How do ingredients in organic and natural skincare products differ? This is a question I am often asked by my clients.
In order to shed some light on this controversial subject, I have put together this Q & A session.
Organic and natural skincare
Q. What is organic skincare?
A. The term “organic” should signify it was grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, or GMOs. Essentially what it means is that the ‘plant’ was grown as close as possible to its natural state. In order for a product to be certified as organic with some certification companies, natural beauty products need not necessarily contain 100% organic ingredients.
Q. How do you determine the extent to which a product is organic or natural?
A. Sadly it is not compulsory for a brand to disclose the number of organic or natural ingredients. In some cases, if you see a product with the word “organic” or “natural” written on the package, know that an authority does not have to deem it so unless of course, it bears a certified label.
Even more shocking, many of the synthetic ingredients they contain are exactly the kinds of ingredients they proclaim not to include in their formulas. In skincare, the criteria are less stringent than with food, some companies find loopholes that allow them to label a skincare product “organic” or “natural” simply because of the amount of water it contains.
Q. Are all synthetic ingredients automatically bad, and are all organic and natural ingredients good for the skin?
A. In all honesty, there is good and bad in each category. You have to remember, there are many ingredients that fall into these categories that are not good for your skin. Take essential oils for instance: Menthol, Eucalyptus, and Sandalwood are routinely included in natural and organic products. However, these ingredients can irritate the skin, and damage the barrier.
Q. Is there an approved organic international standard?
A. As we have established, the word “organic” on its own is a flimsy term, however, if it is backed up by the following certification, then it has credibility:
This logo means, in order for it to display this certificate, an ingredient or brand must be certified by the USDA. Their certification offers strict guidelines around how the ingredients in the product have been grown or processed, and if it is under regulated conditions. It also means that they don’t contain pesticides, synthetic preservatives, GMO’S, or petrochemicals.
Q. If a personal care product has “natural skincare” or “organic” written on the label, does it reflect the quality of the product when it comes to addressing skin concerns?
A. Currently, there are no published or substantiated studies that have been able to prove that organic ingredients or natural ingredients are superior to non-organic or synthetic ingredients.
The naked truth
So where do you stand if you want organic? We recommend looking for companies like the Soil Association that require a minimum of 95% ingredients to be organic if a company wants to be able to state that their personal care product is organic. The USDA and EcoCert are other good seals of organic certification.
I recommend becoming your own label detective and doing your research well, because as we have established, labels alone, do not necessarily guarantee that your product is going to be organic.