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What does "Natural" really mean?

It’s getting harder and harder to know what’s hype and what’s real. Sometimes the natural ingredients splashed across the front of a package are used in such minute quantities as to be almost meaningless. Some natural ingredients are grown and harvested using chemicals about which we understand very little, and some natural ingredients, like Essential Oils, must be used with care. So how can you choose which products to use?

Follow these 5 Simple Steps:

1. Look at the packaging. When you take a product home, how much do you throw out right away? Is there any mention of post-consumer content, or is the packaging itself recyclable? When a company is committed to a healthier world, it’s usually reflected in more than just an ingredient mentioned on the front of the label.

2. Ignore what it says on the front of the package and look carefully at the list of ingredients. Every product is required by law to list ingredients by quantity, so the lower on the list an ingredient appears, the less there is in the product. Be on the lookout for ingredients like Petrolatum and Mineral Oil used by manufacturers mostly because they are cheap. They’re a dead giveaway that a company isn’t serious about natural ingredients. A conscientious manufacturer will also steer clear of Parabens, (a form of preservative) Propylene Glycol, Diazolidinyl Urea and artificial colors.

3. Look for the words “Certified Organic”, which is a legally defined description that manufacturers must back up with certification from their suppliers. Often products will skirt that issue by referring to Organic ingredients, which doesn’t really mean a thing. There are many benefits in being Certified Organic. Organically farmed products don’t add to the chemical load already in our environment, and in fact help make the soil healthier over time. Many Certified Organic farms are family farms. Finally, no harmful trace elements are brought in with the ingredient.

4. Where is the product is being offered? National natural products stores have strict screening processes to weed out products from companies who are simply jumping on the “natural” bandwagon. The local drugstore is probably more likely to accept natural claims on face value, without a true process of evaluation. (There are exceptions, of course.) Natural claims will probably become more clearly legally defined in the coming years.

5. Try the product whenever possible. Sometimes in the pursuit of utterly, completely, 100% natural, companies produce products that unfortunately are rather unpleasant to use, or that degrade very quickly. So try the product, and remember if it’s gummy, greasy or smells awful now, it won’t improve with age. Buy products that you enjoy using, instead of adding to the collection of unused, almost-full jars we all seem to have.

A Word about our Scents.

We’re sometimes asked why we don't use all essential oils in our popular Kiran Forest scent, or why we don't do products with no scent at all. There are two answers really.

The first is that scent is very important to people. Although we’ve offered three separate lines of unfragranced products over the years, 99% of the products we sell are scented with Kiran Forest, because people really love it.

The only thing worse than no scent is a bad scent. Using a blend allows us to create lovely, fresh complex scents that remain stable over time and are consistent in different types of products. Essential Oils, while offering other benefits, do change over time, and seem best suited to simpler scents like Lavender, a wonderful scent that remains pleasant even as it changes. But with a more complex blend of Essential Oils, the results can be unpredictable, and what smelled very good at first can become insipid or even unpleasant over time.

If you love the way a product smells, you're more likely to use it consistently - which mean healthier skin in the end, and that is our real goal.

Ann Thariani