Natural Personal Care Update: Self-Regulation may be around the Corner

Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBABy Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA
[email protected]

Last year, I penned an article entitled “The Meaning of Natural: A Call to Action”. That piece became the impetus for initiating and managing a task force comprised of organizations of all shapes and sizes with a specific mission of addressing what makes an ingredient natural. The result was the formation of the International Association of Natural Product Producers (IANPP), a group of 25 organizations, which began a process of defining “natural” for both topical and ingestible ingredients. Today, nine months after its inception, the group announced that it had achieved agreement and has posted its findings on its website,

This potentially groundbreaking work could mean much to the natural products industry. Once the public comment period ends in late August, the group hopes to make the information as relevant as possible to the industry by attracting thousands of members and establishing a process for self-regulating the use of the term in product marketing communications and labeling, in the absence of any meaningful legislation and government regulation. Already, the IANPP has received valuable input from the Organic Trade Association and New Hope Natural Media’s Standards department, and is awaiting comments from NSF International. The group is currently welcoming input from any entity interested in providing criticism. In the meantime, IANPP is working on developing a glossary of non-natural ingredients for both topical and internal applications based upon the published draft criteria.

Simply put, the criteria for a natural ingredient involves defining what it means when an ingredient is synthetically derived and/or synthetically processed. It is important to note that the criteria apply only to “ingredients” and not yet to actual “products”, which are entities comprised of many ingredients. This is an important distinction as a product can contain some natural ingredients but remain largely synthetic, thus confusing the consumer and diluting the competitive advantages that “truly natural” producers enjoy. How is the concept of natural, important to so many consumers and industry members, to have any meaning if industry can neither agree on a definition nor regulate its use?

The draft definition for topical ingredients appears below. Both definitions, as well as information regarding IANPP’s mission and membership, can be found at Comments are appreciated, as the group expects that the public’s valuable input will result in additional changes.

DRAFT IANPP Definition of Natural Topical Products

Natural topical ingredients must:

  • Be derived (originate) from natural sources (not synthetic/man-made), including plant, animal, and inorganic mineral sources. Any changes to the original natural ingredient must not undergo changes in one or more covalent bonds during manufacturing and/or processing.
  • Are processed with non-synthetic (natural) methods. Solvents must be found in nature (originate from plant, animal or inorganic mineral sources), and the processing method must not introduce anything that is not of natural derivation:
      • Synthetic is defined as a substance not derived from natural sources with biological and/or accepted food processing/handling techniques
      • Acceptable methods include cleaning, dehydrating, drying, filtering, cold pressing, grinding, chopping, water/natural alcohol extraction, roasting, heating, enzyme treatments, fermentation, hydrolysis, extraction with natural solvents, expeller pressing (oils), steam distillation, supercritical CO2 extraction, baking, mixing, separating, cutting, evaporating, freezing
      • Unacceptable methods include
        • Gamma Ray Irradiation
          ACCEPTABLE: Preservation by thermal, sound, or photochemical methods (microwave, ultrasound, UV, infrared).
          NOT ACCEPTABLE: Preservation by nuclear or thermo-nuclear methods.
        • Synthetic solvent extraction
  • Be free of synthetic ingredients such as:
    • additives, colorings, coloring agents, preservatives, antibiotics, hormones, processing aids, carriers, synthetically derived and/or processed contaminants from packaging, GMO’s or other non-natural ingredients
  • Be fully disclosed and documented regarding ingredient derivation and method of processing
  • Include the words “preserved with” on the label regarding preservative ingredients
The IANPP definition of natural is intended to specifically define what constitutes natural. Other considerations such as safety, allergies, toxicity, animal testing, socially responsible packaging and business practices (fair trade, third world projects, responsible use and ingredient disposal, cooperative work environment), respect for endangered species, biodegradability/environmental friendliness, environmentally protective methods of production, etc., are not included in this definition. The definition, at this time, is voluntary and is not intended to be a legal definition enforceable by any government or non-government agency.

Darrin C. Duber-Smith, MS, MBA, is president of Green Marketing, Inc., a Colorado-based strategic planning firm offering marketing planning, marketing plan implementation, and other consulting services to natural products companies in all stages of growth. He has 15 years of specialized expertise in the natural products industry and is also Visiting Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Metropolitan State College School of Business in Denver, CO, as well as executive director of the International Association of Natural Product Producers. He can be reached at [email protected]

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