Natural cosmetics, clean beauty, vegan - how much nature is really behind it?

By Bahar Krahn, founder NOELIE

We often encounter that there is a lot of confusion among customers about what is real natural cosmetics and what is not. And what does that even mean – natural cosmetics? There are hundreds of natural cosmetic advertising claims. Some of them actually say something, others are pure greenwash strategy. Many customers want to give up before they even buy their first product. In order to keep track of things, you have to deal with the topic very intensively.

In order to find a product that suits you, your values ​​and needs, you should definitely look into it, even if it means a bit of effort. In addition, “natural cosmetics” is not a protected term in Germany. This means that you can write anything on the subject on the product in order to convince you that it is the real thing. But unfortunately it's often more about appearance than reality.

So how can you find your way? On the Internet you can get the definition, among other things:

“Natural cosmetics are cosmetics whose ingredients are predominantly of natural origin.”

That's already a start. The aim is to ensure that the product contains as few synthetic chemical components as possible. However, have you ever asked yourself why synthetic substances are used at all? The answer to that is very simple: it is a profit issue because it can minimize costs.

There are also a lot of options between a greenwash product and real natural cosmetics.

Basically, we can differentiate between natural cosmetics, natural cosmetics and organic cosmetics. While natural cosmetics have an almost indefinable scope, natural cosmetics does not have to mean that they only contain plants or organic ingredients. Organic cosmetics, on the other hand, are usually subject to guidelines that clearly define what can and cannot be included, but do not have to be 100% organic.

It is a personal need for me to support you here. Because you can only make good decisions for yourself if you know what you have to focus on.

Greenwash The power of suggestion

When it comes to natural cosmetics, greenwash means products that appear green or organic, but are not or only partially so. So what it says doesn't match what's inside. With advertising claims or promises about the content, they try to suggest that they are comparably plant-based or sustainable even without standards, seals or certification.

For example, some companies use mostly chemical ingredients in their products but advertise that they are saving nature when you buy this or that, or they actually use herbal ingredients but these have been chemically treated, injected or processed for minimum wages.

It's not just about the content of the product, but also about how the content got there. How sustainably the environment, people and resources are treated is just as important as the end product. Likewise, it makes no sense to use high-quality extracts and then put them in plastic packaging. So you can see that “greenwash” is more common than expected.

Every loophole is exploited

When we ask customers whether they already use natural cosmetics, we often get answers like: “I always make sure to only buy products with a “ vegan ” seal.” Or: “I only use cosmetics that have not been tested on animals.” That is, of course Great start and definitely these are values ​​that shouldn't be missing from your checklist for the perfect product. But do they say anything about natural cosmetics? Let's take a look at an example:

The vegan flower on a cosmetic product indicates that animal products and ingredients are not used in the recipe and packaging. This could be honey or lice blood, for example. With this seal, greenwash products have a great appeal, because everyone just sees “Oh, great – vegan !” and forgets that this has nothing to do with plant-based cosmetics. A shampoo, for example, can be completely synthetic and highly chemical in structure; logically there is nothing organic about it or in it. Zack, vegan seal suitable! In addition, “ vegan ” does not necessarily mean healthy: car tires and silicones are also vegan, but they have little to do with health. So if you are looking for organic, low-pollutant or free products, “ Vegan ” is a great addition – but it is no guarantee for the content.

Even printed statements such as “ecological” or “sustainable” say nothing about the content. “Ecological” can mean a few parts and it is also sustainable to plant a tree in the rainforest for every product purchased. It's all a matter of interpretation.

For example, there is a company that has perfected the concept of greenwashing: the entire website is bursting with ecological and sustainable projects. They call themselves experts in plants and advertise “plant cosmetics”. Only if you look very closely can you see that these are not natural cosmetics. For example, they write that all packaging is made from recycled materials. But if you read further you get a big “Except…”. Some ingredients have certification for sustainable cultivation. There are less than 10 plants made from hundreds of ingredients that are grown organically and sustainably. The rest is planted in uncontrolled soil, sprayed and processed using non-natural cosmetic methods. The company is still allowed to print the label. It suggests that it is an ecological product - at first glance it cannot be deduced that less than 3% of the contents are affected. The Inci list speaks for itself: Dimethicone (that is silicone) in second place leaves no doubt that it is not natural cosmetics.

Clean Beauty What does “clean product” mean?

The currently very popular trend from the USA is already a well-established term here and was certainly created with the best of intentions: cosmetics should be clearly labeled so that the customer can orient themselves quickly and easily. The term “clean”, which translated means clean, is misleading here. No manufacturer is allowed to produce germ-contaminated cosmetics, which is why clean beauty products do not stand out in this regard. Clean Beauty does not mean “ containing only organic ingredients ”, but simply “free from…”. This “free from” includes important criteria for a product, such as:

  • free from synthetic fragrances
  • free of PEGs
  • paraben free
  • free from aggressive sulfates
  • free of mineral oils

However, since it is not a protected and defined term, these criteria vary. In the USA, for example, significantly fewer ingredients are considered questionable than in Europe. If you look for clean beauty cosmetics on the Internet, you will notice at first glance that many brands appear here that you would never have previously associated with natural ingredients. That's because that's not the case either.

