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What makes a natural product natural?

May 20, 2010

Foods, cosmetics, clothing… the variety of products labeled “natural” has grown steadily ever since the children of the late sixties and early seventies put on hemp shirts and bought their first pair of Berkenstocks. It’s 2010 and our sensibilities have been refined since then, yet most of us still like to trust the term “natural.” This is precisely why corporate marketing uses it to describe all sorts of products, natural or not. It engenders feelings of green grass, mountain streams, and healthiness. Perform a quick Internet search to define natural in relation to personal care products and you will find fuzziness and uncertain guidelines. Products labeled “certified organic” do meet definitive testing criteria, but even so, there are hundreds of synthetic chemicals that are allowed under this umbrella. So… what exactly does natural mean? Here at the Abbey, it means: • No artificial fragrances, colors, or animal tested ingredients. • No petroleum based additives or preservatives. These make creams aesthetically smooth, but have the potential for irritation and usually perform no useful task in caring for your skin. • Products rely on plant oils, extracts, and fragrances derived from botanical essential oils. • A product derives its color from earth clays or herbal powders and is free of synthetic dyes and lake colors (organic pigments attached to a metallic molecule). • Preservation systems that do not include triclosan(promotes antibiotic resistant bacteria), benzoin (contact dermatitis), or parabens (concern over estrogenic link with breast cancer). • No harsh detergents or alcohols (drying to skin). • Keeping as close to the original form of an ingredient as possible. Each Abbey formulation provides a solution to a particular concern, often as a result of your requests. That said, while the aim is always to keep the products close to nature, I believe in the value of chemistry to improve our lives. For example, anti-aging active argireline, currently considered the most effective botox-alternative molecule available, is a safe wrinkle eraser and is a key ingredient in our line-smoothing Night Line Relief Serum and Yellow Crème. Vitamin C in its natural state (ascorbic acid) is very unstable and breaks down easily. However, cosmetic chemistry has developed several Vitamin C derivatives, such as magnesium ascorbyl phosphate (MAP), that are more stable than ascorbic acid and even more effective for repairing and brightening skin. We use MAP in our Vitamin C products (Vitamin C Tonic, Vitamin C Serum), rosacea relief Aniba series, the Yellow Crème, Essential Eye Crème, Bleue Creme, and Essential Earth Elements Cleanser. It has been so effective that we plan on incorporating it into additional products. Mother Nature would be pleased.

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