Going down the rabbit hole of the toxic ingredients that are in 90% of the household cleaning and personal care products is deep, dark, and dangerous.
Even in the world of natural skincare, you have to investigate the quality and processes involved in making any ingredient. At the end of the day, the quality of each ingredient and the people and processes involved in bringing that ingredient from farm-to-face matters the most to us.
In the world of green beauty, there are a lot of words used to identify the quality assurance of the ingredients used. Here is a glossary of terms you might come across in your Green Beauty journey.
Glossary of Green Beauty Terms
Synthetic ingredients are man-made and derived in a laboratory. Hundreds of new chemicals are introduced into the market every year with little-to-no testing. Ingredients with terms like 1, 2, 3, 4 - poly - ethyl - methyl - are all synthetic ingredients.
Natural ingredients are true-to-nature or derived from plant-based ingredients. These ingredients might have a Latin name as well as the common name on the ingredients list.
For example: Olive Oil (Olea europaea)
Plant Extracts Compounds
Plant extracts are very common in natural skincare and the green beauty industry. A plant extract is an active ingredient with desirable properties that is extracted from the plant tissue in a laboratory usually using some kind of solvent.
A common example of this phenomenon is curcumin supplements. Curcumin is the active anti-inflammatory ingredient found in turmeric. Herbalism believes that although curcumin is the active ingredient for therapeutic benefits, the rest of the plant helps with the digestion and breaking down of the plant in the body.
Plant extracts are a grey area in the green beauty industry. They are plant parts extracted in a lab… are they natural or are they man-made?
Miiko Skin Co only uses whole ingredients because we have a strong herbal influence in our formulations, and we believe in the power of the entire plant.
In Canada, the organic logo and organic certification process are for Canadian farmers whose products meet the Canadian Organic Standards (COS). Most of the ingredients in natural skincare are imported. Sourcing organic ingredients for skincare requires an investigation into the growers overseas and their organic certification processes. Health Canada tries to oversee the labelling and advertising on cosmetic products in Canada... however it is not strictly monitored.
This is why we choose edible organic as much as possible and work closely with our suppliers. The regulations around edible organic ingredients are much more stringent worldwide and are an easier framework for sourcing high-quality ingredients.
Wild-crafted & Wild-harvested
Wildcrafting (also known as foraging) is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, primarily for food or medicinal purposes. Both Wild Crafted and Certified Organic products should be free from pesticides and herbicides.
Vegan refers to a product that is made without any animal by-products. There is a surprising amount of skincare products with animal byproducts especially in the recent popularization of collagen-boosting formulas. Products with gelatin, collagen, goat's milk, honey, beeswax, emu oil, and lard would not be considered vegan.
Cruelty-free suggests that the product and ingredients have been made without the practice of animal testing. This includes fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and non-human mammals. It excludes in-vitro tests (testing cell cultures) or tests conducted completely on human volunteers. Taken from the Leaping Bunny Corporate Standard.
Cruelty-Free vs. Vegan
These are two different promises. A corporate company could create a vegan product and still practice animal testing. Similarly a company could make cruelty-free products and make products with ingredients like goats milk and honey.
Refined vs Unrefined
Unrefined oil is an oil processed with little-to-no heat. They are usually referred to as cold-pressed or expeller-pressed oil. Oils labelled as raw, pure, virgin, etc. are all unrefined oils.
Refined oils are cheaper, deodorized, and bleached. They may contain more free-radicals.
Virgin vs. Extra-Virgin
Extra-virgin and virgin olive oil both classify as unrefined oils. Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) would be considered higher-quality with more flavour, aroma, and lower levels of free fatty acids.
Every oil on the market (olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil) has a different chemical profile. Saturated fats such as coconut oil are more stable across temperature gradients and better for cooking. Mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated fats are more vulnerable to temperature gradients and should be refrigerated and used for salad dressings. E.g hemp oil, flax oil, olive oil.
Raw is a word that would describe some ingredients that are unrefined, virgin, or extra-virgin.
Deodorized vs Undeodorized
Deodorized ingredients are refined ingredients. The more processed the ingredient the less odour and flavour the ingredients will have.
Cocoa butter, for example, is a common ingredient in many natural skincare products. However, raw unrefined cocoa butter has a strong chocolate scent. To get rid of the chocolate scent the manufacturer might choose a refined deodorized cocoa butter instead. This process might include high temperatures, bleaches, and other chemicals that won’t be listed in the ingredients list but are used to manipulate the raw ingredient.
A lot of natural ingredients are often deodorized, bleached, and refined to make them easier to formulate and cheaper to buy. There is no way for the consumer to know which they are buying.
Fragrance-Free or Unscented
Although a product is marketed as fragrance-free or unscented, it does not necessarily mean it is free from masking agents. If "parfum" or "fragrance" appears in the list of ingredients, the product contains fragrance or a masking agent. (ref: Health Canada)
"Hypoallergenic" is neither a legal nor a scientific term. It simply means that the manufacturer has chosen ingredients to produce a finished product with minimum potential for causing the allergy. This does not guarantee that the product will not cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, since people are allergic to a wide range of substances. (ref: Health Canada)
This term usually means that a test on the product was conducted to make sure that the product is not (or is less) irritating to eyes or skin, and that this test involved a skin or eye doctor at some point during the study.
It is the safety of the product that has been tested, not how effective the product is. There are no regulations that standardize the type or number of tests needed to use this claim on labels. (ref: Health Canada)