Fact or Fiction: Is Lyocell Really a Botanical Fiber?

lyocell is not an all-natural fiber nor a botanical fiber

Lately, we’ve begun to see a new term tossed around to describe synthetic products. Is a botanical fiber something different from other types of all natural fibers, or is it just more confusing sales jargon designed to draw in an unwitting consumer?

Let’s examine the facts and you can make the decision.

  1. Botanical is by definition: relating to plants or plant life or relating to the science of botany; a substance obtained from a plant.
  2. Natural is defined as: existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind.
  3. Synthetic, on the other hand, is defined as: a substance made by chemical synthesis, especially to imitate a natural product.

Lyocell by definition is: a form of rayon which consists of cellulose fiber made from dissolving pulp (bleached wood pulp) and reconstituted through spinnerets into fiber. Lyocell is often referred to as a semi-synthetic fiber (Wikipedia) because it is manufactured from a naturally occurring polymer as opposed to a synthetic fiber derived from petroleum.

Rayon and Lyocell that is marketed as botanical come from trees (a great big plant) but then goes to a pulping plant that converts the wood chips into a chemical slurry and then reconstitutes the slurry back into a fiber.

Clearly, no one would consider this chemical goop to be natural, but the question becomes, does this man-made fiber really have anything to do with a plant? At what point do we consider it synthetic?

Cotton, on the other hand, comes directly from a plant and undergoes very little processing. According to the definition, cotton is truly both a natural and botanical fiber.

What do you want next to your skin? A semi-synthetic fiber made from chemical synthesis or all-natural cotton? We know what our customers prefer.


Let us know your thoughts on Lyocell being called “botanical” by some companies in the comments. We’d love to hear your opinion on the matter.

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8 Responses to Fact or Fiction: Is Lyocell Really a Botanical Fiber?

  1. I dont really care which word,”botanic”, “semi-botanic” is used, this is just marketing.
    What we really need to focus is on the benefits of this fibre. Just to give some ideas, cotton needs up to 20 times more water and use productive agriculture land than eucalyptus, which grows quickly and without irrigation, pesticides, fertilizers or genetic manipulation. It also has inherent functional properties because of its exclusive characteristics as fibre.
    Matthew you where right regarding polyester and acrilic are oil base polymers and no biodegradable. Tencel is 100% compostable, biodegradable and sustainable.
    This is not marketing just facts. So guys, think twice and lets be all more sustainable responsable.!!!

  2. I love cotton. I hate lyocell, tencel, rayon. Are they really so good for the environment that the producers tell us nowdays? I prefer cotton but I think that lyocell and rayon are even worse than polyester and acrylic fabrics.
    Cotton is lovely, plastic is sometimes fantastic, the trees should be saved!

    • Hi Erika,

      Lyocell, Tencel and rayon are made from trees. Rayon manufacturing process uses some chemicals that are bad actors. Lyocell and Tencel are more environmentally friendly than rayon as the chemicals are recycled. It is hard to say that they are environmentally better than cotton. All of these fibers are biodegradable. Polyester and acrylic are oil based polymers and not biodegradable.

  3. Hi,

    I’m a true fan of cotton. I love it! Tencel, while certainly more desirable than synthetics, can’t be called a “botanical “, on par with cotton. I guess a new term must be found such as ; “processed botanical ” or “synthetic botanical”. The term “synthetic organic” is used on fertilizer content labels. Tencel could technically be called organic, though it’s not what most consumers think that would mean, as it’s not chemical free.

    • Hi Cheryl,

      We agree that Tencel should not be able to make the claim of “botanical”. The definition of botanical is “pertaining or made from plants”. Because Tencel is made from wood it meets this definition.

  4. I love Rayon. How it looks and feels; the colors never seem to fade, and I know how to iron it properly. I love cotton and silk too. the only pure synthetics are my swim suits which are made from polyester, nylon, lycra and other synthetics. that’s the price I pay to swim faster. they all have their place but I choose wisely.

    • Hi William,

      Rayon and cotton are both cellulose fibers so they have similar properties. Synthetics make good swim suit clothing as they can be made to fit tight if needed. They also dry out quicker because the fiber are not absorbent. The water in them is held between the yarns.

      Hope this helps!

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