Clean makeup

What Does Organic Mean In Cosmetics?

7 Mins read

What does organic mean in cosmetics? Does it mean the same for cosmetics as it does for food?

Over the last few years, there has been a trend towards eating organic, and to be honest, I would much rather eat it.

However, is organic makeup really worth it? What does organic mean in cosmetics after all? I’m going to try and make sense of this issue.

What Does Organic Mean In Cosmetics

The definition of organic is simple. It means that the product contains ingredients derived from living plants or animals grown without synthetic chemicals, Genetically Modified Organisms or radiation.

The terms “natural” and “organic” are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. While natural products are generally better than those made with non-natural ingredients, they do not have to be organic.

And while organic products must meet strict guidelines set forth by the FDA, there is no guarantee that they will be safer or more effective than non-organic products.

Why are organic cosmetics more expensive? Organic products go through a rigorous process to obtain certification as such – which can include inspections and paying annual fees to maintain the certification – thereby increasing production costs.

Because production costs of conventional makeup lines are significantly lower (they use less expensive synthetic ingredients), they can offer much lower prices on their merchandise.

Any cosmetics that are natural can claim to be organic

Organic cosmetics can be made from a variety of ingredients; you are likely to find plant-based ingredients and minerals in organic cosmetics.

For something to be labeled as organic, 95 percent or more of its total ingredients must come from organically produced plants or minerals, as opposed to being created synthetically.

Some examples of natural products that are not organic include:

  • Alum (potassium aluminum sulfate)
  • Bismuth oxychloride
  • Kaolin clay
  • Talc

There are legal standards for claiming a product is organic

  • Just like with food, there are legal standards for claiming a product is organic. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration regulates cosmetic products while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) handles organic certification.
  • A product labeled ‘organic’ must have at least 95% certified organic ingredients. In addition, it must be certified by a USDA-approved agent (usually one of several private firms).
  • A product can claim to be made with organic ingredients if at least 70% of its ingredients are organic.

That’s all well and good, but what about those words like “natural” or “pure” that you might see on your cosmetics? If a company uses terms like those, it’s their responsibility to define them in such a way that consumers can understand exactly what they mean.

Organic products can contain synthetic ingredients

But just because a product is labeled as organic doesn’t mean it’s completely free of synthetic ingredients.

The USDA allows companies to include non-organic ingredients if they are not available in an organic form, and while the use of some synthetic ingredients is prohibited by the USDA, others are allowed.

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Not only that but there’s no guarantee that organic products are safer. Some synthetic pesticides and fertilizers can be better for human health than their natural alternatives.

Certain natural chemicals can also be harmful to humans or the environment while certain synthetic ones—especially those made from petroleum—are not.

This is why consumers should always read ingredient labels; even if a product is labeled as “natural” or “organic,” you can never be sure about what it contains unless you check for yourself.

A USDA Organic seal means the product is at least 95% organic

The USDA Organic seal means the product is made with at least 95% organic ingredients, excluding water and salt.

If you’re looking for the highest percentage of organic ingredients in a product, look for 100% organic on the ingredient list.

This label does not mean that all ingredients are organic or that the product is free from synthetic substances. For example, an approved preservative may be used or a portion of an ingredient could be non-organic.

It can be tricky to figure out where to spot this label as it isn’t mandated by law to appear on every cosmetic product (although more and more companies are including it).

It can often be found on soaps, body washes, and shampoos, but less so on deodorants and toothpastes for example (again this varies).

Not all ‘organic’ cosmetics are equally organic

  • The USDA Organic seal means that at least 95% of the ingredients are organic.
  • The USDA “made with organic ingredients” seal means that 70-95% of the ingredients are organic.
  • The “contains organic ingredients” seal means there’s less than 70% organic content in the product.
  • The “made with natural ingredients” seal does not mean anything and is meaningless.

Do Organic Products Work Just As Well As Conventional Ones?

So are organic products just as effective as conventional ones? Yes.

“The active ingredients in most skincare and make-up products are essentially the same, whether they are natural or synthetic,” says Dr. Stefanie Williams of dermatology clinic EUDELO.

“That is because there is no magic ingredient that would work for everyone without any side effects if natural.”

But what about irritation? There is evidence to suggest that organic formulas can be more soothing than conventional alternatives.

This could be down to the removal of irritants like parabens and mineral oil in organic formulas, but it may also be because they tend to include more anti-inflammatory extracts such as aloe vera, rose and chamomile.

Some studies suggest that people with sensitive skin should switch to a natural or organic brand if they want to reduce redness, itching, or dryness.

There’s one final reason why you might want to consider buying organic: its potential benefit for the environment.

The chemicals used in cosmetics production have an impact on soil, air, and water quality; so removing them from your routine may help reduce pollution levels overall.

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Why Should You Use Organic Cosmetics?

There are several reasons why you may want to switch from chemically-laden cosmetics to organic.

Chemicals in makeup can cause damage, including skin irritation and allergic reactions, which is why it’s important to avoid them if possible.

Organic makeup, on the other hand, is free of all these chemicals and is gentle on your skin.

Organic cosmetics are also a more eco-friendly choice. They use ingredients that have been sustainably sourced and processed in an environmentally friendly way so there’s no damage done to the environment by their manufacturer.

This makes organic cosmetics ideal for anyone who likes to make responsible choices.

Another reason you might choose organic cosmetics is that they are vegan-friendly. Synthetic makeup typically contains animal-derived ingredients such as lanolin (extracted from sheep’s wool), collagen (a protein found in cows’ skin), and carmine (a red coloring made from crushed beetles).

If you’re vegan, or just don’t like using animal products on your face, switching to an organic range will eliminate this problem too!

What Ingredients Can I Expect In Organic Cosmetics

  • You can expect to find ingredients that are safe for you and the environment, such as plant-derived essential oils, plant-based alcohols, vegetable waxes, and flower extracts. Some of our favorite ingredients include rosehip oil, shea butter, jojoba oil (which mimics your skin’s natural oils), camellia oil, and argan oil.
  • Avoid synthetic fragrances (the term “fragrance” on a label is often used to hide the fact that carcinogenic chemicals are being used). You should also avoid parabens (used as preservatives in cosmetics), dimethicone(silicon-based polymer used to lubricate the skin), sodium lauryl sulfate (used as a foaming agent), and phthalates(plasticizers found in synthetic fragrances).

Many organic products will have a list of their key ingredients right on the label.

Be sure to take advantage of this transparency. If you ever see an ingredient that you’re not familiar with or don’t feel good about using, check out Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetic Safety Database.

It has more than 80,000 cosmetic product reviews based on 50 toxicity and regulatory databases from government and health agency sources.

Why Are Organic Cosmetics More Expensive

Organic ingredients are more expensive to produce than conventional ones, so you’re going to have to pay more for them.

The main difference between organic and conventional farming is that the former doesn’t use pesticides and the latter does.

These chemicals keep pests away from plants, but they also leave residues on the crops that can end up in your beauty products.

Even if that doesn’t bother you (and it probably should), know that clinical studies have shown these chemicals can mess with your hormones—which means they could be contributing to acne, early puberty, and other conditions affecting how your body looks and feels.

If you think organics are safer because they don’t contain pesticides, why not go all out with a completely natural product?

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Shelf space at the store has to be earned by every brand out there (more on this later), so companies will often use preservatives, thickeners, or softeners—natural or man-made—to make their formulas last longer on shelves and feel good on the skin.

You might get lucky with a super simple formula that contains only two or three ingredients, but some of these cosmetics will cost as much as designer fragrances. And speaking of price tags…

What Certification Do Organic Cosmetics Have

The USDA does not certify cosmetics. Instead, the USDA has a list of approved third-party certifiers that can do the work for them.

There are only three certifiers currently on the list:

  • Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO)
  • Quality Assurance International (QAI)
  • California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF)

These organizations have different standards for what is considered organic, so it’s a good idea to look at their websites if you’re interested in learning more about them specifically.

In general, these organizations certify products and ingredients with established organic production history and ingredients that do not contain any genetically modified organisms or synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

How To Tell If My Cosmetics Are Truly Organic

Organic labeling can be tricky, so it’s important to know how to make sure that your cosmetic products are truly organic. Here are the steps you should take:

Do your research

It’s important that you understand what “organic” means, and not just jump at the chance to buy a product because it has the word “organic” on it! Make sure you know what kind of ingredients you’re looking for and why they are good for you and your skin.

Look for products made with organic ingredients

These will usually have a label or certification that says something like “made with 100% USDA-certified organic ingredients” or even simply “made with organic ingredients.”

Check out the ingredients list on the label

There should be an “ingredients” section on every cosmetics label that lists all of the components used in making up a single product in order from most used to least used (by weight). If there’s no list, then chances are it’s not certified organic!

Look for products with a high percentage of organic ingredients

At least 70 percent certified—to make sure they aren’t being made from synthetic materials which could cause irritation or damage over time if applied topically (on your skin).

The USDA Organic seal ensures this minimum threshold has been met by requiring 95 percent compliance as part of their certification process.”

Final Thoughts

Organic means that there are no harmful ingredients in cosmetics.

For example, one no-no in most makeup is parabens. Parabens are toxic to your body and mimic estrogen, which creates man-boobs.

That’s why if you buy beauty products, you need to look at the label and see if it says “all-natural” or “organic.” The majority of all makeup have no chemicals in it at all, but some still do.