So what does it all mean?
The organic and natural movements have in recent years been gathering momentum. As consumers, we are more educated and aware than ever before about what we put on our skin and into our bodies. However, beneath the clever marketing slogans what does it mean and how to do we know if what we are buying is aligned with our understanding?
Here is a quick rundown of common marketing phrases that you have probably come across and what they mean.
Organic Beauty: As you would expect, to be certified organic in the EU 95% of all ingredients must be organic status, i.e. not synthetic. Additionally, they must be traceable from ethical sources, cruelty-free and follow green chemistry principles. Great however, this does not preclude the use of chemical preservatives, synthetics or allergens.
Natural Beauty: The word 'Natural' is probably the most popular by far in today's beauty industry; however it is a little misleading. To be genuinely natural means to only include primary products with minimal refinement and processing which have come directly from Nature. For example, olive oil, ground walnut shells in the case of exfoliants or essential oils. However, safety regulations prevent many beauty products from being genuinely natural, because they often contain water as the main ingredient, therefore, making them susceptible to harmful bacteria growth that can cause serious health complications. So be aware that ‘natural’ refers to the elements that come directly from Mother Nature and not the synthetics used to emulsify, texturize or preserve the product.
Safe Synthetics: This one is a marketing tool used to explain, I am guessing, the use of synthetics that are not proven to harm humans as judged by regulatory bodies, namely the EU. However, this leaves us wondering, what is considered safe? For example, Triclosan, used in antibacterial soap and toothpaste, was deemed to be safe when it first came out only to discover some decades later.....probably not. In this respect you need to be vigilant with what's in the product and trust the seller is being honest with you.
The bottom line here is that not a lot on the mainstream commercial market is genuinely natural. My journey into the world of beauty has helped me understand how skincare products are formulated, and why sometimes they can cause unwelcome aesthetic reactions. For some people, this rings true for emulsified leave-on products such as moisturisers and water-based serums.
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