Today, as we strive to lead healthier lives, it’s not surprising the demand for natural, unprocessed and organic products is on the rise. To be sure our foods are safe and nutritious, we want to know where they come from, how they’re made and be certain they don’t contain any of the bad stuff like artificial ingredients, toxins, pesticides or GMOs that might be harmful to us and our children. And Although we’re increasingly careful to read labels, we may wonder if we’re really getting what we think we are when we buy organic.
Likewise, in cosmetics, the terms organic and natural have become buzzwords you’ll find on everything from moisturizers to mascaras.
Truth be told, to date there are no industry standards or regulations for natural and organic ingredients, so the words themselves simply don’t ensure that a product is truly organic or natural. It’s up to us as consumers to take a proactive approach and check the ingredients to be sure that pricey ‘organic’ body lotion is really a healthier choice than the drugstore’s generic variety.
Before we can make informed choices, we need to know the facts. Such as, what ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ really mean, how these terms apply to cosmetics and how can we be sure we’re getting the real deal and not just being seduced by alluring packaging and a good marketing campaign. Here we’re sharing some organic facts aimed at helping consumers become smarter, more confident shoppers.
What “Natural” and “Organic” Really Mean
Although the term natural remains undefined, generally speaking, it refers to ingredients that are derived in whole or in part, from natural sources with no synthetic or artificial compounds including pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or drugs.
This differs from what is considered organic -- ingredients that are solely plant-based and cultivated purely, without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation or pesticides.
In the early 21st century, a grass-roots movement called organic farming offered an alternative agricultural system that has since spread worldwide, reaching a whopping $63 billion by 2012.
Designed to allow the use of naturally-occurring substances while prohibiting the use of synthetic substances, it relies on fertilizers of organic origin, such as compost, manure, green manure and bone meal and places an emphasis on techniques such as crop rotation and companion planting. Biological pest control, mixed cropping and the fostering of insect predators are fostered as an alternative to using pesticides.
For thousands of years agriculture was practiced without the use of artificial chemicals. It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that artificial fertilizers were introduced and quickly became popular as they were cheap, powerful and easy to transport.
Similar advances happened with chemical pesticides in the early 1940s, leading to the decade being referred to as the ‘pesticide era’. While proving beneficial in the short term, these agricultural techniques caused negative longer term side effects such as as soil compaction, erosion and declines in soil fertility. More importantly, they raised serious health concerns about toxic chemicals leaching into the food supply therein giving birth to the organic farming movement.
Organic agricultural methods are internationally regulated and legally enforced around the globe, based in large part by the standards set forth by the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), an international umbrella organization for organic farming, established in 1972.
A quote from IFOAM states “Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems and people...It combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved...”
In the cosmetic world, although there are still no FDA or industry-approved standards for labeling products as organic, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ECOCERT, its international counterpart, do have their own systems for approving standards for organic plant claims.
Yet it’s common practice for some cosmetic companies to combine organic and synthetic ingredients, so the term ‘organic’ may not apply to their entire formula.
How to Read Labels
The best way to ensure you’re buying a product that is a certified organic is to look for the seals and read the ingredients listed on the label. In order for any product to carry this seal, it must follow these restrictions:
Excluding water and salt, the product must contain only organically produced ingredients. These products carry the USDA Organic Seal and must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
Organic products contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients with the remaining product ingredients consisting of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List of non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. These products may carry the USDA Organic Seal and must also display the certifying agent’s name and address.
Made With Organic Ingredients
Made with organic ingredients - product contains at least 70% organic ingredients and the label can list up to three of the organic ingredients on the display panel. For example, a body lotion may state ‘made with organic lavender, rosemary and chamomile’ or ‘made with organic herbs’. This product will not be permitted to carry the seal, but must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
When the body encounters toxins, whether from foods or pollution in the environment, it increases its free radical activity. A certain amount of this activity is needed to kill bacteria and germs, but after being exposed to external agents including pollution, pesticides, tobacco smoke, car fumes and ultra violet light, the body can overreact and the process gets out of control.
Antioxidants function as the body’s best defense against free radicals. Some antioxidants, such as estrogen, the main female hormone, are made by the body while others, such as vitamin E and C and beta-carotene are found in foods and cosmetic preparations. Antioxidants in organic creams protect skin from the effects of free radical activity that can cause irritation and age skin beyond its years.
One of the most scientifically-studied and clinically-tested of all natural plant remedies, anti-oxidant rich Organic Aloe Vera, offers a variety of benefits from soothing sunburn, rashes and eczema to helping heal scarring and smoothing fine lines and wrinkles.
Given its multi-tasking properties, it’s smart to make a good Organic Aloe Vera Cream an integral part of any moisturizing regime the year round. Aloe Infusion Face & Body Cream optimizes the benefits of aloe vera to soothe dry, irritated skin and boost skin’s natural hydration. Infused with freshly-squeezed organic aloe vera juice and containing Organic Green Tea Leaf, Organic Jojoba Oil and Organic Rosehip Seed Oil, it delivers lightweight, lasting moisture that feels clean to the touch. Used daily, skin stays hydrated and protected from dryness and the damaging effects of free radicals.
The true benefit of organic cosmetics is in the purity, safety and effectiveness of their ingredients. Ultimately, you can be assured that their ingredients have been grown and harvested with care and they more than likely to be worth the additional price you may pay for them.