What Do Natural And Organic Mean In Beauty Products?
The words “Natural” or “Organic” instantly give us a positive impression whether it is about foods or cosmetics. Organic food means it was produced without artificial chemicals, hormones, antibiotics, and GMOs. Is it same for cosmetics? The answer is NO, and there is no rigorous standards as food for cosmetics and personal care products yet.
So, what is the definition of natural and organic for cosmetics? Interestingly, the meaning of these words is quite different from what we think. Does natural or organic mean the product is safer, higher quality, and more eco-friendly? Let’s find out…
What is organic in beauty products?
Here are some interesting facts about “organic” in cosmetic world. Remember, the language used in cosmetic world is closer to science than our day-to-day language.
- There is NO general rules dealing with the definition of organic cosmetics. There are some individual certifying organizations, but the term “organic” is not defined in either of lows or the regulations in most countries.
- Cosmetics made with “organic” ingredients are not necessarily safer.
- Water can never be organic. Water cannot be organic because “organic” means it must be alive once and contain carbon. Also, water is safe to drink, it is natural, and it is important for us to live. However, water can be deadly dangerous if we inhale it.
- Because of the definition of “organic”, there are many other ingredients also cannot be “organic”. Examples are clays, zinc, titanium, salt, etc.
- All soaps cannot be organic in USA since you need lye, which makes a synthetic detergent, to make soaps. However, in Europe, the lye is not counted as an ingredient in the organic percentage. As a result, soaps can be labeled as Organic.
You may see Ecocert (COSMOS certified) label on beauty care products.
COSMOS is an organization sets the standard for organic and natural cosmetics, and COSMOS certified means the product has:
- 95% minimum of the plants it contains are organic
- At least 20% of organic ingredients are present in the total formula (10% for rinse-off products)
Some certified organic liquid products claim “no water” content. For example, they would have Aloe Vela Juice instead of water. However, this wouldn’t mean the fresh Aloe Vela Juice was used to replace water entirely. The product can be still certified as organic when Aloe Vela powder was mixed with water to make Aloe Vela Juice before adding other ingredients.
Now, there are many ingredients that will never be certified as organic. But, you know they have a lot of benefits to our skin and hair, and you want to see them in your skin care products. Some examples...
Clays: There are many clays used in personal care products, such as Kaolin, Zeolite, and Bentonite. Most of them have natural minerals, calcium, magnesium, silica, and iron. They absorb unwanted substances on our skin and hair, and help detoxifying and cleaning. They have been also used for treating rash, oily skin, and acne. We use Zeolite in our shampoo that is rich with potassium, calcium, iron, and silicon. In a clinical trial on 39 volunteers, deodorant spray with 10% Zeolite showed a strong and lasting (24 hours) effect against armpit microbes that produce unpleasant odors. There are other studies showing the benefits, antioxidation, anti-inflammation, and anti-bacteria.
Magnesium: Magnesium has been known for healthy muscle and used as supplements. However, it has another amazing function when topically used on our skin. Magnesium has long been recognized for its anti-inflammatory properties and this makes it perfect for supporting skin health across a variety of conditions. Magnesium supports DNA repair and replication. That means it can prevent damages on skin and scalp causing early aging skin and graying/losing hair. The studies show Magnesium can be absorbed into our skin with topical application and it works well as one of ingredients in our hair and skincare products.
Salt: Salt has been mainly used for exfoliating skin and salt bath. It is good for treating acne, redness, and eczema. It is surprising, but salt can actually soothe and hydrate skin.
What is natural skin care product?
There is no clear definition of “natural”. It is ultimately up to the brand to decide what definition of natural fits to their story and products. The fact is the vast majority of cosmetics are not natural because to make useful cosmetics you almost always have to chemically modify natural ingredients.
Also, we tend to believe that natural chemicals are safer than synthetic chemicals. The truth is that the toxicity of natural chemicals are much higher than synthetic ones. For example, the most toxic natural chemical, Botulinum Toxin, is 1000000 times more toxic than the most toxic synthetic chemical, Dioxin.
At the moment the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) says, “FDA has not defined the term natural and has not established a regulatory definition for this term in cosmetic labeling.” This means that you are free to define the term as you like and market things as natural if they fit your definition.
Why is it so difficult to define “Natural”?
You may think something is natural if it comes from nature. Unfortunately, this is not helpful because Petroleum is natural but no one will consider petroleum natural. If we refer to plant, we can eliminate petroleum but also exclude minerals naturally exist. Then, in cosmetic world, there are many nature identical, lab-made (synthetic) ingredients because they are safer and cost effective than natural version. Can they be called “natural”?
What are the benefits of “natural” and “organic” beauty products?
If you can identify which ingredients are certified organic in the ingredients list, you can be sure the ingredients are made without artificial chemicals. You can also indirectly support organic farmers which is good for the environment. Synthetic ingredients are totally safe as long as formulated within limited amount. Again, it is up to you and the brand how to define “natural”.
Are there any disadvantages of organic and natural skin care products?
Like any other product, organic cosmetics also have disadvantages. Organic products work less quickly than conventional products. Some natural products can trigger allergic reactions. Natural ingredients have far less safety testing done than synthetic ingredients. When the ingredient is 100% natural without modification and you have never applied it on your skin, you may want to patch test first.
Check How to Read Beauty Product Labels to learn more about ingredients list.