In the beauty industry, the term “organic” means that some or all of the ingredients in a product come from organic sources. For example, the aloe vera in a moisturizer may come from an organic aloe farm.
Organic ingredients are those that farmers have grown without using artificial substances, such as pesticides or chemical fertilizers. The exact definition varies around the world.
Products bearing the “AB” label contain at least 95% organic ingredients. There is no evidence that these products are more effective, but they may be more environmentally friendly. In this article, we take a closer look at organic skin care, including what it is and what the benefits are. We’ll also see how organic skincare differs from “green” skincare.
What is Organic Skin Care?
Organic skin care refers to products that include organically grown ingredients. Standards for organic farming vary globally, but generally organic farms do not use laboratory-made substances.
This may include:
– chemical fertilizers
– chemical pesticides
On the contrary, organic farms keep their commodities healthy by using natural substances. The underlying idea is that organic farming is less harmful to the environment.
What makes a skincare product organic?
For a skincare product to be organic, it must be made from plant-derived ingredients that are organically grown and processed. Here are some examples of these ingredients:
– plant extracts
– vegetable oils or butters
– essential oils
For some, organic products must also:
– allow the maintenance or renewal of resources
– maintain or improve air and soil quality
– preserve biodiversity
– minimize the use of synthetic products.
Is organic skincare the same as “natural”, “green” skincare?
No, these terms have different meanings.
The term “natural” can mean that some or all of a product’s ingredients come from plants or animals. It is not the same as “organic”. Natural ingredients can come from organic or non-organic farms.
Nor does the term “natural” necessarily mean that all ingredients are safe, reputably sourced, or environmentally friendly. For example, some manufacturers source the hydrating substance squalane from sharks. This contributes to shark hunting.
The term “green” is used by companies to indicate that their products are not harmful to the environment. But again, this is a subjective term. A company may use this term to refer to its ingredients, packaging, business practices, or a combination of these. This does not guarantee that the product is actually harmless.
What are the benefits of organic skin care?
Organic skin care is not necessarily more or less effective than non-organic skin care. However, they have some key advantages. Organic skin care products are:
Regulated. Because the term “organic” is regulated, people can tell if the product contains what it claims to contain.
Better for biodiversity. Organic farms do not use chemical pesticides, which can harm wildlife and reduce biodiversity.
Less polluting. To use the term “organic,” products must maintain or improve the health of the soil or air in which they grow.
Biodegradable. Organic ingredients also tend to be biodegradable, meaning they break down quickly and don’t build up in the environment.
Are there any downsides to organic skincare?
Organic skin care has a few downsides. However, be aware that the fact that a product is organic does not always mean that the company that manufactures it is responsible for the environment. Some brands promote their organic ingredients to practice “greenwashing”, which is an attempt to make people believe that a company is more environmentally friendly than it really is.
For example, a company may promote its organic ingredients, but it may still use non-organic ingredients:
– use synthetic ingredients
– have a high carbon footprint
– use non-biodegradable packaging, such as plastic.
Other things to consider
Biological status is just one thing to consider when looking for sustainable skin care. Other factors can indicate the quality, ethics and environmental friendliness of a product as a whole.
Depending on your concerns, you can also seek information on the following:
The purity. The term “third-party testing” means that a company has had an independent laboratory test the safety and purity of its products. This ensures that the products contain what the company claims.
Efficiency. Some companies conduct clinical trials of their products to prove that they work. This can indicate that a product is effective.
Supply. The cultivation or harvesting of certain organic ingredients can still have a negative effect on the environment or on the communities that live nearby. For example, some crops require a lot of soil or water to grow. Some brands support practices that minimize negative effects and strengthen communities.
Location. Shipping products around the world requires more fuel than shipping them locally. People may want to consider brands that operate in their region or country.
Animal welfare. Although animal testing is banned in many places, some countries still require brands to test their products on animals before they are allowed to sell them in that region. Some skin care products also contain ingredients from animals. People who want to avoid these products can look for cruelty-free or vegan brands.
The term “organic” means that a product contains ingredients from organic farming. Organic farmers do not use artificial fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals to grow their produce. The idea behind it is that it reduces damage to flora and fauna.
People who want to make sure their skincare products are safe for themselves, for the environment, and for the communities that grow the ingredients can look for information about what’s important to them online.
Klaschka, U. (2016). Natural personal care products—analysis of ingredient lists and legal situation.
Panico, A., et al. (2019). Skin safety and health prevention: An overview of chemicals in cosmetic products.
Rubin, CB, et al. (2019). Natural does not mean safe—the dirt on clean beauty products.