The Function of Natural Ingredients in Cosmetics

A typical cosmetic product contains anything from 15 to 50 ingredients, and, if you use multiple products, that means placing hundreds of chemicals on your skin every day. Cosmetics have complex formulations that often include emulsifiers, thickeners, preservatives, emollients, fragrances, and pigments to make them more appealing and easier to use. With the current consumer demand for natural beauty products, sourcing alternative natural ingredients could help your brand maintain its market share.
What are “Natural” Ingredients in Cosmetics?
People typically use the term “natural” to describe ingredients that cannot be synthesized in a lab and come from plants, animals, fungi, or other biological sources. The legalities surrounding the use of the term on product labels often differ by country, with various regulatory bodies governing its use.
While the FDA (USA) and the EFSA (Europe) define natural flavorings and ingredient sources for food and beverages, there is little regulation of natural ingredients in cosmetics in both territories. Third-party certifications, such as USDA certified-organic, Natrue, and COSMOS can help define the term “natural” for eco-conscious cosmetics worldwide.
Why Choose Natural Ingredients for Cosmetics?
Many consumers perceive natural ingredients as healthier and better for their skin and actively seek out cosmetics that do not contain chemical additives and unfamiliar ingredients. Recent studies and media attention on the potentially negative health effects of parabens, formaldehyde, and phthalates also contribute to consumers’ drive for more natural ingredients in cosmetics. Additionally, bio-based ingredients often contain nutrients and bioactive compounds that can boost skin health, such as peptides, antioxidants, and minerals.
Six Functions of Natural Ingredients in Cosmetics

  1. Reverse photoaging
    Photoaging is the term for skin damage caused by UV radiation from the sun, which increases your body’s production of free radicals, causing oxidative stress and premature aging. Many natural ingredients, such as essential oils, plant extracts, and enzymes, have antioxidant properties – penetrating your skin and reducing the appearance of sun damage.
  2. Promote hydration
    Most cosmetics contain emollients to counteract water loss through the skin, keeping it moisturized and preventing dehydration. Manufacturers can extract natural emollients from vegetable oils or unrefined waxes, such as shea butter, cocoa butter, or beeswax.
  3. Enhance texture
    Cosmetics need thickeners and emulsifiers to keep immiscible substances blended, improve their absorption into the skin, and make them easier to apply. Natural thickeners include plant gums, such as acacia gum and xanthan gum, and polymers derived from plant cellulose. Naturally-derived acrylates act as binding agents in cosmetics and help create velvety formulations that leave a smooth skin finish.
  4. Extend shelf life
    Natural preservatives, such as benzyl alcohol or potassium sorbate, are crucial for preventing spoilage in water-based cosmetics. Many plant compounds, such as rosemary and grapefruit seed extract, also have anti-microbial properties that prevent bacteria and fungi from contaminating cosmetics.
  5. Soothe inflammation
    Plant compounds with anti-inflammatory properties, such as aloe vera and algae extract, can help reduce skin redness and improve the appearance of acne. Cosmetics manufacturers can also use isolated plant compounds, such as ethyl pyruvate, as anti-inflammatory ingredients in topical lotions.
  6. Brighten complexion
    Licorice root extract is a potent natural ingredient that reduces the production of an enzyme called tyrosinase to remove dark spots from the skin and promote an even texture. Other naturally-sourced skin brightening ingredients include sodium pyruvate and pyruvic acid.

Natural ingredients have many functions in the cosmetic industry, and using them can help you create cleaner beauty products for eco- and health-conscious consumers. Advanced Biotech is a leading supplier of EU-certified natural flavorings and USDA organic-certified ingredients for the cosmetics industry. Please contact us for more information.