Natural, Organic And Other Vocabulary Words

By Sarah Villafranco
Posted in Blog, on August 25, 2013

It’s time.

Time to stop throwing the words “natural” and “organic” at consumers, especially when they are not accurate adjectives to describe the products being sold. Time to stop using phrases like “No Synthetics!”, when anything that has been altered from its raw, natural state is, in some sense, “synthetic”. Time to start telling consumers WHY certain ingredients are undesirable, and let them make informed decisions about what is important to them. Time to start telling the whole truth.


Here are two examples of not-so-true things that I saw while searching for “organic, artisan soap”:

  1. Bright, rainbow colored soaps claiming to be “all natural”. These are clearly colored with FD&C colorants, such as those that are used to color food. Many of these colorants contain parabens and propylene glycol. While plenty FD&C colors are approved for human consumption, remember that Mcdonald’s food is also approved for human consumption. Yikes.
  2. “Organic” soaps allegedly scented with jasmine and rose essential oil, priced at $6.95 per bar.  Let me disassemble this absurdness. Jasmine absolute (which is solvent-extracted with hexane, hence, not organic), jasmine CO2 extract, jasmine essential oil, and rose essential oil, are priced between 250 and 450 dollars PER OUNCE. Each bar of soap would need to have almost ¼ ounce of essential oil to scent it effectively, putting the COST of making this soap at 75 to 100 dollars PER BAR. Are you with me, people? This means that a soap listing rose essential oil or jasmine essential oil as the fragrance ingredient, and not priced at 89.99 is not possible. They are using fragrance oils, which are usually made with propylene glycol, and contain multiple other synthetic ingredients.

This brings us to the poor, demonized word synthetic. According to Merriam-Webster online, synthesis is:

  • the composition or combination of parts or elements so as to form a whole
  • the production of a substance by the union of chemical elements, groups, or simpler compounds or by the degradation of a complex compound
  • the combining of often diverse conceptions into a coherent whole.

By these definitions, I do use some “synthetic” ingredients in my products. Lye, for example, which is used to make ALL soap (though it is transformed in the chemical process of saponification, leaving none in the final product), is now made in a laboratory. Although it was originally made from ashes, it is not practical to use this type of lye on a large scale. The emulsifiers I use, while 100% plant-derived and non-ethoxylated, are made in a laboratory as well. Even essential oils, which I consider to be deeply natural, are “made” by distillation of plant material (degradation of a complex compound, as above).

I guess what I'm saying is this - don’t buy something just because it claims to be natural, organic, or free of “synthetics”. If these are important issues to you, consider the source, and think it through. There are, unfortunately, a lot of people out there who have not done their homework on this issue, or who have trouble with full disclosure. I suppose that’s one advantage to using Osmia products – I’ve done the homework. Had to put that hard earned degree to work somehow.


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