What's the Difference Between Natural and Organic and Why Does It Matter
Posted on November 05 2015
Labelling loopholes in the USA
This week I want to talk about a topic I’m pretty passionate about: the difference between organic and natural beauty products. Wait. Before you roll your eyes and click to the next article, this is not petty word play. It directly affects your health and the information you are given about the products you choose. So please bear with me…
Have you ever bought a product labelled ‘natural’ or even ‘organic’ and then read the labelling in microscopic detail only to find that it contains harmful unnatural ingredients? Have you wondered how that's possible or even legal? Well there are a few handy labelling loop holes that manufacturers use to confuse even the most savvy consumers! This article will try to explain what is meant by 'organic' and 'natural' by identifying key differences, helping you to understand ingredient labelling more clearly.
The term 'organic' is not defined by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), rather it is the NOP (National Organic Program) that decides what an organic label means. The NOP requires all organic products to meet the USDA’s (US Department of Agriculture) standards to be produced without the use of prohibitive methods such as sewage sludge, genetic engineering or radiation. All ingredients must also be allowed substances on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited substances.
Organic products must be overseen by a USDA certified agent to ensure all regulations are being followed. Organic certification allows products to claim 'organic' on their primary label (the big catchy one right on the product itself), or place an organic seal anywhere on the product.
However, if not certified, products can list organic ingredients on their information panel, along with the percentage of the organic ingredient therein. Therefore, there are different levels of organic labels, hence the confusion…are you still with me?
- "100 percent organic" - This can be used to label any product that contains 100% organic ingredients...i.e., raw, unprocessed farm products.
- "Organic" - This can be any products that contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.
- "Made with Organic" - This can be used to label a product that contains at least 70% organically produced ingredients.
- "Specific Ingredients Listed" - Organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70% organic contents - for example, "Ingredients: barley, water, beans, tomatoes, salt"
But what about natural?
Neither the FDA or any other organisation has defined the term ‘natural’, therefore it is left to the consumers imagination to interpret the relative virtue of the product. If a cosmetic you buy says 'natural', it really means nothing with regard to what kind of ingredients it contains.
Difference between organic and natural
Definitions complete, the difference between ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ labels is clear cut. Organic labels are regulated by the USDA and natural labels are not. Therefore organic labelled products are more reliable than those labelled natural, as they are regulated to some degree.
However, neither organic nor natural products are 100% transparent. But why does it matter you ask? Let’s examine why the lack of transparency in labelling is so concerning:
- The US government regulations do not require pre-market testing on personal care products. According to the EWG (Environmental Working Group), 89% of the 10,500 ingredients used in common cosmetic products have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution.
- The EWG also reported that 1 in every 13 women and 1 in every 23 men are exposed to dangerous human carcinogens on a daily basis through their use of cosmetic and personal care products. In most cases people are not even aware of this exposure because it is not clearly explained on the label and it is not required to be!
- Phthalates, linked to birth defects, and parabens, linked to breast cancer, have also been found in various cosmetic products ranging from nail polish to deodorant.
The Clean Beauty Revolution
But fortunately times are changing and major companies have phased out the use of phthalates and warning labels are being placed on products that have not been tested for safety.
The state of California supports the European Union with regards to eliminating toxins in personal care products. And ethical beauty companies are springing up to give the conscious consumer options.
What does Au Naturale Cosmetics mean when we use the terms organic and natural?
So to clarify what we at Au Naturale Cosmetics mean in our usage of the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’, we source all of our raw ingredients from local farms and handcraft our cosmetics from fresh, high quality products. Whenever possible, we use certified organic materials. At Au Naturale cosmetics we know all of our suppliers personally and we stand 100% behind our supply chain and their farming and ethical practices. Absolutely no parabens, additives, or artificial preservatives go into the manufacture of our makeup.
We are passionate about honesty and transparency in the beauty industry. For us, and we hope for you too, the difference between organic and natural is not merely semantic! That is why we are leading the Clean Beauty Lobby on Capital Hill advocating for transparency and stricter labelling regulation in the beauty industry. Join us, be heard and be part of the clean beauty revolution. Find out more and sign the petition at: www.aunaturalecosmetics.com/pages/lobbying