What Makes a Beauty Product Organic?

More people are developing a preference for healthier product alternatives. Whether it is food or cosmetics, many consumers are going green as they choose products with an “organic” label in it, preparing their wallets for a pricier purchase because they think it is better or safer than regular cosmetics.

First, let’s clarify what organic really means. For a chemist, organic simply means any chemical compound that contains carbon. In the food industry, organic products are regulated by USDA’s National Organic Program. Only manufacturers and producers that meet the standards set up by the NOP are allowed to label their products as certified organic.

However, for the beauty industry, there is no regulation and no standard meaning for the term “organic” have been set. And because the term is unregulated, companies can use it kinda freely.

Many health and environment consciousMany health-and-environment-conscious consumers ask, what makes a beauty product organic? While the term is often used interchangeably with “natural” by word of mouth, how do they differ with one another?

The term “natural” and its use in beauty products is also unregulated and must be thought of as pure marketing. Generally, it means that at least some natural ingredients have been used in the formula, but products labeled as natural may contain up to 30% synthetic ingredients. Some companies are even advertising their products as “natural” even their products have a low percentage of natural ingredients.

One tip to know if the product is purely natural: look at the ingredient list. If all ingredients listed are named based on the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) Latin names (scientific names like sodium chloride for sea salt), the product is all-natural.  While most of us opt for chemical-based products since it shows faster and visible results, there are organic creams and products especially made for acne-prone and aging skin. There are plant-based exfoliators and gentle retinol face cream for sensitive skin.

Organic face maskMeanwhile, the “organic” label is used when its ingredients have been grown with no synthetic pesticides, or petroleum or sewage sludge fertilizers; and are processed under a very strict code of cleanliness. Organic products also must have no ingredients that are genetically modified. There are plant-based scrubs and gentle retinol face cream for sensitive skin which are completely organic. As stated earlier, the term is regulated by the USDA, and seeing a USDA Organic seal is better because it means the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients. According to the FDA, cosmetic products labeled as with organic claims must comply with both USDA regulations for the organic claim and FDA regulations for labeling and safety requirements for cosmetics.

However, the percentage composition of organic ingredients for a product to be labeled as “organic” varies from state to state. For instance, in California, it’s 70%. For some, products with 70% greater organic composition are to be labeled as “Made with Organic Ingredients.”

Therefore, the main distinction between “organic” and “natural” is that the ingredients of organic products must pass rigorous standards of purity. Basically, “organic” is by definition, “natural.”

There are great advantages to going green in terms of skin care and beautification because organic beauty products have higher concentrations of skin-friendly ingredients. Chemicals from usual cosmetics can be absorbed by the skin and can go straight to the body – that’s why It is best to avoid artificial chemicals found in beauty products like parabens, petroleum waxes, and phthalates by choosing organic. Because organic products use pure natural components that are not processed with synthetic chemical compounds, harmful skin reactions and irritations are lessened – unless of course if a plant ingredient is an allergen to you.

In addition, organic cosmetics are free of synthetic fragrances. Conventional beauty products list the vague term “fragrance” on its ingredients because the FDA allows companies to keep trade secrets confidential. Unfortunately, many common ingredients found in fragrances include chemicals linked to dangerous health concerns. With organic products, you won’t find “fragrance” listed on its labels as long as the product is certified organic by the FDA. You can identify what exactly makes the product’s lovely scent because everything is on the ingredient list.

Organic productsOrganic products also have a shorter shelf life because their botanical ingredients have naturally limited life and can break down after a while. For business owners, it can be a downside because they might have to deal with spoilage issues if their products remain unsold after a while, but for consumers like us, it’s a big “thumbs up.” Shorter shelf life means the product is made up of fresher and more raw ingredients that are free of harmful additives or have fewer preservatives. Many drugstore brands have a shelf life of three or more years, while organic products have only 12-20 months to live.

You may have probably noticed that organic beauty products are costlier than the usual products available on the market. Here’s an explanation: since the ingredients of organic products were not processed with chemicals and growth hormones used by conventional farmers, it takes more time to grow. This is why many organic lines are made in small batches. Manufacturers of organic products also invest more for labor expenses, cost of companion planting for pest control and organic certification, and because of that, costs translate to the consumers.

Though organic beauty products cost more, it’s worth it. You can invest in your health and the health of the environment by choosing organic.