When you’re shopping for beauty products, it can be easy to get confused with all the various terms used to market the product to you. Clean, green, non-toxic, safe, eco, natural, organic… the list goes on, but what does it all mean?! Some of these terms are often used interchangeably (guilty myself on this one!) but in this post I’ll be breaking down some of the commonly used marketing terms to find out what they really mean when it comes to your beauty products.
What does organic beauty mean?
Organic beauty relates to products that are formulated with organically grown ingredients – this is often considered the gold standard with better quality than conventionally grown ingredients. In general, this means that ingredients are grown using organic farming methods, without the use of artificial herbicides, synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The term is actually unregulated in skincare, so you can choose to take the brand’s word for it and trust that their ingredients are organically sourced, or you can go a step further and look for products that are certified organic by an independent third party body like the Soil Association in the UK. The Soil Association reviews the entire sourcing and manufacturing process of a product to rigorous standards and also guarantees no animal testing, nano particles, parabens, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances. You can find out more about the Soil Association Certification here.
It’s worth noting that not all certification bodies have the same standards so the exact quantities of organic ingredients can vary. Some certifications to look out for depending on where you are in the world include Soil Association, NaTrue, Ecocert, Cosmebio, BDIH, Australian Organic and USDA. For certified organic beauty worldwide, COSMOS (Cosmetic Organic Standard) has been developed collaboratively with the Soil Association in the UK, BDIH in Germany, Cosmebio and Ecocert in France and ICEA in Italy as a new harmonised standard for organic and natural cosmetics.
Some of my favourite brands with certified organic products by various independent bodies:
- Botanicals – read my previous reviews here
- Fushi – reviewed here
- Herbfarmacy – reviewed here
- Inika – reviewed here
- John Masters Organics – reviewed here
- Lulu & Boo – reviewed here
- Neal’s Yard Remedies – reviewed here
- Odylique – reviewed here
- Pai Skincare – reviewed here
- Therapi Honey Skincare – reviewed here
What does natural beauty mean?
When it comes to the natural cosmetics industry, there are many terms that may be used to describe a product like “naturally active”, “plant-based” or “inspired by nature” but phrases like this are currently unregulated. With the rise in popularity of natural beauty, there are unfortunately some mainstream brands that may market themselves as natural using certain buzz words and design features, but in reality only contain a very small percentage of naturally derived ingredients – this is what’s known as “greenwashing”. Chemical-free is another term that is sometimes used, but to be honest there is no such thing. Simple water itself is a chemical and many natural plant derived ingredients have chemical components, so personally I’m not a fan of promoting a product as “chemical-free”.
There seems to be a lot of differing views on what makes a product natural, so it’s generally open to interpretation. It’s definitely worth becoming clued up on ingredients so you can decide for yourself if a product meets your own ideal of “natural”. It’s also worth remembering that sometimes a small amount of non-natural ingredients can actually be needed to make sure the products don’t go off too quickly. My personal interpretation of a natural beauty product is that it should contain a significantly high percentage of naturally derived ingredients that are kind to the skin and also free from the most common controversial and undesirable synthetic ingredients. Some other terms you might hear often which are used interchangeably with natural beauty, particularly on social media, are “clean beauty” or “green beauty”.
One thing you can look out for is the COSMOS Natural signature which is for products containing a larger percentage of ingredients which cannot be organic, such as water, salt or clay, but still meet COSMOS standards of no animal testing, GM ingredients, controversial chemicals, parabens, phthalates, synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances. This certification will give you some peace of mind on the quality and integrity of a product.
Since the organic and natural beauty industry is growing every year, here’s hoping that transparency of beauty brands will soon become a basic custom! If you’re looking to choose more natural products for yourself, check out my “5 Tips for “Going Green” for some advice for making the switch and where to shop natural beauty & living.