Cosmetics & Personal Care

Challenging the assumptions of ‘natural’ cosmetics

By Sarah Harding, PhD

Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica, challenges the status quo in natural cosmetics.   The meg

Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica, challenges the status quo in natural cosmetics.
The mega-trend for natural products represents one of the fastest growing sectors in the global beauty industry, and it is expected to be worth $22 billion by 2024. Yet it remains surrounded by controversy. We spoke to Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica, the world’s leading accredited online Organic Cosmetic Science School, about natural cosmetics and how her award-winning curriculum is changing hearts and minds. The school teaches online formulation courses to thousands of students in 137 countries, and welcomes 100,000 readers and listeners per month to its blog and podcast.
Q: How would you define a ‘natural’ cosmetic?
A natural cosmetic is a formulation that only contains ingredients that are natural or naturally derived. Some formulators view a natural ingredient as one which has only undergone some physical processing, whereas others take a more pragmatic view and are happy to work with ingredients such as preservatives, surfactants and emulsifiers that have undergone chemical change.
Our educational materials cater for both ends of this natural formulation spectrum. Our students create anhydrous ranges that contain only oils, butters and essential oils, whereas others branch out into lotions, creams, foaming products, gels and more, and use chemically altered but naturally derived ingredients.
Q: What has driven consumer demand for these ingredients?
We live in a fast-paced world, where many people feel stressed and overwhelmed. Consumers have started countering these feelings by seeking wellbeing in different parts of their lives, including looking for natural alternatives to mainstream beauty products. Whether right or wrong, social media is largely responsible for driving this demand, as consumers are frequently told that natural is better.
Q: Is ’natural’ always better?
I don’t view the debate as being ‘natural vs synthetic’, where one is better than the other. Rather, I feel strongly that we should be seeking to be sustainable in our beauty habits, over and above our use of certain ingredients. We encourage our students to work with botanical ingredients that have been sustainably harvested, manufactured and transported. In our view, sustainable is always the holy grail.

Q: What is so challenging about making organic formulations?
The most challenging component is finding alternatives to certain synthetic functional ingredients, such as cationic surfactants or silicones. More manufacturers are introducing innovative natural ingredients to the market, although these alternatives are generally only available in very high Minimum Order Quantities, which makes them unavailable to most indie brands.
I also view sustainability as a growing challenge. Formulators are not always aware of the provenance of their ingredients and don’t know the environmental or social impacts of their formulations.
I’ve been delighted to see an increase in the number of naturally derived functional ingredients sold by suppliers in recent years. We’re starting to see a more diverse ranges of emulsifiers, thickeners, surfactants and antimicrobial agents. Nonetheless, we still see a struggle to obtain palm oil-free ingredients, and manufacturers still preserve many innovative botanical extracts with synthetic preservatives, effectively ruling them out for most natural formulators.
Q: How is accreditation regulated?
There are many different types of certification that may or may not apply to natural products, including organic, natural, vegan, etc. The regulation of these programmes depends on the country where the product is sold and the certification used. In the EU, organic and natural certifications aren’t regulated. However, the certifying bodies that exist worldwide maintain very strict standards. For instance, organic certification will always require that a brand’s supply chain also meets organic certification standards. 
Q: Is the future of beauty ‘natural’?
There is a reluctance amongst many mainstream brands to accept that demand for natural products is here to stay. Nonetheless, I expect to see acceptance continue to grow as consumers force the industry to reconsider the ingredients used in formulations.
My long-term prediction, however, is that the sustainability movement will become more important than the natural movement. I believe that the beauty industry has a long way to go in order to raise its environmental and social credentials and help raise awareness of the impact of beauty products. 


Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica, will be speaking on ‘Challenging the assumptions of natural in cosmetics’ at the Marketing Trends Theatre on Wednesday, 3 April, 12.00 – 12.45 at in-cosmetics Global in Paris.
Interview with:
Lorraine Dallmeier, Director of Formula Botanica, Wadebridge House, 16 Wadebridge Square, Poundbury, Dorchester, Dorset DT1 3AQ, UK.
T: +44 (0) 800 011 9545