Understanding Our Labels – and all about the little green box
When it comes to the ingredients in our products, at Neal’s Yard Remedies we pride our self on our honesty, integrity and transparency. We are proud to have been awarded 'Champion Status' by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for our long commitment to organics, and for helping to show that making safer products and fully disclosing ingredients can be good for all.
Our commitment to you
We are committed to making our products with the maximum organic, natural and wild ingredients, and carefully select other functional ingredients (detergents, emulsifiers, surfactants etc) with a view to safety, efficacy and biodegradability.
Our entire range makes use of high quality organic plant-based ingredients – where available we also source ingredients through ethical sourcing programmes, including the Fairtrade Foundation. Our products are approved by animal welfare bodies including BUAV and PETA, the organic content is certified by the Soil Association and the ingredients are certified organic by leading bodies including the Soil Association and the USDA. We fully disclose our ingredient information with our customers, both online and, where space allows, on our packaging.
Why we choose pure organic
We believe that choosing organic is best for both people and the planet. We've spent over 30 years developing our organic supply chain; we even grow some of our ingredients ourselves.
Choosing organic reduces potential harm from pesticide residue, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, artificial fertilisers and many other synthetic toxic chemicals.
We believe organic ingredients are the most effective, pure, beneficial ingredients you can use – no other ingredient contains higher levels of beneficial antioxidants, minerals, essential amino acids and vitamins than those which have been organically grown. Most importantly, choosing organic respects the delicate eco-system balance that our world depends on.
Our pure herb and plant extracts and essential oils are approved by the UK's Soil Association, who are internationally recognized for their high standards, though as we source globally, some ingredients may be certified at source by a number of similar international organizations such as USDA, NOP, Ecocert, Skal, etc. Foreign certification is always checked for compliance with Soil Association standards before being approved for our use.
Our sourcing policies: Organic vs. Wild vs. Natural
Our pure 'Organic' ingredients are grown under tight regulations that ban the use of harmful chemical fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides. We only ever call an ingredient organic if it has been independently certified organic.
Wild – we consider this to be the 'ultimate organic' as this is what every good organic farmer aims for – growing as nature intended, ie grown in a mixed species, unpolluted habitat and harvested sustainably.
Our pure frankincense and myrrh essential oils are a good example of this. Both are distilled from natural resin collected from trees in uncultivated desert areas far from the nearest chemical sprayed crops. However they are difficult to have independently certified as organic as the land is not officially owned or managed. Of course we are always looking for organic alternatives.
If wild-growing plants are collected from independently approved, organically managed land – for example our red clover, cleavers and dandelion from Croatia, or elderﬂowers, calendula and nettles from Sheepdrove Organic Farm – they too can also be certified organic.
Natural – this means plant ingredients and extracts grown by conventional or non-organic farming.
These ingredients are sourced from a small number of trusted suppliers that we have established long term relationships with.
Our essential oils
Essential oils are highly concentrated plant essences that only need to be used very sparingly to be effective. They are and always have been fundamental ingredients in our skincare products because of their therapeutic benefits on the skin, while providing aromatherapy benefits for the mind – such as calming, de-stressing and revitalising the spirit.
In the European Union (EU), personal care labels are required to list separately some of the naturally-occurring components of essential oils (for example limonene in lemon oil, or eugenol in clove oil). These essential oil components – which are present in every product on the market that makes use of essential oils – are shown in italics on our labels, are present in the final product in only minute amounts and are not ingredients that are added separately.
Why aren't all Neal's Yard Remedies products 100% organic?
Organic is our passion, but sometimes it's just not possible to be 100% organic.
'Organic' refers to products from certified organic agriculture – such as cold pressed seed oils, nut butters, essential oils, honey, beeswax, and herbs for infusions and tinctures. However not all beauty products can be based solely on certified agricultural ingredients.
Water is not 'organic' – it is not agricultural and doesn't grow – so products that are a mixture of oil and water can never be 100% organic.
