector means that more companies are trying to capture the market. And there’s a lot of greenwashing that goes on—a lot of products on the market that look natural, suggest that they are natural, and try to gloss over ingredients that don’t even fit the broadest definition of natural at all.
When we move towards being fully natural or organic and not just pay lip service to the label, that’s when things become more simple and transparent.
So, how do you know if something is truly natural or organic or not?
- Learn how to make your own products, or go one step further and learn how to formulate your products from scratch like a professional. Then you won’t have to rely on recipes and you can instead create better products yourself! That’s empowering! This is what we teach on our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation.
- Learn how to read a cosmetic label, know how to understand INCI names and identify symbols.
- Learn about the ingredients to detox from your skincare. We wrote an article highlight 12 toxic and harmful ingredients in makeup and skincare products you must avoid
Simplicity here comes from truly honoring the natural / organic badge. It makes our life easier, more transparent, open, and honest. We simply need to say what is in the tin, and any clever marketing strategy we use is the truth, not spin.
Why Does Making it Yourself Matter?
It’s a question of both values and function.
For those of us who feel very strongly about our values, everything we do, every choice we make, is informed by those values. There’s something truly meaningful and powerful—and transformative—about weaving those values into the natural and organic masterpieces we make! We feel more alive, more empowered, when we’re living in alignment with our values. We also feel more connected to the products we use and probably also to mother nature herself.
We have the choice to incorporate ingredients that reflect what’s important for us, and for our customers, when we select ingredients which are:
- Naturally derived (or even organic)
- Made without animal testing, or without animal products
- Produced in a sustainable, earth-friendly way
- Sourced with ethics and integrity, by people paid a living wage
- Certified by the organizations that hold meaning for us
And secondly, when we know how to formulate natural products using these amazing natural or organic ingredients, we know that we don’t have to compromise between ideals and function.
Why use multiple artificial things when one or two natural ones will do?
Why load up the ingredient list with potentially harmful synthetic ingredients when you can say exactly what’s inside, and know where it came from?
In addition to that, when we know and understand the ingredients in the products we use, we can make a decision about whether or not, it is safe or suitable for us to use! Then, we can use the right natural ingredients in a safe way, too—remember, natural ingredients can still cause irritation, and still need to be handled with respect and care!
More and more people around the world are looking for natural and organic products, and they want to feel like each small choice is making a difference collectively. Why should we have to compromise between a product that works, and a product that matches our values?
The good answer is that we absolutely don’t have to compromise at all.
Simplicity here is in knowing what’s in the products you make and/or use. The only way to truly know what’s in them is to make them yourself.
Create Change Without Changing Your Ideals
Ingredients from nature are able to nourish and nurture us. Nature provides ways to treat stubborn skin challenges, address different skin types, and help promote healthy skin growth and a glowing complexion. Nature is the answer—and it’s important to understand that while it’s been unlocked due to scientific advancements and research, it doesn’t need to be replaced.
It’s possible to take an essential oil, for example, study it in a lab, break it down to its chemical makeup, and replicate it—but it won’t smell the same and it won’t carry any therapeutic properties….makes you wonder what we’re missing doesn’t it!?
Learning how to formulate the products that match your values—products that are simple, effective, powerful and functional—puts you in control.
Your products become an expression of your own natural and organic values. And people can see that shine through when they turn it over and look on the label! When you make your products, instead of buying them, it means you become part of the broader natural movement. For the formulator, it means being truly inspired by the things that help you honor what nature has to offer. Weaving your magic with the Earth’s and creating something that resonates with your deepest values.
Things don’t have to be complicated to be effective and meaningful. In fact, we think it might just be the reverse. Harnessing the feeling produced by things that are simple and natural and special—the smell of warm summer flowers, the fresh bite of mint or the embrace of cedar, the healing power of aloe to soothe a tender burn—can be transformative, and transcendent.
You don’t have to be a scientist to learn how to do this. You can start right now experiencing the joy, fun, and confidence of formulating with natural ingredients. Over the years, we’ve heard many stories of transformation from students all around the world who have taken the same journey to work their values into natural and effective products.
If you’re brand-new, and want to learn more, then head on over to our Certificate in Making Natural Skincare Products page to get started learning from our provided recipes and up-to-date information. Want to do it like a pro? then our Diploma in Natural Skincare Formulation course is designed to teach you everything you need to know to launch a natural skincare business.
Simplicity here is in knowing, understanding, having a connection with, believing in and experiencing the benefits of natural and organic ingredients. If you’re new to this field, we encourage you to explore for yourself the wonderful world of natural and organic products. If you’re experienced, we encourage you to find ways to keep things simple, close to your highest values and above all, natural.
The Beginner's Guide to Formulating Natural Skincare Products (From scratch, like a professional!)
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