More and more people are looking for natural, and organic lotions & potions for their skincare routine, but what is the difference between natural, and organic. We asked the Founder of Green Chic to help us find out!
Natural vs organic beauty products: what’s the difference?
Within the UAE, natural beauty products have been receiving a lot of love in recent years with a growing number of people using it. But with so many products claiming to be ‘natural’ and ‘organic’, things can get pretty confusing. So how do you tell the difference between those terms? Here’s my guide to understanding what they mean and identifying genuine products.
This generally means that the product has plant-based ingredients. But for those concerned with using truly natural products, then plant-based ingredients constitute 100% or the majority of a product with a limited number of safe synthetic ingredients.
There are no regulations on using the word ‘natural’ in beauty products, so you can get varying degrees on how many plant-based ingredients form a product. As a result, you get a mix of genuine brands with less well-meaning brands within this space. You may have come across the word ‘greenwashing’ – which is when a company claims their product is natural but really it contains loads of toxic synthetic ingredients with one or two natural ingredients.
For example, you commonly come across beauty labels with natural ingredients mentioned on it such as ‘Lavender Shower Gel’. To identify how natural it is, check the ingredients label at the back. You could find that lavender may be the only ingredient from the list that is natural. On the other hand, if a brand is passionate about using natural ingredients, there will be many ingredients within the list that are natural.
But how do you tell from the ingredients list what is natural? Ingredients lists aren’t exciting but reveal a lot about the product. If you notice that any of the ingredients are listed in Latin i.e. Argania spinosa oil (Argan oil), then that is a natural ingredient. However, to complicate matters, you have natural ingredients that sound synthetic but are not. For example, citric acid is a compound found in lemon.
It comes with practice but the good news is there are some great apps and resources out there to help you out. Check out the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and its skincare resource Deep Skin Database. Another great once to check is the Think Dirty Shop Clean app. Both help in understanding how clean a product or ingredient is.
Organic in beauty products means that the natural ingredients are organically farmed. By this, ingredients are grown in a sustainable environment without pesticides, synthetic fertilizers and are not genetically modified.
In the US, the term organic is regulated by the USDA meaning that a product can’t label its product as organic unless it has been certified organic by the USDA. In the UK, the term organic is not regulated so more precaution is needed when purchasing products.
One way to help you buy beauty products that are genuinely organic is to look for products that are certified organic. There are several certifying bodies including the USDA, Soil Association, COSMOS and Ecocert. Each have their own standards on percentage of organic ingredients required and safe synthetics allowed. For example, Ecocert requires that 95% of all plant-based ingredients in a formula must come from organic farming. To check if an organic product has been certified, look out for the certifying bodies’ logo on products.
However, some beauty brands may use a high percentage of organic ingredients but choose not to get the certification. This could be due to cost of getting certified or because some natural ingredients can’t be certified organic due to its processing nature i.e. biotechnology. In this case, have a look at the ingredients list again. If an ingredient has a (*) next to it, then it is an organic ingredient.
As you can tell by now, there are a lot of grey areas with both terms, particularly if you are buying products from abroad. But understanding the difference makes a huge difference in knowing that you are getting what you are looking for. Genuinely natural or organic products are made by people who are passionate about formulating products using a high level of quality natural ingredients so it’s worth finding those gems.
Written by Vila Vasoodaven
Founder, Green Chic – a UAE based online store for organic and natural beauty products