Uncovering the Truth: Are Natural Beauty Brands Really Natural?

natural products


It seems like everywhere you look nowadays, beauty brands are claiming to be “natural”, “organic”, and “green”. But how much of this is true?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t so black and white. There’s still a lot of confusion about what exactly makes a product “natural”, especially as there is no legislation around this term in the industry. Many companies use misleading language to make it appear their products are natural including "botanical," "plant-derived," and "herbal," but in reality, still contain synthetic and harmful ingredients derived from petroleum.

So, how can you make sure that you’re getting the most natural cosmetic products and that they are safe to use? Here are some top tips:

Check the label

Labels can be confusing and can be difficult to decipher especially when the INCI names (International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredient – these are names used on the ingredients list!) for natural ingredients can still sound like chemicals! Here is a list to help you out, displaying all Ingredients to avoid in natural beauty/haircare:

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Formaldehyde is found in many cosmetic products. It is linked to cancer and is a known irritant. Look out for the words “formaldehyde,” “methanal,” “methyl aldehyde,” or “methylene oxide”, “DMDM hydantoin”, “diazolidinyl urea”, “imidazolidinyl urea”, “methenamine”, or “quarternium-15” on the ingredients list.


NO signPetrochemicals

these are derived from petroleum, natural gas, or coal and can be found in a variety of beauty and personal care products. They can also be hard to spot as they may be listed under different names and can even be hidden in other ingredients such as perfumes and fragrances. Petrochemicals can cause skin irritation, and may even be linked to certain types of cancer. Common petrochemicals to avoid include:

          • Glycols - very common!
          • propylene glycol (PEGS)
          • Polypropylene Glycols (PPGS)
          • Propylene
          • Butylene
          • Pentylene
          • Hexylene
          • Caprylyl
          • mineral oil
          • petroleum jelly
          • paraffin wax
          • Behentrimonium Chloride
          • Cetrimonium Chloride

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the number of times I have seen phenoxyethanol in “natural” products! This is a synthetic preservative used in many “natural” beauty and cosmetic products. This preservative has been linked to skin irritation, allergies, and even linked to organ toxicity when absorbed through the skin. It has been banned for use in certified organic skin care products by COSMOS, Ecocert, and the new EU organic certification standard.


NO signSulphates

Sulphates are harsh detergents that are used to create a lather in shampoos and can strip way natural oils from the hair and scalp, leaving your locks dry and brittle. A definite no no in haircare. You may be familiar with Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) - a foaming agent that is commonly used in shampoos and other cleaning products. It is linked to skin irritation and is known to be an endocrine disruptor.

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Although sulphates can technically be derived from a natural source, due to the extensive processing involved, the final product bears little or no resemblance to the original source. Can you still classify that as natural? Also, have only green and biodegradable methods been used in the processing?


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Silicones are a type of plastic that coats the hair for a shiny finish. They can be difficult to remove from the hair and can build up over time, leading to scalp irritation and hair damage. They can also appear as:

          • Dimethicone
          • Cyclopentasiloxane
          • Cyclohexasiloxane
          • Phenyl Trimethicone.

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Parabens are a group of chemicals that are used as preservatives in cosmetics (including shampoo, conditioner, and other haircare products). They have been linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive toxicity. Look out for these words on the ingredients list:

          • methylparaben
          • propylparaben
          • butylparaben,
          • ethylparaben
          • Isopropylparaben
          • Isobutylparaben
          • Phenylparaben
          • Benzylparaben
          • Pentylparaben

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Phthalates are a group of chemicals that are used to make products softer and more pliable. They have been linked to reproductive toxicity and hormone disruption. Look out for:

          • dibutyl phthalate
          • diethyl phthalate

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Fragrances/Parfum are frequently found in haircare but may contain potentially toxic chemicals. Look out for the words “fragrance,” “parfum,” or “perfume” on the ingredients list. Most are derived from petroleum and companies hide these under the generic name of fragrance/parfum or even natural fragrance. If you look, you will see that many companies will not provide the full breakdown of this generic name, so beware!

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Benzyl Alcohol

Benzyl Alcohol can be naturally occurring but is mostly used in the synthetic form, so make sure you do your research when you see this listed. It is mostly used as a preservative or solvent. This ingredient is deemed safe only in very small doses but has been known to cause severe skin, eye, and respiratory irritation, and should not be used in infants and children up to 3 years old. Personally, I am not convinced as I would not like to use an ingredient that could potentially be harmful.