Salt and other minerals also can't be certified as organic. Our Lavender Bath Salt is made from the ﬁnest French mineral-rich natural salt, harvested by traditional methods as part of the sustainable management of a wildlife reserve in the bay of Brittany. This pure salt is then combined with organic lavender oil from the mountains of Provence – and nothing else. As salt is a mineral and not an agricultural ingredient that can be grown, it cannot be certified organic. So the organic content of our 100% natural Lavender Bath Salt is just 1% – which is the amount of certified organic lavender oil.
Similarly our Geranium & Orange Body Scrub contains 60% organic ingredients in the form of organic oils and seed butters; its main ingredient, however, is salt. But as salt cannot be certified organic, our 100% natural Body Scrub cannot be 100% organic.
What you can rely on is that our products contain the highest levels of organic ingredient possible for each product type.
Our functional ingredients (emulsifiers, foaming agents, surfactants etc.)
'Functional' ingredients, such as emulsifiers, detergents/foaming agents and surfactants (short for surface active agents – ingredients that help products to rinse or cleanse more effectively) have no natural equivalents – yet! These 'functional' ingredients are necessary to give the performance or textures that you value – after all, there's no point in making a shampoo if it doesn't rinse out of your hair, or a cream that leaves a sticky feel on your skin.
In our products, as far as possible these ingredients are processed from natural plant material. But – and this is important – the source materials for these ingredients tend to come from 'conventional' rather than organic farming methods.
Why aren't functional ingredients organic?
That's a good question – and one that we regularly put to our ingredient suppliers! Currently most functional ingredients are made on a large-scale by specialist companies that are part of the conventional beauty care industry. As the organic beauty market grows in importance, we continue to push for more functional ingredients made from organic plant material.
Already our determination has led to changes. Once we were told there was no way of producing an organic soap. Undaunted, we campaigned for 5 years to persuade our soap manufacturer to make an organic soap base – and were the first to use it when it was finally created in 2006. Today we're proud to say our ultra-gentle Baby Soap is 99% organic.
Our goal is clear – to use 100% organic ingredients, either organically-grown or ideally naturally growing wild on uncontaminated or organic land – depending on the nature of the plant. Most of our extracts already meet this objective – we now just have to convince the beauty care ingredients industry to use pure organic materials to make functional ingredients.
If anyone tells you that they have a cream, lotion, foaming bath or shampoo made with 100% organic ingredients, they are making false promises. The fact is, different product types require different formulations.
While we all want products that are free from preservatives, unlike food, we don't keep our skincare in the fridge but in a warm and steamy bathroom. Which means if we want to keep our creams and lotions fresh and free from bacteria and other 'undesirables', we need to use preservatives.
One of the many bonuses of using plant-based materials and essential oils is that many of these are also natural preservatives, such as rose or propolis extract, and the ethanol/denatured alcohol (alcohol from plant sources) we use to dissolve and blend all the natural plant essences in the finished product. Which all means we need fewer, if any, added preservatives in our products – such as our Wild Rose Beauty Balm, White Tea Eye Gel, Rose Formula Hydrating Eye Cream, Baby Bath & Shampoo, Wild Rose Daily Moisture SPF 30, Pure Essence Eau de Parfums and many more.
Where natural preservatives aren't viable, we choose the safest, most natural possible versions of these ingredients and use the minimum required to produce a high quality product.
Main product types: a brief formulation guide
Creams, lotions and hair conditioners
These are all a combination of oil and water. Emulsifiers are needed to combine these ingredients, and plant extracts are often added for their aromatic and therapeutic benefits. The oil and plant parts of the formulation can be organic, but the water cannot (See ‘Why aren't all Neal's Yard Remedies products organic?’ for more information.) and neither can the emulsifiers used to give the product its texture. Unlike the oil blend or balm, a cream or lotion cannot be 100% organic.
Shampoos, shower gels, foaming baths and face washes
Foaming products use functional ingredients called surfactants (short for surface active agents) that act as the cleansing base, and allow the product to disperse into the water. Foaming products can contain high quality natural and organic ingredients, but they can't be 100% organic. (See ‘Why aren't all Neal's Yard Remedies products 100% organic?’ for more information.)
