All-natural and organic products have become more mainstream now than they ever were before. A quick look at strongly emerging beauty brands that are establishing themselves as mainstream, such as Honest Beauty and Fenty Beauty; both with the stance of natural, toxic-free and cruelty-free. These brands are actively competing and quite possibly replacing the status quo of traditional conventional beauty brands that we have known to grow and admire such as Estee Lauder, L’oreal and Clinique. Natural products cater to an active group that isn’t just following the clean beauty trend, but are actively choosing longevity, a healthy lifestyle, transparency and accountability with themselves and their environment; and clean beauty brands are no exception. What might have started out as a trend with small beauty brands challenging the status quo or creating a product they wanted for themselves or solved their own personal dilemma where a traditional brand failed to provide a solution, has gone on to become a global trend that is forcing the traditional big brands to rethink their products, business and quite possibly consumers.
“Clean beauty” is the tag name that is synonymous with natural, organic and non-toxic beauty products. The stance is that ingredients in these products are pure, nature derived, eco-friendly, good for the environment and not tested on animals. And by clean beauty products, these products show a significant and positive change to your skincare routine without any major or underlying side effects. So what is the real difference between natural, organic and non-toxic beauty products; are they all just one in the same products?
Natural is mostly used to describe the purity of ingredients (this is where the term ‘clean beauty’ is used interchangeably). When looking for natural products, consumers are actively in search of a formulation with pure, nature derived ingredients without any synthetics. Natural products will contain ingredients found in nature rather than lab-made chemicals e.g. homemade beauty products, DIY face masks or serums made with honey, turmeric, milk, oatmeal; that is anything found in your kitchen cabinet to help boost your skincare routine is a natural ingredient. The guise with natural is that they are chemical-free and effective to the human skin as it complements the naturalistic nature of the skin and its components. Natural beauty products can quite possibly be edible, that is as your skin absorbs the nutrients, you can quite frankly eat them too!
But natural beauty products have it’s fair share of controversies and questionable transparency debates especially when it comes to commercialisation and access to consumers. The term ‘natural’ within itself is not actively regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) or any other accompanying regulatory body that deems the products in question natural and true to nature. Which makes the term within itself vulnerable towards strong sales pitch, highly commercialised advertising and marketing with the goal of pushing volumes and sales at the expense of the consumer and their purchasing decision. In other words, “natural” as a term is being loosely utilised as it has become widely mainstream and trendy – and traditional brands are not only jumping onto the trend to compete with smaller emerging brands and the new mainstream ones but to also stay relevant. For any questions you may have, natural is simply not natural; there is the potentiality of third party testing on the safety of ingredients either if they are purely natural or synthetically lab-made chemicals. Most of the synthetic ingredients are deemed to be safe, notably free of parabens, phthalates and sulfates. So next time when you come across a product labelled natural, ask yourself what are the ingredients? Is it good for all skin types? And does this brand align with your lifestyle needs and personal philosophy towards self-care?
Organic beauty products can be linked to the formulation of cosmetic products using organically farmed ingredients. The ingredients are grown without the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), herbicides and synthetic fertilisers. The source of the ingredients are pure, farm fresh components with all of the full and healthy nutrients into the products; possibly making them biodegradable and sustainable product packaging. This however does not mean to say the product is completely organic, but that there are preservatives in place to preserve the ingredients and topical benefits of the product upon use. Non – toxic beauty has a much greater emphasis on ingredients deemed toxic by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Component ingredients of lead and mercury found in lipsticks and serums have been linked to animal testing before human consumption.
So what is the definitive difference between natural, organic and non-toxic beauty products? One thing to remember is that they are all clean beauty, but with different characteristics and components to each. Natural products have natural ingredients but are tied to much controversy with the term ‘natural’ being unregulated and heavily utilised as a marketing strategy by conventional companies. Organic is much more transparent with stricter regulations and standards to the ingredients in the product that are linked to sustainable and non-chemical farming methods that deem the product organic, that is farm land management and crop rotation. Non – toxic is linked to the toxicity of the ingredients in the products closely linked to eco-friendly to the environment as deemed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). One must remember that the debate around clean beauty goes back to the ingredients of the products and if they are attached to or recognised by a regulating body that gives the consumer safety and awareness within their purchasing decision. In the US, however, this is open to controversy as the governing laws within the beauty industry are outdated (the last set of regulations on cosmetic safety is the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938; which dates back 83 years and has not been updated since). The FDA in the US has only banned 11 potentially harmful ingredients from cosmetic use by brands and companies in the US as compared to the European Union which has banned more than 1300 chemicals; which means a significant number of harmful ingredients are manufactured and are active in your natural beauty products.
The greatest takeaway that we can summarize when it comes to clean beauty is to find products that align with your philosophy and beliefs, work with the price and if what the product offers matches up to the price and finally research the ingredients – it’s not worth it to take on a healthy active lifestyle without looking at the active components of the skincare, makeup and hair care products that you are using and if they are allowing you to achieve the self-care goals you have set for yourself.