Ok, what I really mean is it's super unhelpful.
"Everything you can breathe, see, ingest or touch is made up of chemicals. All matter, including us, is made of chemicals. Chemistry is the study of the composition, structure, properties and reactions of matter. Everything is made of chemicals." - www.sciencelearn.org.nz
You see it in food, skin care and cleaning product marketing. "Chemical Free". This claim is unhelpful. Chemicals are everywhere. The water you drink is a chemical.
That doesn't mean that they are all safe. There are chemicals out there that cause harm and a lot of the time that's down to how they are used and in what quantity.
A lot of safety testing goes into the products that are placed on the market and here in the UK there's quite a bit of legislation around creating and selling your own cosmetics, and for good reason.
Here's just a few things to be aware of when making cosmetics to sell/ donate:
Suppliers - choose a reputable supplier who also has the Safety Data Sheets (MSDS / SDS) available.
Usage rates - a lot of ingredients have a usage rate, especially fragrance which fall under the IFRA Standards.
Assessments - also known as Cosmetic Product Safety Report. These must be done by an accredited cosmetic chemist, the recipe is checked over to ensure that the finished formulation is safe.
GMP & PIFs - Good Manufacturing Process is a minimum standard of manufacture that covers hygiene and safety & Product Information Files are a record of all the ingredients used for each batch plus individual batch numbers for each ingredient.
Any substances that are known to cause harm will either get an outright ban or will be heavily restricted. The items above are just a few ways that these things get picked up on and ensure that the products you buy are safe.
Another argument is natural chemicals vs. synthetic chemicals. It's good to understand what you want from a product and why before you worry about whether it uses natural or synthetic ingredients. A good example is essential oils and fragrance oils. I'd like to do another post about natural vs. synthetic but briefly: Essential oils are considered natural yet sometimes the harvest and extraction can be harmful to the environment. Some essential oils are also extremely potent and used in too high a dose can cause massive damage to the skin. Fragrance oils on the other hand are synthetic, they are man made in labs but they don't come with the same environmental issues and the synthetic ingredients are designed to be safe for their intended use, which usually means you can use more and get a much stronger scent in the end product.
To wrap up:
Nothing is as straight forward as good and bad, especially in a society that consumes as much as we do. Natural certainly doesn't mean safe and a lot of research and testing is always being done to ensure that products sold are within safe limits.
If you ever have any questions regarding ingredients or even how I make my products I am always happy to chat about it, it's a huge part of making cosmetics and brings a lot of paperwork and i'm more than happy to put you at ease.