‘Organic’ and ‘Natural’: What’s the Difference?

‘Organic’ and ‘Natural’: What’s the Difference?

Natural Skin Care is the fastest growing segment in the Beauty Industry today. It is becoming more and more prevalent that health and beauty products use words like ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ and so often there is confusion as to whether they mean one and the same thing.

In this article we are going to examine how they are different but first we must make one thing clear.

There is no legal requirement to label a product as organic or natural. However there is a requirement to list ingredients according to the global standard of INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) Ingredients are listed from the highest percentage to the lowest, while ingredients under 1% can be listed in any order.

So often the terms ‘Natural’ and ‘Organic’ are used to mean one and the same thing however there is a significant difference. ‘Natural’ is most usually used on a product label when the content’s ingredients have been derived from nature itself. However that does not mean to say that the ingredients are necessarily ‘organic’ in composition.

To be classed as ‘Organic’ a product must not contain pesticides, chemicals or artificial fertilisers, whereas whilst 100% ‘Natural’ products may be made with ingredients from nature they may not be totally organic. The use of the word ‘Natural’ is not regulated however to use ‘Organic’ means strict rules have to be adhered to.

A ‘Natural’ product is generally considered to have 50-70% natural ingredients however an ‘Organic’ product must have between 95-100% chemical-free ingredients. It can then be labelled ‘Organic Certified’. On the other hand if it has at least 70% it can be labelled ‘Made with Organic Ingredients’.

Organic ingredients will have been produced by organic farming methods only, and genetically modified ingredients and herbicides are not allowed.

Just a note at this point. Many cosmetic products require non-natural ingredients, for example emulsifiers to blend oil and water, to ensure they last and don’t go off too quickly.

Having said all of that it is very difficult to be sure whether or not a product is truly organic as in the cosmetics industry the use of the word ‘organic’ is not regulated as it is in the Food & Drinks Industry.

However all is not lost. The Soil Association is an independent Organic Certification Body.  Their internationally recognised COSMOS Standard independently Certify Beauty Products and if you see their logo you can be sure the product is truly organic.

(Cosmos (standard) – COSMOS stands for “Cosmetic Organic and Natural Standard”, which sets certification requirements for organic and natural cosmetic products in Europe. The Standard is recognised globally by the Cosmetic Industry.) You can read the Full Standard here (PDF Doc.)

IT IS thought that the natural cosmetics industry is much larger than the organic cosmetics industry. Unfortunately this section of the Industry is also unregulated.

There many different ideas as to what ‘Natural’ means and this has led to terms such as ‘from nature’ or ‘nature inspired’ Some companies even go as far as to say that artificial ingredients made in the Lab are natural because they are ‘nature identical’.

Fortunately the Soil Association gives protection in this area too. They say:

“To help you identify truly natural products, we offer COSMOS natural certification. We believe that if a product is natural, the majority of ingredients must be from nature. No endangered plant species may be used and no GM ingredients. Any non-natural ingredients which are necessary to keep the product fresh or make it work should meet strict standards and green chemistry principles”

I believe the guiding principle here is don’t depend on labelling but read the Ingredients. Only then can you be sure of the nature of the Beauty Product you are using.

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