When you combine ('saponify') vegetable oils with a strong alkali solution such as sodium hydroxide (lye), you create soap. After saponification none of the alkali solution remains. A bar of soap cannot be 100% organic – but it can come very close! Neal's Yard Remedies has always been at the forefront of working with suppliers to engage them with our organic mission. We campaigned for 5 years to persuade our soap manufacturer to make an organic soap base, and were the first to use it when it was finally created in 2006 in our 99% organic Baby Soap. Click here to learn more about our functional ingredients.
Face masks or similar products
Natural ingredients used in beauty care – such as clays, minerals and salt – can not be termed ‘organic’ because they are not living organisms or the products of farming.
Unlike the food you eat, there is a lack of organic regulations for cosmetics, and in some cases due to the complexity of calculating 'organic' in beauty products, there has been a proliferation of new brands that exaggerate their organic status. Some contain very few organic ingredients at all, and others also contain quite a few synthetic ingredients that no green consumer would expect or want!
So how can you tell if you are being 'greenwashed'?
Sadly, often you cannot tell from reading the marketing claims. To get to the truth take a good look at the ingredients listing on the packaging – does the company indicate exactly which of the ingredients are organic? If so – how many organic ingredients are there – and where do they appear in the list? Cosmetics ingredients are listed in order of quantity so the ingredients that make up the bulk of the formulation are listed first.
We often see examples of products such as "Organic Lavender Body Cream" – where the one and only organic ingredient is organic lavender oil – and it's likely that this is less than 1% of the total. Other claims may mention "Active Organic Ingredients" as if there was some mysterious distinction between active and non-active ingredients in a product. Of course it's absolute nonsense when companies claim to be "chemical-free" – everything is made from chemicals – preservatives, plants, people and the universe!
To avoid being greenwashed, choose products that have independent organic certification (Soil Association, USDA, etc) or choose companies that clearly identify their certified organic ingredients and sourcing policies.
Neal’s Yard Remedies has a long history of using certified organic ingredients as well as making almost all of our certified organic products in our own eco-factory in Dorset in the UK. We always label the organic ingredients on our products, and of course – we give you the little green box.
More about the Soil Association
Formed in 1946 to address concerns over intensive farming practices introduced after WWII, especially the introduction of pesticides such as DDT, the Soil Association has an illustrious history of campaigning for the responsible, sustainable and ethical management of our resources.
With a reputation for upholding the 'gold standard' of certification, and representing 80% of organic goods sold in the UK, the Soil Association's strict criteria applies standards over and above the minimum legal requirements. It is considered one of the most stringent of organic certification bodies anywhere in the world.
Over 60% of the Neal's Yard Remedies product range is certified by the Soil Association. Even where a product cannot be certified, we still use organic ingredients that have been certified by the Soil Association, Ecocert or the USDA, to ensure the highest possible organic percentage.
We support The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
We stand behind everything that The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are doing to help make cosmetics safer – and to keep manufacturers honest! As mentioned earlier, we are one of the first to be awarded the Champion Status.
But it is very important to understand that when you look up an individual ingredient in EWG's Skin Deep Cosmetics Database that an ingredient's rating is based on exposure to that ingredient alone rather than in the finished cosmetic product where it is diluted by many other ingredients. While individual ingredient ratings are useful, they can be very misleading if you are not aware of this fundamental difference. We believe the overall score of a product is more important. The 89% of our products are given the green 'light' and scored 0-2 (low hazard).
Want to know more about our ingredients?
If there is any ingredient we use that you want to know more about – including those with a Skin Deep rating of 3 or more – the Technical Ingredients Glossary on our website can provides clarification and explanations necessary to help you make the best choices for you and your family.
And finally... our commitment to constant improvement
Neal’s Yard Remedies is a 30-year-old company where nothing stands still. We are committed to reformulating our product line to take into account new advances in natural product formulation. We acknowledge that we're not perfect, and there are some 'legacy' products and ingredients that we're not 100% satisfied with. However, we are safely using them while we seek alternatives.
If you have questions about any of our products or ingredients, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org