Purchasing new beauty products requires a certain level of commitment and trust. These days, many of us are steering towards a natural-skewing beauty routine: In 2015, market research company Grand View Research predicted that the organic personal care market would grow to be worth almost $16 billion by 2020. If traditional over the counter brands aren't cutting it for you anymore, it may be time to switch to an organic skin care routine.
The word "natural" in beauty products has become a bit of a loose term. Much like the term beauty being placed in the eyes of the beholder, what can be considered natural will vary from person to person. Since misuse of the word natural has literally zero consequences for companies, beauty brands can use the term pretty much however they see fit. With little regulation over cosmetics, the best way to keep the unnatural out of your skin care is to shop organic — though even that isn't a sure thing.
Companies that hold the trusted USDA organic certified label must follow this list of allowed and prohibited substances in their cosmetics. "Cosmetics" are defined by the Food & Drug Administration as "articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body...for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance." Individual cosmetic products don't have to be approved by the FDA in order to go to market, but they are FDA regulated. Basically, the only thing the FDA has control over is making sure the products aren't mislabeled, which means that organic stamp is the closest thing you can get to a guarantee about where your ingredients came from. However, this also means the FDA might dx after the products have already hit the shelves, leaving many consumers vulnerable to the effects of mislabeling.
It's a lot, right? If you’re considering attempting to make the switch to an organic skin care routine, here are five more basic things you should consider before your next drugstore run.
1. There Are Varying Stages of Organic
The word organic can appear in different ways on products, but if you are really looking for a truly organic product, the USDA Organic seal is the only thing that speaks the truth. In order to display the trusted organic label, products must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients. According to this Organic Certified Label Guide, the remaining 5 percent or less of products must not be available organic and be approved by the National Organic Program. Products that say “Made with Organic Ingredients” must have at least 70 percent organic ingredients, but they will not have the USDA seal. Some companies may use a combination of natural and synthetic ingredients, but if they contain less than 70 percent they can only include organic ingredients in the list of ingredients not as a label.
2. The Price Of Organic Skin Care Will Be Higher
The organic label may come with an increase in price tag, but the price can be associated with a higher quality product that is therefore healthier than the cheaper alternatives. The labels aren’t a marketing ploy: companies have to follow painstaking guidelines that are as pricey as they are time-consuming. The application and fees for obtaining a USDA Organic seal can cost up to $1500 and beauty brands have to register each additional product they want to display the seal with additional cost. Labeling may not be a financial burden for larger brands, but small batch or made-to-order beauty brands often have to price even higher to factor in that organic skin products have a shorter shelf-life. According to a StyleCaster report, sometimes big retailers don't want the responsibility of dealing with spoiled products on the shelves and opt out of carrying some of great, organic products on the market.
The cost of ingredients needed to formulate organic beauty products for my own business can be incredibly expensive, but since my products are personalized for clients, I don't have to worry about expired goods like other one-person brands. However, since I never batch products that means producing 12 orders in a day will take a substantial amount of time. There are thousands of amazing beauty brands that simply don't have the man-power to mass-produce their products and/or value the quality control of small batches and thus carry a heftier price tag that's totally worth it. When you factor in all these additional components, it's easy to understand why many smaller companies need to postpone or forego the organic seal altogether.
3. Natural Is Not The Same As Organic
The tiny font on ingredient labels and general knowledge gap most consumers have of chemistry and scientific names can make it hard for us to gauge which ingredients are in fact natural, let alone organic. According to this definition provided by Encyclopedia Britannica “organic” is defined as a compound that contains a carbon atom. Advocates for safe cosmetics are quick to point out, it's easy for brands to take advantage of misrepresenting the word organic. The author of this post featured on Health Report explains how methyl paraben can be misrepresented as “organic” because it was formed from naturally rotten leaves that then become a toxic, crude oil. The word "fragrance" can also be a bit mysterious: As Well and Good reported, the FDA exempts companies from having to list every element that makes up the "fragrance" of their products.
Fragrances can be a mixture of natural and synthetic chemicals. In 2014, the National Academy of Sciences found some of these ingredients that often make up the "fragrance" of products to be cancer-causing. If you like a scent in your skin care, look for labels that list fragrant essential oils one by one instead.
4. You Can Support Organic Farmers While You Support Your Skin
According to the Rodale Institute, which compared conventional and organic field research trials over a 30-year period, conventional farming systems emit 40 percent more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than organic farming. Purchasing organic skin care not only limits your carbon footprint, but as the author of this post from Spirituality Health.com points out, climate change leads to food shortages. Supporting organic farmers will support food security for future generations because organic fields have an innate capacity to capture, store, and use water. Of course, my favorite reason to support organic farming is being kind to the earth that selflessly produces our natural beauty routines.
5. The Results Of Ingredients In Organic Cosmetics Vary Just Like Any Other Product
Remember: Just because something says organics doesn't mean it's unequivocally safe for all. If you have specific allergies or reaction to certain plants, you definitely want to make sure you check the ingredient list. Many essential oils contain anti-cancer properties, making them way safer than “fragrance”, but unfortunately, not all essential oils are safe for babies and elderly folks because their skin’s barrier is thinner, retaining the potent chemical composition of essential oils. Consider purchasing unscented organic products if you have sensitive skin and always read your labels.
The good news is that there is a standard for natural beauty products, even for those that are not USDA approved organic: The Natural Products Association has developed a set of guidelines to determine if a product can be considered "natural" and brands like Aubrey Organics has an entire skin care line approved. Check out this Clean List from my pals at Beauty Lies Truth to find organic brands with ingredients that serve an honest purpose.