The trade-off for natural products

We spend a lot of time talking to our customers; we’ve always been like that. They’re the ones that tell us where we can improve, the things they love and what products they want to see next. They're the reason our business exists, and for that we're so grateful.

Many questions we get are about the effectiveness of natural products, and how they'll be different than what they're used to. As more and more people are looking to make the switch, we wanted to let you know what you’re in for. It may seem odd for a company that makes natural products to mention any trade-offs that come with using them. But we like to say it like it is and always try to manage expectations.

When making the switch to natural products, some people have no problem switching away from their conventional counterparts. Many others try to switch, but ended up switching back. The problem comes from people expecting natural products to work and feel exactly the same as the products they're used to. When this expectation isn’t met, many people think the product doesn’t work and it's often easier (and cheaper) to give up and switch back.

To help out we thought it would be a good idea to outline some of the differences you may find between regular commercial products you’ve used for ages, and natural ones.

Shampoo – switching to a natural shampoo means all the ingredients will be natural. Well, duh. Non-natural ingredients are usually responsible for the epic foaming action you get when you lather up.  SLS (Sodium Laureth Sulfate) is a pretty common one, or ingredients that look like this and end in –fate are other common culprits. Natural cleansing substitutes are way gentler on the hair and scalp, and also better for the environment when washed down the drain. But hair washers should know that the foam and suds will be less than what they’re used to. This means a little more agitation required to build up the lather. Think of it like a great excuse for a head massage, or a mini arm workout. Trust us, your hair will thank you for it.

Conditioner – switching to a natural conditioner is a bit easier than shampoo. The difference here will be the ingredients that give your hair that silky smooth feeling, and what you’re washing down the drain. Silicone is the main ingredient used in conditioning products, and you will find them by looking for words that end in –cone on your product labels. But what’s wrong with silicone? Over time silicone can coat your hair and scalp, and it can be hard to get rid of. Enough of it can make hair feel limp and heavy, not to mention suffocating and irritating the scalp. Instead of silicone, we use natural oils that give the same silky feeling without the build-up. To be honest, the trade-off here is next to none and natural oils are also better for the environment, so double the win. Ever think about what happens to your wash products after they go down the drain? Natural oils break down quickly in the water system while silicones don't.

Body Wash – this one's very similar to shampoo as they both do the job of washing. Body wash products made with natural ingredients will also be less bubbly and foamy than the commercial versions you're used to. This is again because we don’t use any synthetic SLS related ingredients. With natural cleansers, they do the same job of cleaning but the perception can be that they don’t give the same ‘feeling’ of clean. This is because the skin isn’t left feeling squeaky and tight, which is generally what happens when the natural oils are stripped away. While we do love bubbles, we don’t love dry skin so this is a trade-off we're happy to make. While SLS is super cheap to use in formulation, it can also be very irritating the skin, particular for kids. The Coconut and Glucose based cleansers that we use are better in our books and much better for Mother Earth because they too break down quickly in the water system after they're washed down the drain. Not many people are aware of this.

Moisturiser – being in the skin care business means we know a lot about skin care ingredients. We help people make the switch to natural products but a lot people don’t know what they’re switching away from. It’s not common knowledge that most commercial moisturisers contain petroleum-based ingredients. To us it seems obvious; a cream made from the stuff you put in your car can’t be the best choice for you skin. But the reality is, it’s cheap to buy and it makes your skin feel moisturised by coating it, similar to what silicone does to your hair. In the same way we prefer natural oils to hydrate our hair, they’re also our first choice for skin. As for a trade-off, you won’t find one using natural oils, but using natural ingredients can make the colour and smell of a cream not what you’re used to. Some of the ingredients we use, such as Raspberry Seed Oil have a dark, rich colour. When mixed into a cream, it can cause it to be a tan colour. Many customers contact us thinking their product has gone bad, but that’s only because we’re trained to expect moisturisers only to be white. Another ingredient we use is Hops Extract. This is our natural preservation system, and if you know anything about Hops (think beer), they have an “earthy” smell. This smell is not a bad one, it's just not what people are used to. We’ll gladly take an off-white, earthy smelling cream over a stark white, synthetically-preserved one any day of the week. 

Deodorant – the biggest question we get about our natural deodorant is “But does it work?” Well that depends. In comparison to antiperspirant products that stop you from sweating, then no, ours doesn’t work. The reason for this is because it’s a deodorant, which means it deodorises. No natural deodorant is an antiperspirant because clogging your sweat glands with aluminium to stop you from sweating is not natural. Whether a crystal, a paste, or a roll-on like ours, the effectiveness of a deodorant is how well it controls your smelliness. We use an alkaline formula to control odour-causing bacteria from throwing a party in your armpits (no bacteria = no smell). Other natural deodorants use essential oils but many people find them irritating and we’re not that into smelling like a Tea Tree Forest. The trade-off here is significant, but to be expected: you will still sweat – a natural process, and one we prefer not to mess with.

Toothpaste – this seems to be the natural product with the slowest uptake. Many people switch over to natural everything else, but toothpaste seems to be the last to go. You’d think it’d be the first since it goes in your mouth, but people seem to be stuck on the strong minty flavour of conventional toothpastes. Yes, we won’t deny that natural flavours will never be able to replicate that kind of intense minty-ness, but we come pretty darn close. Aside from Fluoride which is what most people are avoiding when using natural toothpastes, the other ingredients you may find in them can be quite startling. Without going into a rant here, we challenge you to take a look at the ingredient listing on your toothpaste at home. You may be surprised, even shocked to see what you’ll find. The trade-off here, other than the less mouth-burning minty flavour is the foaming factor. Just like shampoo and body wash products, toothpaste often contains the harsh detergent, SLS. This means a natural toothpaste will need a bit more elbow grease to get the foam going, but all that brushing will actually leave you with cleaner teeth.

SPF 15 – out of all the products, switching to natural sunscreen has not only the biggest trade off, but also the biggest benefit. We’ll start with the bad news. Natural SPF creams like ours, are Zinc-based. The mention of Zinc may bring images of white nosed surfers to mind. Using Zinc makes it thicker than commercial products, and a little harder to spread and apply. But for that little bit of extra effort comes a lot of extra benefit. Zinc provides the skin with a physical barrier against UV rays. Spray sunscreens seem a whole lot more convenient but it can be hard to tell if you’re completely protected. Some commercial products also use penetration enhancers which help them break through the skin’s outer barrier. Zinc stays on top of the skin acting like a shield. We sold out of our SPF 15 a few times last summer so it looks like lots of people are getting on board with putting in the extra effort for the extra results. The coral reefs of the world thank you, and mums seem to love it too.

We’ve spoken a lot on our Facebook page, maybe even got a bit ranty about products that claim to be natural but aren’t, or natural products that claim to work miracles but then come up short. We’re still on the fence about which is worse. But the selection of natural products out there has vastly improved, particularly in the last few years. This is a good thing and is mainly due to the lean towards green, and the improvement in the natural ingredients available. Every year they keep getting better and better, and even with a slight trade-off, many natural products are light-years better for us and the environment than their cheap, synthetic counterparts.

What trade-off for natural products have you dealt with in making the switch?