What's great is that these brands avoid many harmful substances and take an important step in the right direction. However, it is misleading again that although the pollutants or ingredients of synthetic origin mentioned are not included, everything else can be included. In reality, nothing is regulated here: the raw materials can be chemically fertilized, sprayed or of synthetic origin and contain other harmful and hormone-active components. It can certainly happen that you are holding a 100% synthetic product in your hand, but one that corresponds to the clean beauty ideal. What was created with good intentions is used again to mislead you.

Certification Defining what’s important

We recommend you: Pay attention to the certification. Since German law does not protect the definition of natural cosmetics, they do so instead. For example, if you find seals from the BDIH or Ecocert Association on your product, you can read and understand their values ​​and guidelines in detail. They guarantee you that there is something inside.

Nevertheless, you can also check and compare whether the definitions meet your requirements: For example, some seals guarantee that 95% of the ingredients are of plant origin, but tell the manufacturer that only 10% have to be organically grown and processed. It is important and wonderful that so many manufacturers already meet these criteria. But what you also need to know is that plant origin - non-organically grown - can also mean that an ingredient has been chemically fertilized or sprayed. It may also be irradiated after harvest, which is tantamount to genetic manipulation. Not only do these chemicals and toxins end up back in our bodies, the irradiated raw materials also lose many nutrients, so their effectiveness suffers.

The COSMOS standard

The two associations mentioned above are two of the five founding members of the international natural cosmetics seal COSMOS , whose standards we have also adapted. They offer certifications at different levels so that the consumer always sees exactly what they can and cannot expect from the product. And they also indicate how much of the content corresponds to the organic or organic standard in percentage terms. In the lower price segment of natural cosmetics, for example, you can find products that only contain plants, but not all from controlled organic cultivation. Or the water it contains takes up such a large proportion that there is a reduction in purity. Because water cannot be certified; it may or may not be contaminated differently depending on the region. Basically, when it comes to natural cosmetics, what has long been history in the conventional market still applies: you pay for the purity and effectiveness of the ingredients, not for the brand name.

Our NOELIE products are equipped with the highest and purest certification of the COSMOS standard : the COSMOS Organic seal .

At the highest certification level, all criteria of a product correspond to the COSMOS standard .

All the tricks and tricks that companies use when greenwashing are not permitted here. The information on the packaging must also be verifiable and must not be misleading. From cultivation, environmental protection and processing of raw materials to packaging and the finished product, everything is checked here annually. With other certifications, however, the test is only checked once at the beginning and then never again.

Trust is good - control is better or the NOELIE standard

Take a close look at who shares your values ​​and who doesn't. The certifications give you an overview of how pure the product is. For some, not all ingredients are certified organic, others do not yet have sustainable packaging. In addition, the companies naturally have very different focuses. While one person may have declared war on packaging madness, the other person may care about the formulation.

In addition to the COSMOS ORGANIC standard , which ensures that growing areas, harvesting and processing up to the finished product are tested and certified annually, we also have our very own values. Among other things, we believe that the purity of the essences we use make a big difference. Our certified high-performance active ingredients are used in the highest possible concentration and purity.

Our certification stipulates that 20% of our ingredients must be from certified organic farming. We use four times as many organically grown and processed raw materials: NOELIE products contain up to 95% organically grown ingredients. And what we could not have certified comes from controlled wild collection or was obtained biotechnologically and COSMOS APPROVED from organically grown plants and incorporated as an active ingredient.

Personally, it was particularly important to me that we only use study-tested active ingredients, precious oils and essences from the first pressing and in the highest concentration. For me it is also important that our products do not contain water, but only fresh plant juices.

Our products are produced in Germany, we avoid environmentally harmful transport routes and thus also support the economic environment in which we live. The further away a cosmetic is produced, the more its effectiveness suffers. Cold and heat strain the active ingredients and nutrients and put them to a tough test. And if a product has traveled halfway around the world, it has traveled through several different climate zones.

The sustainable packaging materials we need for our pure, high-quality formulations can also be found here in Germany. These short routes allow us to check at any time and ensure that our requirements are being implemented accordingly. Packaging an organic cosmetic formulation in plastic would never occur to us. It has been proven that plasticizers and tiny plastic parts get into the product and thus into our bodies. There are safe alternatives made from sugar cane or glass to ensure that no packaging residue gets into the product. We only bottle in frosted glass to avoid such interactions and to protect the active ingredients from light.

When we talk about 10 years of development and research, we are not exaggerating. It's more like that's not enough for us. We are a leader in cosmetic innovations in the natural cosmetics sector and continue to improve and optimize our raw materials, processing and formulations.

The COSMOS ORGANIC standard is a welcome award for values ​​that are, for us, one of the fundamental pillars of our actions. We stand for absolute transparency and sustainability - we spare no expense or effort to achieve this.


As you can see, there are many paths to a cosmetics line. At my Be Organic Institute, which I founded in 2012, we worked with a variety of natural cosmetics brands for a long time before I implemented my own vision. I kept noticing deficits that didn't meet my requirements. All brands have their place on the market, each one is good at something different. For many customers there must also be many different values ​​and priorities. But for me personally, purity and effectiveness have always been most important. And these demands are so high that I could only do it myself. We always talk about diversity here - it is wonderful and so is our earth, nature and the people who live in and with it.

Personally, I think that everything that goes on and into my body must meet the highest standard. And I wish nothing less for you. That's why NOELIE exists.