You wouldn’t consider a highly-processed, artificially-flavored applesauce to be as healthy as an organically grown apple, would you? Same with cosmetics. A beauty product made with synthetics, or even ultra-processed natural ingredients, is not good for your skin or overall health. Natural, nontoxic cosmetics are the organic fruit of your beauty diet.
Synthetic ingredients are not only harmful to humans and the environment, but are actually less effective than natural and organic ingredients. Pure ingredients from nature work with your skin and body to boost healing and regeneration.
What are Natural Cosmetics?
Natural cosmetics are made with ingredients from plants, minerals, and certain animal-derived ingredients, either untreated or treated with other natural ingredients. Pure, natural ingredients are minimally processed to preserve the natural benefits the ingredient holds.
While there is unfortunately no legal definition of the term “Natural” at this time, look for organic products to be BDIH Certified. BDIH is a well-established German certifying body with extremely strict standards on cosmetic ingredients, packaging, and production.
To obtain the BDIH Certified Natural seal a product must meet these requirements:
Ingredients must come from a plant or mineral source
Ingredients must be organically-sourced or wild-harvested wherever possible
Free from petrochemical-derived or synthetic ingredients
No genetically modified ingredients (GMOs)
Ecologically conscious, recyclable, and minimal packaging
No animal testing allowed
What are Organic Cosmetics?
Organic ingredients are those grown and produced in accordance with strict government-controlled standards –the same organic standards that apply to food—with third-party verification. Organic standards require no use of synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, sewage sludge, or GMOs. Strict rules also apply to the treatment of animals and the environment. A truly organic product bears a “Certified Organic” stamp from an official organic certifier. However, in many cases, it is simply not possible to meet the 95% organic requirement to get the official organic seal. For instance, a natural sunscreen usually requires over 10% of titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, so the best it can do is be 90% organic. If a cosmetic contains minerals, such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mica, or iron oxides that are used to give it color, these minerals eat up the 5% of allowable non-organic ingredients. In many cases, it’s simply not possible to create a usable cosmetic or skin care product that is 95% organic.
Though BDIH is a natural cosmetics certifier, it does require product manufacturers to use organic content wherever possible (when available in sufficient quantity and quality). BDIH is responsible for creating the world’s first organic body care certification.
What About Preservatives?
Preservatives play a very important role in the safety and efficacy of natural and organic cosmetics. Without a sound preservation method certain cosmetic products may grow harmful bacteria over time. But preservatives need not be synthetic to be effective. There are many safe preservation methods used in natural cosmetics. Airtight packaging, plant alcohol, and certain herbs and essential oils prevent bacterial growth.
Let’s address the paraben issue. Parabens are synthetic preservatives that researchers suspect enter our bloodstream and mimic estrogen in our bodies. Phenoxyethanol is a semi-synthetic preservative which has become more widely used in natural cosmetic brands since more research has been conducted on the evils of parabens. Though some view phenoxyethanol as a safe alternative to parabens, studies show it causes damaging effects on the brain and nervous systems in animals. Even the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data sheets show “chromosomal changes and genetic mutation effects in testing as well as testicular atrophy and reproductive damage in mice.”
Ingredients to Avoid
An organic ingredient has to meet strict requirements regarding production, but organic skin care can still contain ingredients that are not so healthy. Get to know which cosmetic ingredients are harmful and best avoided, and always follow brands with full ingredient listings and clear safety policy displaying which ingredients they do not allow in their products.
Liz Thompson is founder and editor of Organic Beauty Source, a blog where she shares information on safe, natural beauty and personal care products, such as natural cosmetics and organic skin care. Years of extensive research on the subject of safe cosmetics and a passion for all things beautiful led this mother of two to create this online venue where the conscientious consumer can easily find products free from harmful ingredients and educate themselves in the process.