What do the labels “Natural” and “Organic” really mean?

And the 100% sustainable solution that is often overlooked by these labels.

No matter where you shop or what you are shopping for, it’s hard to ignore the growing presence of products that carry a multitude of claims addressing their natural, all organic and ethically traded production qualities.  However, what do these labels really mean? And is there something more consumers can do to ensure their purchases are environmentally sustainable and socially beneficial?

According to the FDA, the label “natural” has no official meaning.  To the consumer, that means natural can be placed on any packaging label as a marketing tool and have no significance regarding their farming and agricultural processes.  Here is the statement from fda.gov in respect to the “natural” label:

FDA has not defined the term “natural” and has not established a regulatory definition for this term in cosmetic labeling.  

So what can you look to next?  Many people argue that looking for the green USDA Organic Certified sticker is the answer.  Some of the requirements for organic products are defined by the USDA as the following:

    • Preserve natural resources and biodiversity
    • Only use approved materials
    • Do not use genetically modified ingredients
    • Receive annual onsite inspections

It’s hard to argue against the fundamental values of a product that is USDA Organic Certified, however there are a few key perspectives to consider before pledging yourself to an entire arsenal of organically certified cosmetic products.

One of the biggest difficulties in obtaining the revered seal exhibiting that a product is “organic,” is the 3-year transition period where producers must prove that no prohibited substances have been used on their field for that amount of time.  This can be a financial burden for many farmers due to the comparatively smaller yields that organic crops produce per acre.  In fact, this 3-year transition period is especially difficult for small agricultural producers; facing an increase for demand in organic products, yet not having the means to support 3 years of minimized, organic-sized yields without the premium that accompanies certified organic products.

Another important angle to consider is that one purely sustainable practice in cosmetic oil production often goes without the prestigious USDA organic label.  This practice is called wild harvesting and is used by all of the oil producers DLG Naturals buys from.

In Botswana, DLG Naturals BW produces Marula oil through wild harvest.  DLG Naturals works with women’s groups in villages throughout Botswana to help in the collection of Marula stones – referring to the pits of the Marula fruit produced by the indigenous, drought-resistant Marula tree.  In order to maintain this as a sustainable practice, Marula stones are only accepted when they have been collected from the ground, and its fruit has been completely dried.  At this point, the Marula cannot be consumed by animal life and is not causing harm to the trees.  Additionally, the women who collect these dried fruits are provided with a fair wage in return for their hard work.  In summation, this form of wild harvest = a perfectly sustainable process + a reliable wage for women in rural villages + a product that has been produced in nature, unaffected by pesticides or fertilizers.  That is a fantastic equation that all die-hard USDA organic devotees would have no problem getting behind.  However, due to the variety of villages these stones are collected from, there exists a plethora of complexities that must be overcome in order to create a resulting product that is officially USDA Organic.

Moral of the story?  Get to know the company you are buying from.  Just as humans differ from person to person, each cosmetic producer has their own, unique way of getting the oils that go into the products you apply to your skin.  Develop your personal definition of “natural” and “sustainable,” and find a company that aligns with those principles.  With the multitude of labels that exist for goods, it’s easy to pick out the product that boasts the most certifications and flaunts the leafiest tint of green, but it’s necessary to do some research if you really are serious about sustainable, responsible and ethical products.

For more information about DLG Naturals and their commitment to fairly traded, sustainable, reliable and ethically produced ingredients, visit http://dlgnaturals.com


Meet The Super Oil That’s Better Than Coconut

Taylor Bryant wrote a wonderful article on Mongongo oil in Refinery29 (“www.refinery29.com/mongongo-oil-beauty-benefits” Jan16, 2016). We post it here in its entirety. Please note the comments regarding the economics of Mongongo oil. DLG Naturals is a member of PhytoTrade, the organization mentioned in the article.


Just when we thought we’d gotten our yearly/lifely dose of skin and hair oils, another super ingredient recently slipped across our desks: mongongo oil. When I first caught wind of the oil — which has been cropping up in hair and skin-care products left and right — my first reaction was,mongon…what?! (Ditto the rest of the beauty team.) It’s not necessarily a well-known additive (yet!), but we predict that you’re going to be hearing about it more.

The oil is derived from the fruit of the manketti tree (which has the ability to thrive in extreme weather conditions in Sub-Saharan Africa) and has been used for centuries in skin care, according to Anita Sun, an esthetician and co-founder of Dermovia. “The egg-shaped fruit is not only extremely nutritious, [but it] has many useful properties as a super emollient and protectant for both skin and hair,” she explains. Each seed contains a good amount of vitamin E (an antioxidant that helps stave off skin damage and signs of aging), as well as nutrients like calcium, copper, and zinc.

Mongongo oil is also high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are known to remain on the skin longer than saturated fatty acids (think coconut oil) or monounsaturated oils (jojoba and almond oils), explains Sun. “[The fatty acids] deliver a protective, emollient layer on the surface of the skin and act as a barrier to prevent moisture from escaping through the pores,” she says. “These fatty acids can retain moisture and keep the skin glowing, while smoothing out rough texture and diminishing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.” Fountain of youth, is that you?

