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

By Bahar Krahn, Founder NOELIE

Again and again we encounter that there is a great deal 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 have even bought the first product. Because in order to keep the perspective, you have to deal with the topic very intensively.

In order to find a product that fits you, your values ​​and needs, you should definitely deal with it, even if it means a bit of effort. In addition, “natural cosmetics” is not a protected term in Germany. That means you can write anything on the product on the subject to convince you that it's the real deal. Unfortunately, this is often more about appearances than reality.

So how do you find your way around? The following definition can be found on the internet:

"Natural cosmetics are cosmetics whose ingredients are predominantly of natural origin ."

That's a start. It is therefore important that the product contains as few synthetic chemical components as possible. However, have you ever asked yourself why synthetic substances are used at all? That's easy to answer: it's a cost issue because it helps minimize costs.

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

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

It is a personal need for me to stand by your side here. Because you can only make good decisions for yourself if you know what you need to orientate yourself 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's on it doesn't match what's inside. With advertising statements 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 saving nature if you buy this or that, or they actually use plant-based ingredients but they have been chemically treated, sprayed, or processed at minimum wages.

It's not just about the content of the product, but also 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 see that "greenwash" is more common than expected.

Every loophole is used

When we ask customers whether they already use natural cosmetics, we often get answers like: "I always make sure to only buy products with the " Vegan " seal." Or: "I only use cosmetics that have not been tested on animals." That is of course a great start and in any case these are values ​​that should not 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 says 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 hook, 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, so logically there is nothing organic on it or in it. Zack, vegan seal suitable! In addition, " vegan " does not necessarily mean healthy: car tires and silicone are also vegan, but have little to do with health. So if you're looking for organic, low-emission, or free products, " Vegan " is a great addition - but it's not a guarantee of the content.

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

For example, there is a company that has perfected the concept of greenwashing: the whole website is full of ecological and sustainable projects. They call themselves experts for plants and advertise with "plant cosmetics". Only if you look very closely can you see that it is not natural cosmetics. For example, they write that all packaging is made from recycled materials. But if you continue reading, a big "Except..." comes up. Some ingredients have certification for sustainable cultivation. It's less than 10 plants from hundreds of ingredients that are organically and sustainably grown. The rest is planted in uncontrolled soils, sprayed and processed with non-natural cosmetic methods. Nevertheless, the company is allowed to print the label. It suggests that it is an ecological product - that less than 3% of the content is affected cannot be deduced at first glance. The INCI list speaks for itself: Dimethicone (that is silicone) in second place leaves no doubt that it is not a question of natural cosmetics.

Clean Beauty - What does "clean product" mean?

The trend from the USA, which is currently very popular, is already a household name here and was certainly created with the best of intentions: cosmetics should be clearly labeled so that the customer can find their way around quickly and easily. The term "clean", which means clean, is misleading here. No manufacturer is allowed to produce cosmetics contaminated with germs, which is why Clean Beauty products do not stand out in this respect. However, clean beauty does not mean “ contain only organic ingredients ”, but simply “free from…”. This "free from" includes important criteria for a product, such as

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

However, since this 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 on the Internet for clean beauty cosmetics, you will see at first glance that many brands appear here that you would never have associated with natural ingredients before. That's because that's not the case either.

It is great that these brands do without many harmful substances and are taking an important step in the right direction. However, it is misleading again that although the named harmful substances or ingredients of synthetic origin are not included, everything else can be included. In truth, nothing is regulated here: The raw materials can be chemically fertilized, sprayed or of synthetic origin and contain other harmful and hormonal components. It can happen that you hold a 100% synthetic product in your hand, but it corresponds to the clean beauty ideal. What was created with good intentions is again instrumentalized to mislead you.

Certification - Defining what is important

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

Nevertheless, you can also check & compare whether the definitions meet your requirements: Some seals, for example, guarantee that 95% of the ingredients are of plant origin, but tell the manufacturer that only 10% must 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 about this is that plant origin - non-organically grown - can also mean that an ingredient has been chemically fertilized or sprayed. It can also be irradiated after harvest, which is tantamount to genetic manipulation. Not only do these chemicals and toxins end up back in our bodies, but the irradiated raw materials also lose many nutrients, so 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 different levels of certification, so the consumer can always see exactly what to expect from the product and what not. And they also indicate how much of the content corresponds to the bio or organic standard in percentage terms. In the lower price segment of natural cosmetics, for example, you will find products that only contain plants, but not all from controlled organic cultivation. Or the water contained takes up such a large proportion that there is a deduction in purity here. Because water cannot be certified, it may or may not have different levels of pollution depending on the region. Basically, what has long been history on the conventional market still applies to natural cosmetics: 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 gimmicks that companies allow themselves when it comes to 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 the raw materials to packaging and the finished product, everything is checked here annually. With other certifications, on the other hand, there is only one test 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. Some of the ingredients are not all certified organic, others do not yet have sustainable packaging. In addition, the companies naturally also have a very different focus. While some may have declared war on packaging madness, the wording is important to others.

In addition to the COSMOS ORGANIC standard , which ensures that the cultivation areas, harvest and processing up to the finished product are checked and certified annually, we also have our own values. One of the things we believe in is 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 controlled organic cultivation. 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.

It was particularly important to me personally 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 contain no water, 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 less effective it becomes. Cold and heat put a strain on the active ingredients and nutrients and put them to a hard test. And if a product has traveled halfway around the globe, it has traveled through a number of different climate zones.

Likewise, exactly the sustainable packaging materials that we need for our pure, high-quality formulations can be found here in Germany. With these short channels, we can check at any time and ensure that our requirements are implemented accordingly. Wrapping a biological cosmetic formulation in plastic would never occur to us. It has been proven that softeners and the smallest pieces of plastic get into the product and thus also into our bodies. There are safe alternatives made from sugar cane or glass to ensure no packaging residue gets into the product. We only fill into frosted glass to avoid such interactions and to protect the active ingredients from light.

When we speak of 10 years of development & research, we are not exaggerating. It's more that that's not enough for us. We are at the forefront of cosmetic innovation in the natural cosmetics space and we continue to improve and optimize our raw materials, processing and formulations.

The COSMOS ORGANIC standard is therefore a welcome award for values ​​that are one of the cornerstones of our actions. We stand for absolute transparency and sustainability - we spare neither costs nor effort.


As you can see, many paths lead to a cosmetics line. In my Be Organic Institute, founded in 2012, we worked with a wide variety of natural cosmetics brands for a long time before I implemented my own vision. I kept noticing deficits that did not meet my requirements. All brands have their place in the market, each one is good at something different. For many customers, there must also be many different values ​​and priorities. But personally, purity and potency have always been most important to me. 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 it and with it.

Personally, I think that everything that comes on and into my body has to be of the highest standard. And I wish nothing less for you. That's why there is NOELIE .