What's in our products?
When it comes to the ingredients in our products, Neal's Yard Remedies prides itself on 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, 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 the Fairtrade Foundation. We fully disclose our ingredient information with our customers, both online and, where space allows, on our packaging.
Why we choose organic
We believe that choosing organic is best for both people and planet. We've spent 30 years developing our organic supply chain; we even grow some of our ingredients ourselves. Choosing organic reduces potential harm from pesticide and fungicide residues, artificial fertilizers and many other synthetic toxic chemicals. Most importantly, choosing organic respects the delicate ecosystem balance that our world depends on.
Our plant extracts and essential oils are all approved by the UK's Soil Association, who are internationally recognized for their high standards, though as we source globally, 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
‘Wild’ is what every good organic farmer aims for – growing as nature intended, i.e. grown in a mixed species, unpolluted habitat and harvested sustainably.
If wild-growing plants are collected from 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 be certified organic.
‘Natural’ means plant ingredients and extracts from conventional farming. Our natural frankincense and myrrh essential oils are a good example of this. Both are distilled from tree resin collected from uncultivated desert areas, so it can be difficult to certify them organic since the land is not owned or officially managed. However, we are always looking for organic alternatives.
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. They also provide aromatherapy benefits during use such as calming, de-stressing, and revitalizing 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 citral, eugenol). 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.
We do not add these components separately to our products and they are present in the final product in only minute amounts. The Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database recognizes this and does not ‘demote’ products that make use of essential oils containing these individual components.
|Amount of base oil / lotion / bath oil / shower gel|
|Maximum number of essential oil drops*|
|Children over 2 years, adults with delicate skin or applying to face ( less than 1%)||2||3||6||12||20|
|Adults with no skin sensitivities (2.5%)||5||7||15||30||50|
*Please check individual oil information on the leaflet included with Neal's Yard Remedies essential oils, as some can be an irritant on the skin and should be used with caution.
Why aren't all Neal's Yard Remedies products 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. Unfortunately 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 Geranium & Orange Body Scrub contains 60% organic ingredients in the form of organic oils and seed butters; its main ingredient, however, is salt. But salt, as a mineral ingredient, cannot be certified organic which is why this product 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.
'Functional' ingredients, such as emulsifiers, detergents/ foaming agents and surfactants (short for surface active agents – ingredients that help products 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 these ingredients are processed from natural plant material (as opposed to being derived from petrochemicals). But – and this is important – the source materials for these ingredients tend to come from 'conventional' rather than organic farming methods.
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. This is how it works…
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 very much hope there will be a growing demand for functional ingredients made from organic plant material, to add weight to our calls for organic functional ingredients.
Our goal is clear – to use 100% organic ingredients, either organically-grown or naturally growing wild on 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 organic materials to make functional ingredients.
There are some ingredients for which there are no simple or suitable natural alternatives. These include, for example, certain detergents/foaming agents. We also use some preservatives to keep your products fresh, and ethanol/denatured alcohol (alcohol from plant sources) to dissolve and blend all the natural plant essences in the finished product. We choose the safest, most natural versions of these ingredients possible and use the minimum required to produce a high quality product.
One of the many bonuses of using plant-based materials and essential oils is that many of these – such as rose or propolis extract – are also natural preservatives. This means we need fewer preservatives in our products than conventional brands.
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, 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, which 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 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.
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.
Due to the lack of specific organic regulations for cosmetics, and in some cases 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.
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 NYR Organic product range is certified organic by the Soil Association. Even where a product cannot be certified, we still use ingredients that have been certified organic by the Soil Association, Ecocert or the USDA, to ensure the highest possible organic percentage.
We support Skin Deep and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
Many of our customers use the Skin Deep database to help them understand what’s in their products. We stand behind everything that the Environmental Working Group and The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are doing to help make cosmetics safer – and to keep manufacturers honest! But it is very important to understand that when you look up an individual ingredient in the Skin Deep database its 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 vast majority 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 provide you with any clarification and explanations necessary to help you make the best choices for your family.
And finally... our commitment to constant improvement
At Neal’s Yard Remedies 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’ 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 ProductInfo.US@nyrorganic.com