How do ingredients in organic and natural skincare products differ?
This is a question we are often asked.
To shed some light on this controversial subject, we have put together this Q & A session for you, our dear readers.
Organic and natural skincare
Q. What is organic skincare?
A. The term “organic” should signify it was grown without pesticides, synthetic fertilisers, or GMOs. It means that the ‘plant’ was grown as close as possible to its natural state. 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 within its formula. 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 kind 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; many ingredients fall into these categories that are not good for your skin. For instance, take essential oils: Menthol, Eucalyptus, and Sandalwood are routinely included in natural and organic products. However, these ingredients can irritate the skin and damage the barrier.
Did you know that essential oils can be adulterated and mislabeled? This article does a great job of explaining the pitfalls of purchasing such essential oils and what to look out for.
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 the following certification backs it up, then it has credibility:
This logo means that an ingredient or brand must be certified by the USDA for it to display this certificate. Their certification offers strict guidelines around how the product’s ingredients 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 proving that organic ingredients or natural ingredients are superior to non-organic or synthetic ingredients.
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 state that their personal care product is organic. The USDA and EcoCert are other good seals of organic certification.
We also recommend becoming your own label detective and doing your research well, because as we have established, labels alone do not necessarily guarantee that your skincare product will be organic.