Natural vs. Organic

For some years now, there has been an increased awareness of the way our food, clothes, beauty products, household items, etc.. are manufactured, and the ingredients/materials used to manufacture them.  Consumers are increasingly aware of the potentially harmful effects of certain materials and given the access to information that we all enjoy, there is a push towards understanding what goes in the things we use the most.   Beauty products are of particular interest because it is what we use to contribute to maintaining our health and our healthy appearance.  We are increasingly cautious to use products that will have a long term positive impact on our skin quality and generally improve our appearance.    

There are a lot of buzzwords and marketing ploys to attract consumers who are health conscious, so here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for your beauty regiment.

The various bodies that oversee natural and organic foods in Canada do not extend coverage to personal care and cosmetic products. 

Natural refers to anything that is derived from plant, mineral or animal by-product. The use of the word natural on skin care products can be misleading in some cases.  Health Canada governs labeling on cosmetics, and they do not have any current guidelines or regulations to determine if the product meets the natural or organic criteria. 

It is important to know that there is currently no regulatory body in Canada that governs the use of the word ‘natural’ on products, by ensuring that the product does indeed contain natural products.   With the lack of regulatory oversight, even a product that contains a minimal amount of natural ingredient, which could be derived from a plant or an animal, might use the word ‘natural’ on their label, while still containing a notable amount of synthetic ingredients.  To determine if the product is indeed a natural one, your only option is to read the ingredients list on the product.  If you keep in mind that the ingredients are listed in order of highest to lowest amount used, so a good rule of thumb is that if the synthetic ingredients are listed at the bottom, there is a good chance that the percentage of that ingredient included in the product is minimal.  Keep in mind that some scientific names of natural products sound synthetic so a quick search online can help clear some of that up!

While natural products are determined based on where they naturally grow, organic refers to the farming process of the product.  Organic products are farmed, meaning prepared and grown, without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones or chemical fertilizers.  

Currently Canada does not have set standards to determine if a skin care product is organic, as advertised.  There are private companies in Canada that provide “organic certification” but these business are not regulated by any governmental agency, therefore, their criteria and results are not regulated.

You might also notice an EcoCert logo on some products that claim to be organic.  It is a certification provided by a company based in France, though they operate in different counties, including Caanda.  They  employ a specific standard they use to analyze cosmetic products to determine whether they qualify for certification. The basic requirements that must be met are:

  • Raw materials have to come from renewable, eco-friendly sources and carefully processed;
  • The product cannot contain genetically modified organisms, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicone, PEG, synthetic perfumes, synthetic dyes, and animal products (with the exception for those naturally produced by animals such as honey or milk, etc...);
  • A minimum of 95% of the product’s total ingredients must come from natural origin;
  • The product’s packaging has to be either biodegradable or recyclable.

Ecocert products are determine based on one of two categories.  Natural and Organic.  

Ecocert Organic Cosmetic: A minimum of 95% of the plant based ingredients and a minimum of 10% of the total ingredients of the product must stem from organic farming.  

Ecocert Natural Cosmetic: A minimum of 50% of the plant ingredients and a minimum of 5% of the total ingredients of the product must stem from organic agriculture.

One thing to keep in mind when selecting a natural or organic beauty product is that many smaller companies cannot necessarily afford to go through the certification process.  The significant cost of certification and renewal is often not a feasible investment for these smaller boutique companies, though they might offer superior quality products that are either natural or organic.  When investing in your skin care, it is a good idea to look into the company.  Consider where the company is based, where the ingredients are sourced, and where they are manufactured.