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Quats, or quaternary ammonium compounds, are a petrochemical ingredient commonly found in shampoos, conditioners, and other hair care products that can have harmful effects on your health and the environment. They can cause skin and respiratory irritation, and research suggests that they may be linked to reproductive and developmental problems. Quats can also be toxic to aquatic life when released into the environment. They can also release Formaldehyde (the toxic ingredient discussed above). These are commonly listed as:

          • Cetrimonium bromide/chloride
          • Benzalkonium chloride
          • Cetylpyridinium chloride
          • Benzethonium chloride
          • Cetyltrimethylammonium bromide
          • Babassuamidopropalkonium chloride
          • Cetalkonium chloride
          • Methylbenzethonium chloride
          • Laurdimonium hydrolyzed collagen
          • Diethyl ester dimethyl ammonium chloride
          • Vegetable oil quaternary
          • Dialkyl dimethyl ammonium methyl sulfate
          • Hydroxyethyl methyl ammonium methyl sulfate
          • Guar hydroxypropyltrimonium chloride
          • Behentrimonium chloride
          • Polyquaternium(s)/ Quaternium (all numbers e.g.15)
          • Steardimonium Chloride
          • Lauryl Dimonium Hydrolysed Collagen
          • Dialkyl Dimethl Ammonium Methyl Sulfate
          • Hydroxethyl Methyl Ammonium Methyl Sulfate
          • Hydroxypropyltrimonium Oligosaccharide
          • Sugar Quats

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    Ethanolamine is also knows as Triethanolamine (TEA), Diethanolamine (DEA) and Monoethanolamine (MEA). They are petroleum-derived ingredients that are found in cosmetics and haircare. They also have harmful effects and are linked to cancer, especially with repeated and prolonged use.

    NO sign

    Disodium EDTA / Tetrasodium EDTA

    Keep an eye out for Disodium EDTA / Tetrasodium EDTA. They are often used as preservatives, stabilizers, and foam enhancers, but they also act as penetration enhancers – allowing other potentially harmful ingredients in the formula to sink deeper into your tissues and even into your bloodstream. They are derived from coal and tar and are a poor choice for environmental health. Furthermore, Tetrasodium EDTA is made with the toxic, carcinogen formaldehyde (as discussed above). To avoid this ingredient, watch for these on the label:

            • Edetate sodium
            • Tetrasodium edetate
            • Tetrasodium salt
            • TEA-EDTA

    NO sign

    Isopropyl Alcohol

    Isopropyl Alcohol is a synthetic alcohol and is often found in hand sanitisers and is about twice as potent as ethyl alcohol (the drinking kind!). It can be potentially toxic and dehydrating for your hair, stripping away natural oils, leaving it feeling dry and brittle.

    NO sign

    Alcohol denat

    Alcohol denat is alocohol mixed with toxic, petroc-chemical additives. This is also very drying for the hair and can cause skin irritation.

    On the subject of alcohol, although regular alcohols (like ethanol and propanol) are not synthetic, it is worth mentioning as they are incredibly drying for your hair.

    pink splash

    Please note that alcohols should not be mixed up with fatty alcohols like cetearyl alcohol, these are healthy, natural ingredients often added as emollients and moisturisers.

    NO sign


    Tricolan is a synthetic pesticide that can be added to haircare and is often used as an antimicrobial agent. Triclosan can be absorbed through the skin and mouth and can be linked to Hormone disruption and liver damage. The European Union banned it in 2010 from products that come into contact with food. Look out for alternative names:

            • Irgasan DP-300
            • Lexol 300
            • Ster-Zac
            • Cloxifenolum
            • Triclocarban.

    Organic certification

    It's also helpful to look for brands that are certified by a third-party organization like the British Soil Association, COSMOS and ECOCERT. These organizations have specific standards that brands must meet in order to be certified natural.

    At Locks in Goodness, we are committed to providing 100% natural, organic, eco-friendly and vegan products. We carefully source the cleanest and greenest ingredients that are approved by these stringent third-party organisations and will never include any nasties. We have only selected ingredients that are as true to their natural form as possible and any minimal processing required is through only green or biodegradable methods.

    Benefits of Locks in Goodness

    We really hope that this information is helpful. With the right research and knowledge you can make sure you’re getting the most natural product possible!

    Please feel free to reach out to us at info@locksingoodness.co.uk if you have any questions!

    All the best,


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