Firstly, what does the word organic mean in the context of cosmetics and personal care products? Well, it is, first and foremost actually an agricultural method. Organic produce is that which is grown without the use of artificial fertilisers and pesticides, and which complies with EU or jurisdictional regulations. If it doesn't comply, it's not organic. Regulations governing organically grown products also prohibit the use of genetically modified ingredients. But unfortunately that's just for food, as currently there are no EU regulations for natural & organic cosmetics. So as a result of that, legitimate organic products are competing against conventional cosmetics that are marketed as â€˜naturalâ€™ because they contain some natural ingredients. And that's just not the same thing at all. So, until legislation does exist to safeguard us, consumers need to be wary and do their homework before they commit to buy. That means reading labels!
Once you are satisfied that the product you're getting is actually made from organic ingredients, and is not just a conventional product masquerading as a natural one, what are the benefits to you, and the environment?
Organic farming is sustainable and doesn't deplete the soil or cause soil contamination. It's kinder because it tends not to result in the loss of topsoil, or toxic runoff from fertilisers (and the resulting water pollution that causes). The land stays healthy and can sustain insects, birds, animals and beneficial soil organisms. Plus produce grown on organic farms doesn't contain residual fertilisers or herbicide or fungicide residues which end up inside you when you eat them. So, makeup and cosmetic items created from organic produce reap all these benefits too.
One of the main tenets of organic farming is that chemicals are not used. And by extension, an organic personal care item won't contain any either. So you're guaranteed no parabens, formaldehyde or other heebie jeebies in your mosituriser.
Organic cosmetics and makeup are created from purer ingredients, therefore the risks of allergies or reactions are lessened. Natural products are more likely to work in harmony with our skins and body chemistry as well.
If you're vegetarian, you're well served too. Organic producers don't animal test because they don't need to - they use safe and effective ingredients derived from plants and minerals. Animal by-products are used though, such as beeswax and carmine (a red colour derived from the Cochineal insect) , so vegans may still have to check labels.
That all sounds great - are there any downsides? Well, yes - organic cosmetics are not so easy to buy - you won't find them on supermarket shelves. In general they do tend to be a bit more expensive as well given that organic brands have smaller market shares and contain more expensive ingredients. But that should all change given time - sales of organic cosmetics are increasing constantly, and the transition from healthfood shop to high street chemist and supermarket should follow as an extension of that.