I'm going back to my vault (inbox lol) to answer some more of your questions. This one comes from the very fab Jill of No-Poo Jillipoo.
It is my understanding that most of the chemical formulations that appear in hair products have their basis in nature. Basically, science takes a bit of nature and enhances it. When someone touts that ingredients are "botanically derived" and yet the ingredient list begins with things like cetearyl alcohol, behentrimonium chloride and glycerin, what do you make of such a statement? Are common hair care ingredients like that accurately described as "botanically derived"?
Let me say that very few scientists can make things out of thin air, the ones who can are called magicians. In order for a scientist to make an ingredient, a starting raw material is needed, and since we haven't gone extra-terrestrial yet, pretty much everything is natural. The examples you have given are excellent to illustrate this.
1. Cetearyl alcohol - A very good emollient (moisturiser) which is actually a mix of cetyl alcohol and stearyl alcohol. Both these alcohols come from processing coconut oil or palm oil (i.e processing in a lab)
2. Behentrimonium chloride - This is a fantastic conditioning agent derived from rapeseed oil (i.e processing in a lab)
3. Glycerin - A good humectant derived from processing of vegetable oils or biodiesel (i.e processing in a lab)
My personal view is that consumers need to become savvy. Technically the company is right to say the products are botanically derived, but quite often, that label comes with a hefty price tag. The truth is, you could probably find all these 'botanically derived' ingredients in normal conditioners like herbal essences and pantene (P&G are really making some great hair conditioners).
I think the never ending quest for 'natural' products drive these claims. Botanically derived also sounds much sexier than 'this chemical is imported from a massive factory in China'. The truth is not everything natural is good and not everything good is natural.
My own personal pet hates are
1. Ingredient labels that start with 'Extracts of rosehips, pomegranate....blah blah blah'. If those herbs were so effective why not just bottle them and sell them?
2. Saying mineral oil is artificial. Out of all the products mentioned today, mineral oil probably is the most natural!
**Edit to add sources ***
1. Wishart DS et al., HMDB: the Human Metabolome Database. Nucleic Acids Res. 2007 Jan;35(Database issue):D521-6.
3. Mason Surfactants - Manufacturer of Behentrimonium Chloride
Are you on a quest for natural products? What is natural to you?