The beauty and personal care industry is no stranger to controversies regarding the safety of their ingredients. For instance, lead in lipstick, chemical preservatives in moisturizers, and parabens in powders are still being sold. Also, the ethics of their business practices (i.e. animal testing) have proved highly controversial. The organic beauty business has made these issues their number one selling point, providing the chemical-free, pesticide-free, and cruelty-free options.
Organic is more than a marketing term
But organic is not a mere marketing buzzword. It takes rigorous certification and government and third-party oversight in all stages of production before a product can bear the label.
Organic products with the USDA seal have gone through a certification process based on U.S. federal guidelines. The NSF organic label on products certifies that the ingredients used are grown without the use of any synthetic chemicals or pesticides. Though there is some overlap between the two standards, the NSF standard is international. In the U.S., NSF/ANSI 305: Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients was established to provide standards for labeling and production of personal care products. This standard is not used for food processing, unlike the USDA which is.
Organic skincare provides better ingredients without compromising on effectiveness
Organic beauty and skincare labels may be the conscientious choice, but that doesn’t mean they compromise on effectiveness. At the end of the day, consumers still want products that offer value for their money while delivering excellent results. Organic skincare can provide all that and more.
Organic skincare products are better for your skin
The truth of the matter is, traditional skincare products are often laden with chemicals like sulfates and formaldehyde. Some are harmful in large doses. Others are just plain unnecessary. Organic skincare products, on the other hand, contain ingredients with nutritional value for your skin.
With organic products, you get the ingredients in its purest form
As a rule, organic skincare products cannot have fillers, an ingredient non-organic products often utilize. As a result, you can be sure you are getting what you pay in every precious ounce. You may also end up needing less product since it is more potent.
Organic skin care products have no strange side effects
A paraben is a very common additive in traditional beauty and skincare products. This preservative is added to increase the shelf life of the product. However, parabens are synthetic chemicals designed to mimic the body’s natural hormones. Their effects on different body systems, such as the endocrine system are not yet understood .
Organic is synthetic free scents
Organic products do not contain any artificial scent. Many synthetic fragrances are linked to allergies, skin irritations (dermatitis), and respiratory issues like asthma. However, consumers that love delicious smelling lotions and moisturizers do not have to compromise on the scent when buying organic. Skincare products made with organically certified fragrances are designed with the highest quality essential oils.
Organic skincare products are better for Mother Earth
A lot goes into producing and processing the ingredients that create your skincare products, and not all of them pretty. Many traditional beauty industry manufacturers produce environmental pollution, creating ecological concerns, because of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are used. There is also the deep controversy of animal testing on cosmetics that continues to this day. If you care at all about minimizing your carbon footprint, and about animal cruelty, organic is the way to go. It makes sense that what is good for you and your skin is also good for the environment.
“Organic” and “natural” are one and the same
The short answer is no. There is no regulating body for the use of the word “natural” in product labels. When a product comes with a promise of using only natural ingredients, no one but the manufacturer knows what that really means. A shampoo could contain a single plant-based derivative, but include large amounts of chemicals and sulfates, and still be allowed the term “natural” to be brandished on the packaging. Or, the product can originate with natural ingredients, but through the manufacturing process, these components may be significantly diluted .
On the other hand, rigorous screening goes into legally allowing a product or a brand to be labeled “organic.” This government-backed strict certification process by third-party inspectors ensures no toxic and synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers were used in any part of the production process. Don’t be duped by clever branding or marketing. Always check the label.
Organic is more expensive
In the beauty industry, as with most everything else, mass production brings down cost. It’s basic economics. Because many organic skin care labels utilize a small batch production process, the organic industry as a whole gets a bad rap for being more expensive. This is simply untrue. Organic skincare brands come in a wide range of price points, and since they are very transparent about ingredients, it’s easier to find less expensive alternatives to products you already love. It’s also worth noting that in an organic beauty regimen, less is best. The organic skincare movement aims to cut back on our exposure to unhealthy ingredients. In the long run, a paired down skincare routine using organic ingredients will mean fewer products you will need to purchase and subsequent more savings.
Organic equals “gentle”
How ironic that the anti-aging products you put on your skin could be doing more harm than good. The chemicals in your traditional skincare products may dry out the skin, making it look flaky and making any fine lines, more pronounced. But did you know that not all organic products are gentle on sensitive skin? Even though a product may be labeled organic it is important that a company have transparency regarding actual test results and where an ingredient originated. There can be an increased incidence of allergic reactions when the wrong ingredients are used. You are better off with a gentler formulation of an organic product that has been rigorously tested, disclosing the published product level results.
Organic is the same as DIY
Organic skincare doesn’t mean slapping on an oatmeal face mask mixture you made in your kitchen and calling it a day. While it’s fun to raid your kitchen for DIY spa and beauty treatments, nothing equals the hours of research and the amount of science that go into producing top quality organic skincare products. Think of it this way, applying cucumber slices will soothe tired eyes to some extent, but applying an eye cream with cucumber extracts — meaning all the good and necessary components have been collected and concentrated in its purest, most effective form — is even better.
Organic skincare products smell natural
By definition, organic means devoid of artificial fragrance. Admittedly, without the help of strong fragrance oils to mask their natural scent, some ingredients may smell…different. Consumers have gotten used to beauty products smelling like they are good enough to eat. But you might be surprised at how well many organic products hold their own against those with synthetic fragrances. After all, synthetic fragrances were created to mimic already naturally occurring scents.
If a scent is a deal-breaker for you, you still have many organic options worth considering. Check the label for ingredients like rosehip or rosewater, vanilla, and other fruit extracts. It’s true that a consumer may have a specific reaction to a plant or fruit extract in an organic product. However, this is less likely to occur than if you use a skincare product full of synthetic ingredients.
Adopting an organic beauty regimen (for reasons ethical or otherwise) requires mindfulness, resourcefulness, discernment, and perhaps some trial and error. In short, going organic will make a smarter consumer out of you, and that takes effort. If you do decide to take the plunge and go organic, giving up the products you’ve been using for years will not be easy. It may be difficult to turn your back on established and widely available brands and switch to a smaller, untested brand that may be more inconvenient to source.
However, there’s no rule that says you have to toss everything out in your vanity that doesn’t meet your new standards. You can start buying products in small volumes. Some brands will even offer free samples precisely for this reason. Even if you have no known allergies, it is always recommended to perform a skin test or patch test before using any product, especially if it applied near your eyes and other extra sensitive areas.
There’s joy in discovering new products and sharing your discoveries with friends. Go slow and take your time. You may be surprised that letting go of that old eye cream may lead you to a new beloved brand. Take your time. Skin care is a lifetime commitment.
What Is Organic Skin Care Resources: JAMA Internal Medicine; Adverse Events Reported to the US Food and Drug Administration for Cosmetics and Personal Care Products, Michael Kwa, BA, Leah J. Welty, PhD, Shuai Xu, MD, MSc, August 2017.
 EWG; ‘Natural’ or ‘Organic’ Cosmetics? Don’t Trust Marketing Claims, Carla Burns, January 11, 2018.