The beauty industry is a gold mine for bio, organic and natural cosmetics but are these skincare products better at treating acne than conventional solutions. Let’s find out.
The “natural cosmetics” sector is a never-ending tea cup where labels like "organic," "eco" or "bio" are being poured into, but never seem to reach consumers — these terms are often used interchangeably despite their differences, misleading people into buying products that are not what they were expecting.
In this article, I want to touch on the differences between organic, natural, eco, and bio products — are they really better for problematic skin or is it all just greenwashing?
What is organic skincare
Let’s clear the gray clouds, starting with what are they all about?
When a product is labelled as “organic” it means that the ingredients are organically farmed, grown without pesticide or herbicides. Organic cosmetics are also cruelty-free, meaning the ingredients or the final product hasn’t been tested on animals.
The term itself is regulated by the FDA, but tere’s a catch: a product only has to contain a certain percentage of organic ingredients to be declared “organic.” (This amount may vary from state to state—in California, for example, it’s 70%.)
Spotting a USDA Organic seal is ideal, since that means the product contains at least 95% organic ingredients. The remaining percentage are, for example, minerals, such as titanium dioxide, used as a natural SPF.
What does "natural" mean for skincare products
Unlike organic products, the FDA and USDA DO NOT have any standards or requirements for labelling products as “natural.” This means a product with a low percentage of naturally-sourced ingredients can pass by and still be promoted as “natural.”
While these skincare products may have some naturally-sourced ingredients, they can still contain up to 30% synthetic ones. These products can be easily spotted, just have your eagle eye with you and zoom into the ingredient list.
Remember that ingredients are listed from highest percentage to lowest, so aim to pick a product where synthetic ones (those that sound more like tongue-twisters) are mainly at the bottom of the list. If the only ones you recognize are at the end, it’s most probably a fake.
What are eco or bio cosmetics
These are two other labels that can be misleading. Eco products should be cruelty-free, following environmentally sound process — from the moment the product is formulated and until the packaging (biodegradable) stage, minimizing the negative effects on the environment.
That looks good in theory but in real life this label doesn't tell us the exact origins of ingredients. Certain parts of a final product may very well be eco-friendly, but not the final product.
The Bio label, just like the organic one, denotes a farming practice where no toxic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides) are used, and there’s no GMO (genetically modified) products used to derive ingredients from. But just like the other labels, the lack of regulation leaves plenty of room for non-genuine products to hit the shelves.
Is natural always the best solution?
Image Credit: The Ruby Kit
The idea that "natural " equals “healthy” and “safe” is deeply rooted in our minds, but is it the best solution for problematic skin? The answer is no. An ingredient’s source does not determine its safety or its effectiveness.
Did you know, some plants can actually cause skin irritations? Whether or not they were grown organically, plants contain substances that may be toxic or allergenic: the notable tea tree oil, feverfew, lavender, and jasmine are among these.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m against all natural products, in fact the best cleansers I’ve had were "formulated" in my kitchen with stuff from my fridge. But while DIY cosmetics and organic products are effective at basic cleansing and moisturizing, the same cannot be said when it comes to treating serious skin conditions.
Otherwise, why would there be doctors, chemists and medicine if we could all treat our acne with lemon juice? (just making my point, don’t put lemon juice on your acne!)
I suggest you pay close attention to the packaging and the ingredient list of a skincare product. As much as I love beauty, the ugly truth is this: the beauty industry is one of the most misleading industries. And though many brands are trying to market authentic and genuine products, others rely on "backdoors" in the legal system to sell more.