In the cosmetic industry there are so many marketing tags: Cruelty Free, Not Tested on Animals, Organic, All Natural, Plant Based, and Pure. What do they all mean? The fact is they are used for advertising and the claims cannot always be substantiated. Does it mean they are safer to use, and are better for you, or not? In the UK and US, organic food has to meet a standard. Here are the US standards:
“100% Organic: Made with 100% organic ingredients
Organic: Made with at least 95% organic ingredients
Made With Organic Ingredients: Made with a minimum of 70% organic ingredients with strict restrictions on the remaining 30% including no GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
*Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.”
In the UK, farms must be certified by the government and are subject to checks to ensure that level has been maintained. However, for the cosmetic industry there is no legal certification for beauty products to be labeled as natural, or organic, so are you paying more for the wording they may not be true? Even with the breakdown of ingredients, how do you know the percentages of the ingredients if they are not listed? Some companies do state how much percentage of an active ingredient is in the product, but this is not across the board or required by law.
The Soil Association in the UK, has it’s own organic symbol where they can certify that the ingredients used don’t contain any GM products, synthetic colors, fragrances, or silicone oils. However, products can claim to be organic even if they only use 1% of organic products. There is currently no legislation to cover this, so it is about educating the public on what this really means. The next time you see a product labeled organic look at the ingredients and see how many there are, and how far down the list the organic ingredients are. The further down the list it is likely to be minimal.
As a beauty writer and someone who has worked in the industry for over a decade, there are many phrases that are used to where the literal meaning is not transparent. In addition while no one likes the thought of using chemicals on their face and body. The fact is we do, and we have to to stay clean, and that means we will have to use some chemicals. Natural plant extracts is a common phrase and is one that attracts the eco-friendly consumer. These products are usually mixed with chemicals to preserve the shelf life, and also to stabilize the plant extracts. If they didn’t they would go off before they even hit the shop shelf. What few people know is these products go off very quickly once opened. That means once it has been exposed to oxygen (as in opening a jar) it will deteriorate, and if you use it then a reaction could occur. Think of it as being similar to buying fresh flowers, they don’t last long unless you add plant food to extend their life. That’s exactly the same as a jar of cream with plant extracts in it.
There is also the myth that organic and natural products are more effective. This isn’t always true, and while people may feel more comfortable using less chemicals, if you do have skin ailments like acne or fine lines, then you need products with active ingredients that will more than likely not be 100% organic or natural. One has to decide on their priorities—treat the ailment or not. On a personal level I do prefer to use less chemically based products, but they tend to go off very quickly, are less effective, and cost more. Even with make-up, the colors fade and the consistency of the product separates if it is not used quickly. This makes using natural products less cost effective, so that must be taken into consideration. As a general rule of thumb if something contains natural ingredients, once opened you should use it within 6 weeks and then dispose of any residue as it can become toxic like moldy food. For those who like to make their own beauty products, they should be used within a week at the most (and kept in the fridge) otherwise the ingredients can cause more harm.
Always check the labels, and not only the words in bold when you buy anything, and don’t assume a product that has organic ingredients won’t cause a reaction. They still can, and in some cases can cause more if they are raw ingredients. Fruit acids, vitamins, and plants are all unstable taken out of their natural environment, and what these cosmetic companies do is stabilize them so they can be used at home conveniently. The beauty industry will use these buzzwords to entice people to buy, but be aware that the shelf life of these products are much shorter, and that the actual percentage of organic ingredients maybe very small.