Understanding Organic Skin Care

There’s an undeniable allure to borrowing a little of nature’s beauty to enhance your own. Who wouldn’t want to have lips as luscious as ripe strawberries or skin as soft and firm as a ripe peach? Cosmetics manufacturers know what their clients want, and more of them want organic products than ever before. Many major skin-care lines boast that their products are “all-natural” or “organic,” but what do these terms mean for consumers? Is there a way to sort the organically-grown wheat from the chaff and make informed purchases? 

Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration have tried to dispel some of the fog of misinformation surrounding organic products. The FDA’s guidelines on organic foods parallel theUSDA’s requirements for organic cosmetic ingredients: goods produced without synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, bioengineered genes, growth hormones, or irradiation can be labeled “organic,” and only those goods can then go into skin care products certified as organic. To qualify as organic, an ingredient must not only be grown according to FDA requirements for organic goods, but must also be processed organically — that means no synthetically hydrogenated oils, no petroleum products used to extract fragrances or colors, and no artificial binders or stabilizers added.

What Qualifies as Organic?

For a skin care product to bear the label “100 percent organic,” it must contain exactly that — exclusively organically produced ingredients. That means everything in that bottle is not only from a natural source, but also remains free of chemical processing, synthetic scents, and artificial coloring. Only products that are certified 100 percent organic may bear this label. A good guideline to follow when looking for completely organic cosmetics is to seek out the products with the shortest ingredient lists; the majority of 100 percent organic products contain only a few ingredients. Many, such as coconut oil and aloe vera gel, contain only one. 

Products labeled “organic” must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. This label is more commonly found on pigmented cosmetics like lipsticks and foundations, since many coloring and texturizingagents they contain are finely-ground, naturally occurring (but inorganic) substances like talc, mica, or zinc oxide. Color and fragrance make up a very small portion of a product’s net weight, though, and these may be synthetic, especially as artificial colors and fragrances often have a longer shelf life and are therefore especially attractive to cosmetics manufacturers.

A product that contains between 70 and 95 percent organic ingredients is able to bear a “made with organic ingredients” label. This label means that up to thirty percent of what’s in the bottle could be from non-organic sources, including some of the major ingredients in the product. For example, some of the products you’ll find athttp://aubrey-organics.com/ have earned the USDA Organic Certification while others have slightly different labels. They use as many organic ingredients as possible in each product.

One thing to note is that neither the FDA nor the USDA regulate the use of such terms as “natural,” “botanical,” “cruelty-free,” and “mineral.” That pot of “all-natural” lip gloss fortified with “botanicals” may conjure up images of bees building their waxy homes beside sunny fields of mint and lavender, but it may well have originated in a test tube.