Natural, mineral and organic; these terms all carry similar connotations of being green, raw and environmentally friendly and, as a result, are often used interchangeably. However, aside from all being positive concepts, what do they actually mean and how do they differ among themselves?
What is particularly interesting is that all of the information bellow applies to food as well as to cosmetics – just a little something to bear in mind as you read on.
The term natural cosmetics is applicable to products made from unrefined, renewable plant resources. Such resources include essential oils, herbal extracts and waxes. Natural products should contain no additives (e.g. artificial fragrances) or synthetic preservatives (e.g. parabens) and no chemicals (e.g. mercury, bismuth oxychloride etc.). Unfortunately, there is no strict, universal rule about natural certification for companies meaning that any company can legally employ it even if their product is overflowing with chemicals. For example, a brand that claims to be authentically natural is Tarte Cosmetics with their slogan reading “high-performance naturals”. With bold claims of products being paraben, preservative and synthetic colouring free, the company is actually greenwashing consumers. While there is plenty of proof supporting this statement, the simple fact that the website says nothing about ingredient sourcing or certification of any kind is fairly demonstrative by itself.
The above being said, there are several independent associations such as BDIH who audit brands for quality in accordance with their own definition of the term “natural”. Therefore, when buying a new makeup item, you should always do your own research and discover what you can about the ingredients used.
Organic cosmetics are simply natural cosmetics taken one step further and made that much better. Not only are all the ingredients of natural beginnings but they likewise have to originate from organic agriculture. This means that at no point during the cultivation of the plants used in the cosmetics were any chemicals used, thus excluding the employment of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and any genetic modification. Furthermore, the products should be manufactured by means of environmentally friendly production methods and should, therefore, be fully biodegradable, as should any byproducts. However, the term “organic” can only legally be used in reference to products derived from agriculture. Thus, certain frequently used ingredients such as water, salts and minerals can not actually be certified as organic since they are sourced from the wild. Therefore, products that are, for instance, water-based could potentially contain only 40% organic ingredients. Contrastingly essential oils or waxes which do not contain water could contain up to 100% organic ingredients.
To be considered organic a product has to be certified. The tricky thing is that almost all countries have their own organic certifications. However, some regions are much stricter with their regulations than others, for instance, the American FDA is incredibly lax with their farming standards and import requirements when compared with the European Union’s organic labelling and the United Kingdom’s Soil Association certification. This means that a product could qualify as organic in the US but be refused the certification in Europe, perhaps due to the presence of pesticides or GMOs. Therefore, here too independent research is recommended. A couple of really wonderful certified organic brands that I would recommend are afterglow cosmetics, RMS beauty and Skin & Tonic London.
In spite of its recent increase in popularity, mineral makeup is just about the most traditional form of cosmetics there is with Romans and ancient Egyptians faithfully using it centuries before us. These products are mostly made from naturally sourced minerals, mined from the earth, which are then ground into incredibly fine powders and used to form cosmetics. The makeup should only contain a few ingredients, most of which will be the same across mineral brands, and should exclude all fillers, binders and preservatives. However, just because an ingredient is of natural origin does not mean that it has not been modified or chemically altered. For example, a very popular ingredient in mineral makeup is bismuth oxychloride. This is a compound that is used across brands as an absorbent and thickening agent and has the added benefit of giving makeup a pearly shimmer. While BiOCl is a mineral that can be naturally mined, it is much cheaper to obtain it as a by-product of lead or copper smelting. Furthermore, no matter what the sourcing process, BiOCl has to go through a series of thoroughly unpleasant, chemical refining procedures before it can be introduced into a beauty product. Therefore, despite its natural origins, by the time the finished product is obtained there remains practically nothing apart from chemicals and yet, it can still be listed as a natural mineral.
Therefore, the term “mineral” is by no means a sufficient guarantee of a product’s quality or of the nature of its origins. Similarly, cosmetics do not have to be deemed “mineral” to be of good quality, they can be made with essential oils or plant extracts instead, which can, in fact, be better.
In conclusion, you should always conduct your own research prior to buying any form of beauty product. The more often you do so, the easier and quicker the process of researching will be as you will soon begin to recognise ingredients and certifications and will swiftly discover what kind of cosmetics work best for you. It is incredibly important to treat your skin as well as you possibly can. Good quality makeup should not hide your flaws but should support your body in its treatment of them. People nearly always find that when they use truly non-toxic makeup their skin actually clears and improves. Furthermore, your long-term health is just as, if not more, dependent on what cosmetics you use as your immediate health is. However, this is a very intricate topic that I will discuss a little later on.
Finally, it is important to realise that the definitions listed above are descriptions of what the ideal natural, organic and mineral product should be, what brands claim their products are. However, in reality, there is much more hidden inside a beauty product than companies care to admit.
I hope very much that you enjoyed this post and that you will be back, eager to read more about how to be healthy minded in the world of pharmaceutics! Nicky xx
My research was conducted with help from these websites: