What Does “Natural” Mean?
Generally speaking, “natural” ingredients are derived, in whole or in part, from natural sources with no synthetic compounds. Taking it a step further, “organic” ingredients are supposed to contain only plant-sourced ingredients that are cultivated without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation, or pesticides. However, given the lack of regulations, it is always a question as to whether or not these products actually are made according to the claims about their formulations. Even more to the point—does any of this actually make them any better for your skin?
The short answer is: There is nothing about natural or organic that reflects the quality of a product when it comes to protecting or making your skin look or act younger, healing your acne or dry skin, controlling your oily skin or rosacea, or addressing other skin-care concerns. So, products labeled organic are not a panacea for your skin—in fact, some organic products may actually hurt your skin.
What “Organic” Really Means
What does the term “organic” mean in the world of cosmetics, especially for skin care? It might surprise you to learn that it really means nothing—nothing at all.
- FACT: As of mid-2012, there are still no FDA-approved standards for labeling cosmetic products as organic; nor is there an agreed-on definition from the cosmetics industry.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and most countries around the world, don’t regulate organic claims for personal-care products, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ECOCERT (an international organic certification organization) do have their own systems for approving some standards of organic plant claims. However, there are many random companies throughout the world that develop their own sets of guidelines for organic cosmetics and then charge a fee for their seal of approval. So, basically, if a cosmetics company is willing to pay for the certification, any brand can label their products “organic,” without any consequences.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that even though lots of cosmetic products actually do contain organic ingredients, they also may contain synthetic ingredients, so the term “organic” doesn’t apply to the entire formula. Similarly, depending on where you shop for organic products, what organic means differs from one store shelf to the next. At this time, U.S.-based supermarket chain Whole Foods is the only retailer that addresses this confusion for the consumer; it enforces its own regulation that personal-care products labeled “organic” must meet the same standards as organic foods.