The "Natural" Debate


As I embarked on The Simple Equine adventure over two years ago with the goal of creating a natural grooming products line, I spent a lot of time studying the competitive and comparative sets.  I looked at horse grooming products, human skincare products, and other pet products.  I looked at big sellers and smaller niche products.  And of course, since natural products were a priority for me, I studied many of the products claiming to be natural. 

Unlike “organic” products which are regulated, “natural” products are not.  In the skincare/petcare/grooming products industry, what I have discovered is a large sliding scale, or spectrum in terms of what people say is in fact, natural.  There are two big takeaways for me; one, you can pretty much say anything is natural, and two, that it’s up to you, as the consumer, to really decide whether you agree with the seller of the product as to what’s natural.  The future may put “natural”, in a regulated state like “organic.”  In fact, the lack of regulation has recently been brought to the FDA.  It will be interesting to follow developments and see the outcome.  For now however, “natural” is a free for all. 

The dictionary defines natural as, “existing in nature and not made or caused by people”, or, “not having any extra substances or chemicals added.”  Does this mean that a plant oil, that a human has had to extract from a plant is not natural?  I don’t think so but I suppose you could debate the point.  I do tend to agree with the latter definition, it just makes logical sense to me.  Some of you will be more lax in your definition of natural, others will be very specific in what their requirements are.  It really comes down to personal preference. 

“Natural” is a difficult area to navigate, and ultimately it is up to you to do your own research and decide which products meet your requirements.When I look at a product, I like to understand what is in it.  If I don’t know or recognize the majority of ingredients, I tend to be wary.  I give a thumbs up to various oils, butters, essential oils, salts, waters, extracts and tinctures.  I also know the benefits of many of these ingredients so I can make a quick deduction about whether product claims make sense. 

In some types of products however, I am forgiving.  For example, any product that contains water really needs a broad spectrum preservative to avoid bacteria and mold growth.  There just isn’t a way to have a product containing water to be 100% natural in my eyes, but it can still be pretty close, and that satisfies me.  Some of you might be more picky, for example forgoing products that are water-based, only approving certain preservatives, or only using water based products that need to be used within a few days, before mold and bacteria start to thrive. 

With many equine products, here in the US, there are no ingredient statements.  I understand this, as there are always people trying to imitate something good.  If however, you call the manufacturer of a product about a specific question and they won’t answer or take time to give you the information you need, I would tend to steer away from that product.  Let’s say for example, you or your equine pal have an allergy to a specific ingredient, but you aren’t sure whether it might be contained in the product.  Give the company who makes it a call and ask them.  Hopefully they’ll be helpful! 

When making purchases, it seems that the best course of action is to educate yourself and come up with your own parameters.  The more you know, the more you can make decisions that you feel good about.  Feel confident that you are empowered to buy products that you think are natural, and will be effective for your needs.  

Photo credit: Andra Constantin


This post is based on experience, learning and opinion.  You may or may not agree with what is written, but we hope that you will be left with information to consider, mull over, laugh at, or even agree to disagree about.  Thank you for reading. 

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