But it’s really the acidic properties of mongongo oil that make it such a standout. The first of which is linoleic acid, which is great for calming inflammation, explains founder of Uma Oils Shrankhla Holecek. If you suffer from redness or eczema of some kind, mongongo is your answer.

An anti-aging and protective treatment balm that moisturizes, nourishes and rejuvenates the lips.

All of these benefits piqued the interest of Drunk Elephant founder Tiffany Masterson, who recently began using the ingredient in her brand’s products. But it was the alpha-Eleostearic acid (which adds another layer of sun protection) that really won her over. “When you apply the oil to your skin, it actually will create a shield over your skin or hair when it’s hit by UV rays,” she explains. “When you go outside and you have it on your lips or skin or hair — which is how they use it in Africa, they coat themselves in [the oil] — it turns into a protectant.”

These were also gamechangers for hairstylist Peter Lamas, who’s started incorporating the ingredient into his new hair-care products. “It has sun protection, strong antioxidants, and the minerals are fortifying [to the] the hair and scalp,” he says. “It’s loaded with vitamins, nutrients, fatty acids, and proteins, which are essential for hair growth, health, and vitality.” Basically, adding it to your hair routine is a no-brainer.

Holecek adds that mongongo oil is particularly great for people with inflamed scalps or dandruff, as well as those with dry, rough, or damaged hair; that helps explain its presence in natural-hair brands, like SheaMoisture and celebrity hairstylist Andre Walker’s latest line.

Of course, no mention of an “up-and-coming” oil is complete without a holy-grail coconut comparison. While some of the experts we spoke to say that the association would be like comparing apples and oranges — which is true, both oils have different benefits — Holecek has some pretty strong opinions on the matter. For one, she calls out the presence of lineolic acid in mongongo oil as being a major advantage over its coco counterpart.

“I absolutely do see [mongongo oil] rising in popularity, because it provides a set of benefits that coconut oil doesn’t,” she says. “This oil has the capability to reduce inflammation, especially when it’s mixed with other complementary oils [likes rose, neroli, and tea tree]. It could be truly miraculous for someone who [has eczema], breaks out often, and needs something that calms their skin…Coconut oil is not going to have those properties, it’s just going to form a thick layer around your skin and basically sit there.” Mongongo oil is also less comedogenic than coconut oil, meaning it’s less likely to clog your pores over time.

Aside from the skin and hair perks, there’s a deeper benefit that comes from mongongo oil’s rise in popularity — and that’s the economic factor. “There’s something good that comes out of purchasing these oils, not only because of their high quality and the way they are taken care of and produced, but also how these small farm cooperatives are being helped by selling these oils to the rest of the world,” explains Lamas.
But with this increase in popularity, it’s more important than ever to check where the oil is sourced, Holecek urges, “With any oil that comes from areas that are economically underdeveloped, such as Africa, it is important for us, as consumers, to check our sources and try to identify producers that have fair trading practices in place,” she explains.
So if and when you hit up your specialty online food or vitamin stores in search of this magic oil, look for the PhytoTrade Africa certification on the label, which will ensure its legitimacy, Holecek says. “Especially as the oil gains popularity, it’ll become more and more important that the indigenous population is not getting exploited, or, you know, paid very bad wages for collection of this nut.” With all that we’ll gain from the use of it, it’s the right thing to do.

Nyarai Kurebgaseka Receives ZNCC Women in Enterprise Award

DLG Naturals works with many wonderful people in Africa. One is Nyarai Kurebgaseka from Zimbabwe. We are delighted to know that she is a recent recipient of a prestigious award. We congratulate her!

Here is the article from Phytotrade.com (http://url.ie/zl2f) noting the award:

The third edition of the Zimbabwean National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) Women in Enterprise Conference and Awards event took place in September 2015 with the theme being ‘Promoting sustainable business and value addition for profitable agri-business’.

The award recognises women in business, and specifically SMEs which have shown great potential for growth.  Nominations are made by members of ZNCC and assessments are based on criteria such as contribution towards empowering women, innovative business ideas, business growth and visibility.

It is with great pleasure that PhytoTrade Africa congratulates Nyarai Kurebgaseka of Speciality Foods of Africa (SFA) on receiving the 2015 award.  SFA have been a member of PhytoTrade since 2002, where the female led company has marketed natural products harvested by rural communities in Zimbabwe for the local, regional and export markets.

Ms Kurebgaseka commented that ‘it is very rewarding and encouraging for both myself and SFA to receive this prestigious award.  It means someone has noticed our contributions and appreciates the efforts being made to improve the livelihoods of the rural poor, as well as to elevate the status of natural products in Zimbabwe in the way we do’.

Looking ahead, Ms Kurebgaseka hopes that this award will not only raise the profile of SFA, but that it will have a direct impact on the demand for the products.  Consumer ready items such as Baobab fruit powder, herbal teas and cosmetic oils are available under two SFA associated brands; Tulimara and Yobab.  The products of these brands can currently be found in the main supermarket chains of Zimbabwe.

(Speciality Foods of Africa is a Zimbabwean company working to sustainably commercialize indigenous natural resources, by engaging rural communities in the harvesting and preprocessing of indigenous products. This provides alternative income for rural producers while encouraging conservation of their natural resources.)