Neal’s Yard Remedies offers a range of products across the health and beauty sectors. In this review, we’ll be focusing mainly on the brand’s range of skincare products.
Neal's Yard Review - An incredible story
First opening their doors on 4th December, 1981 in Neal’s Yard, a once forgotten corner of Covent Garden, in the heart of central London, England, the Neal’s Yard brand has grown to become an international ethical leader in the health and beauty sector.
From Europe and the Americas to Asia and the Middle East, Neal’s Yard products are becoming synonymous within the increasingly popular and mainstream ethical organic market. The hype is not without reason.
Over its 30 year history, the Neal’s Yard brand has remained rooted in a vision based on core ethical business practices and policies. The recipient of several notable and authoritative independent certifications, including Ethical Accreditation by Ethical Company Organisation and a top ethical ranking in The Good Shopping Guide, the company’s progressive values and commitments are transparent and for all to see. As a result, the brand has developed itself as a reliable and trustworthy alternative within the health and beauty sector whose ethical mission and aims can be relied on.
Who can you trust?
How natural is “natural”? How ethical is “ethical”?
Greenwashing is a huge issue today. Many brands claim to be “ethical” or “natural” or whatever, but the actual reality behind their message is less than satisfactory.
Even though the big cosmetics firms love to use the word “natural” on their products, most skincare creams use synthetic chemicals, some of which are potentially toxic. In response to the use of synthetics, consumer groups have responded by expressing concern about ‘bio-accumulation’, the science of which is constantly growing and expanding.
But the skincare industry is a maze when it comes to understanding what may and may not be true. We can’t cover every issue in this article in addition to all of their finer nuances. What we can say is that one of the problems has to do with how “cosmetics and personal care products are profitable goods promoted with attention-grabbing claims”. And the science behind such advertising claims is not always sound or based in reality.
This criticism goes both ways. Take, for instance, the claim of a “chemical free” skincare product. In truth, there is no such thing as a “chemical free” product if one understands the basic science of chemistry. There is, however, such as a thing as a product being free of synthetic chemicals.
For this reason, in 2016, the Federal Trade Commission, which regulates advertising claims in the U.S., came down on five smaller companies for falsely promoting products as “all natural.”
Another common theme regarding false promotion concerns claims toward "anti-aging" or other similar properties. It is not uncommon that, when such products are independently and scientifically analyzed, these sort of claims are shown to be misleading. A widely cited example comes from the 2014, where the FTC found that L'Oreal's claims that its skincare products targeted user's genes were false and unsubstantiated.
The chemistry of skincare
The deeper point is that not all chemicals are “bad”, and discerning the “good” from the “bad” is no easy task. Even scientists with degrees in botanical chemical science, let alone biology and chemistry, will frequently say that it is wise to be careful when it comes to what you put on your skin. The truth is that the skincare industry is poorly regulated, both in Europe and North America. In a 2005 article in Scientific American, concern was raised about "regulation after the fact". The same concern seems to still be largely prevalent today.
The honest answer to concerns about which synthetic chemicals are safe and which are not is that right now our best knowledge is still cloudy. There isn’t enough scientific evidence to completely understand the long-term effects of certain synthetic chemical ingredients in our skincare products. Having said that, a list of commonly used chemical ingredient have been found to be a health risk, which recent research has described as the “dirty dozen”.
When discerning the good from the bad and the ugly, it is important to consider the many sides of the reality behind a product. Animal welfare is a huge issue in the skincare industry. PETA has a searchable database of companies that do and do not test their products on animals.
Human rights and environmental sustainability, including concerns about packaging, also must be prioritized.
Before committing your money to a particular skincare product, we therefore advise that you visit the skincare section of The Good Shopping Guide. Our comprehensive and independent research investigates a brand's ethics from every angle across three main categories of people, animals and planet.
Ethical Review - Substance to the Neal’s Yard brand
So what of Neal's Yard? It is one thing to claim to be committed to ethical and sustainable business values, to create a brand message around the honest promotion of ethical sourcing. It is another thing to actually fulfill these values and practice these principles.
With Neal’s Yard, every bottle truly does tell a story. It is a positive story very different to most popular mainstream skincare brands, as revealed in our independent ethical comparison research. Their supply chain is transparent, as is their production process.
Certified organic, Neal’s Yard carefully selects “other functional ingredients (detergents, emulsifiers, surfactants etc.) with a view to safety, efficacy and biodegradability”. Free from animal testing, the brand also features a packaging strategy that aims to have minimal environmental impact. Additionally, the company’s human rights record is also very impressive.
With Ethical Accreditation by The Good Shopping Guide, the company's CSR practices are also independently audited by us on an annual basis, ensuring maximum ethical transparency.
Ethical Comparison Research
From “the planting of the very first seed”, long before ingredients even arrive at the company’s eco-factory, our research has picked through every detail when it comes to Neal’s Yards’ CSR practices, and we found nothing but honesty and truth to their message.
In fact, in the The Good Shopping Guide’s latest ethical rankings of the world’s skincare brands, Neal’s Yard was given a perfect Ethical Company Index (ECI) score of 100.
As for a consumer review, we rate Neal’s Yard skincare products highly, both in terms of quality and value. From fragrance and application to overall presentation, Neal’s Yard moisturizers, toners, scrubs cleaners and oils are a joy to use.
The consumer consensus seems to largely be in agreement. Aside from the ethics of the brand and the trustworthiness of their products, overall consumer satisfaction appears very high.
Of the dozens of random skincare products we surveyed over at Amazon UK and Amazon US, Neal’s Yard skincare products come in with an overall 4.5/5. At John Lewis, a major international retailer that carries Neal’s Yard, consumer reviews are overwhelming favourable, with a consensus score of 4.9/5. Consumer reviews and feedback over at popular website MakeupAlley.com confirm the positive consumer view, as Neal’s Yard currently sits with a 4.4/5 according to the several random products we examined.
With these impressive consumer review ratings in mind, one of the main or regularly cited concerns that we’ve come across has to do with price. Generally considered to be the mid to high-end market, Neal’s Yard skincare products can be pricey and perhaps not practical for everyday use by many cost-conscious consumers. As the brand continues to grow, perhaps this will change. In meantime, there is perhaps no greater a treat for your skin!
* To obtain a census view of and average product score for Neal's Yard Skincare Products, we assessed a spread of such popular review sites as Amazon, Jown Lewis and MakeupAlley.