Redefining Natural, The 'N' in SKEN
If you frequently shop for beauty & personal care items you already know the market is saturated with products splashed with buzzwords and ill-defined jargon. Words like natural, rejuvenating, and organic are thrown in with phrases like ultra-effective, age-reversing, and all-natural to help bolster a product's shelf appeal; meanwhile, more thought has gone into the advertising than to the product itself. Need proof? Google the terms: 'beauty retail returns losses'. While return fraud may be a very real problem, it only accounts for so much of the volume of beauty items returned each year due to customer dissatisfaction. Even in the endless supply of daily cosmetic reviews from the beauty blogging industry, many customers buy products on-sight and rely on a brand to be honest & upfront about what they should expect out of their probable purchase.
Well, IDEALLY, that would be the case. Unfortunately we all know the beauty industry uses a fair amount of hyperbole and somewhat misleading terminology/ wording in order to help sell a product's supposed key benefits. Aside from losing a fair amount of consumer trust, many words have all but lost their meanings; the most notable being 'natural'.
The technical definition of 'natural' is fairly complex to begin with so like any word with multiple meanings, context determines which meaning is most applicable; in the beauty and personal care industry, the typical brand's definition falls in line with Miriam Webster's first entry for 'natural', Definition 2.B: "having or constituting a classification based on features existing in nature". As for The SKEN System, we take the definition a little further.
The SKEN System takes a lot of care with what it considers 'natural', especially since it is one of the four pillars of how we formulate our products. For example, high-grade silicone oils can provide some great benefits to certain formulations, however they are lab-synthesized materials not readily found in nature. So in order to create high-quality products with truly natural components, we spent years researching and experimenting to find the perfect methodology to simulate the luxurious feel of high-grade silicone oils by combining different plant oils and butters of varying molecular weights (along with an innovative system which pairs natural powder fillers with the correct fats in order to optimally recreate the skinfeel of various silicone oils and their other more technical benefits). The results speak for themselves.
Another and slightly trickier example is the broad-spectrum preservative we frequently incorporate into formulas (both for safety and in order to comply to FDA standards), called Optiphen PLUS, which includes a substance called 'phenoxyethanol'. In very minute amounts, phenoxyethanol is an incredible preservative which keeps products hygienic without adversely effecting skin or the environment. As you may have guessed from its name, phenoxyethanol is a petroleum by-product synthesized under lab conditions. One could argue that petroleum is a natural substance found on earth, however, even with that granted, phenoxyethanol itself is man-made in laboratories and not natural (to us, anyway). So why do we still use it? To put it simply, because the other options are much worse.
There are a few preservatives that would fall under our definition of 'natural', but their detriments heavily outweigh any benefits. Formaldehyde is found in nature, as are many formaldehyde-releasing preservatives (like ammonium salts) and parabens. Sorbic acid is an adequate natural preservative, but even moderate amounts can cause skin irritation; the same goes for caprylyl glycol, a natural antimicrobial made from coconut oil. So while there are preservative options which fall more in line with our definition of 'natural', in this specific case it is highly recommended that a partially synthetic preservative, like Optiphen PLUS, is used in small amounts alongside other naturally-occurring options. In recent years researchers have claimed that specific essential oils could provide adequate defense against a broad range of microscopic baddies, but there is still a lack of reliable studies to back these claims. We have already been performing our own experiments to test the efficacy of essential oils as more palatable replacements for ingredients like phenoxyethanol, so one day we hope to be able to replace it altogether and have plenty of proof to back our decisions. Until then, we have pledged to keep synthetic preservatives like phenoxyethanol below 0.5% in all of our formulae, with the full amount of preservatives equaling less than 1% of the total end product; just enough to keep things fresh and clean without sacrificing peace of mind.
Speaking of essential oils, another tricky subject is 'natural' fragrances. Many synthetic fragrances are made to be identical to their natural counterparts, with certain synthetic fragrances actually consisting of components derived from essential oils (for example, ionones derived from May Chang essential oil can help create synthetic violet fragrances). Sometimes this replication reaches the molecular level, resulting in synthetic fragrances which are indistinguishable from their natural counterparts. However, due to trade secret laws & practices it is nearly impossible to determine the precise chemicals and their respective percentages within a synthetic fragrance oil; so we have decided it is much easier to instead rely on essential oils and other truly natural ingredients to provide excellent olfactory experiences without sacrificing peace of mind.
We stick to essential oils which are verified to be pure, unadulterated distillations from organic and fair-trade flora; no excuses, no exceptions. We also strive to avoid essential oils which carry the highest risk of sensitivity or allergic reaction, so we have completely phased out using lavender, lemon, lilac, clove, cinnamon, ylang ylang, and lemongrass oils or extracts (along with macadamia, walnut, peanut, and sweet almond oils and oleochemicals).
So a 'natural' product to us not only means it uses ingredients found in nature, it means subverting ingredients that, although natural, carry a high risk of adverse reaction. In rare cases where 'natural' options are not available or pose more harm than benefit, we will employ globally-approved ingredients in incredibly small amounts in order to ensure the safety of our customers. Every time we use an ingredient which falls out of line with the 'natural' way we do things, we are upfront and honest with its inclusion and will always provide accurate approximations of its percentage compared to the product it's fortifying. Honesty and clarity regarding a product's constituents is paramount in providing our customers with products they can love without worrying whether or not their pampering comes at the price of nature or their fellow humans.
To sum it all up, we'll put it this way: We do things differently, not because we want to stand out, but because the informed consumer has needs which make them stand out from the basic crowd. Our customers know that they deserve high-quality, low-risk cosmetics at an affordable price in a range of all-inclusive options; and we aim to create products which help simplify your day by doing exactly what they claim without using ingredients that make you uneasy, and without sacrificing social responsibility or ecological awareness. Most importantly, we make products we believe in because we have spent every step of the creative process triple-checking that every aspect of our products imbibe the four pillars of The SKEN System: Simple, Kind, Effective, and Natural; because when you create truly incredible products, you don't need to fluff them up with a bunch of bullsh*t in an effort to trick customers into buying something.
When you create truly stellar products all you need to do is be honest; and to us, honesty is natural.