Natural Cosmetics: Top 3 Questions Answered

Medically Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on October 04, 2012
2 min read

The natural cosmetics market is growing by leaps and bounds. Here’s what you should know before diving in, skin first.

The U.S. government hasn't defined the use of the term "natural."

"This means that while products may claim to be ‘all-natural' it's hard to know how to interpret the claim," says Jessica Krant, MD, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in New York. "Presumably, natural cosmetics are ones that contain only, or largely, ingredients like mica, silica and clay, that are found in nature and used directly in the product without altering them with chemical processes."

Your best bet is to inform yourself by reading the ingredients. "If the words are outside your vocabulary, take that as a red flag," says Sally Biondo, a New York makeup artist and organic beauty expert. You can also look up any ingredients on Skin Deep's Cosmetic Database (

Cost is one reason. "Talc, mineral oil, phthalates, and composed chemicals are all much less expensive than organic ingredients," Biondo says.

The claim that natural cosmetics are "better" or "healthier" for skin hasn't been proven in studies, Krant says. "But it does appear on the surface to make sense," she says. "One reason that more cosmetics aren't all natural is that it is difficult to create products that will stay blended and preserved without using proven chemicals to maintain emulsified and bacteria-free products."

The qualities people want in cosmetics -- such as lightness, easy absorbability, and flexibility to avoid cracking -- often comes from well-known chemicals. That said, the industry is making progress with newer technologies.

"When there is a known and identifiable allergy to a chemical ingredient such as a preservative, some patients may benefit from trying cosmetics labeled as natural instead," Krant says. Still, you are just as likely to be allergic to something labeled "natural."

You should check the ingredients, since natural cosmetics may contain unexpected components and ingredients.