After years of organic skincare being used exclusively by the brown rice and Birkenstock brigade, like brown rice and Birkenstocks, it’s gone mainstream. The climate has changed and the industry is following, with everything from organic fake tan to organic lipstick bullets on shop shelves alongside — and even competing with — their standard counterparts.
Instagram is the social platform of choice for the millennial eco-warriors, on which #organicbeauty has been hashtagged over 632,000 times and #organicskincare over one million.
But what exactly does it mean for a beauty product to be classified as ‘organic’? And what are the benefits of going au naturel? We’ve asked the organic skincare expert Jessica Michael to help us debunk the terms…
What does organic actually mean?
Organic beauty is about using products that are made from high quality, organic farmed ingredients that haven’t been sprayed with agricultural chemicals and herbicides.
What’s the difference between natural and organic?
Naturally derived products are cultivated from nature, but it doesn’t specify whether they’ve been sprayed with agricultural chemicals. Organic ingredients are often of natural origin, but not always, and have not been contaminated by pesticides. The Soil Association, for example, allows certain preservatives to be used in a certified organic product that are not 100% natural.
And how does that relate to the clean beauty trend?
Clean beauty is focused on transparency and wellness. It’s about brands being 100% clear and honest to customers in their choice of ingredients and ethics.
What are the benefit of using organic skincare and beauty products?
The benefits to our overall wellbeing and kindness to the planet are huge. Between cosmetics, perfumes, personal care products and feminine hygiene products, women in the US apply an average of 168 chemicals to their faces and bodies every day, according to new research by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group.
By using natural and organic skin and body care products, this figure would dramatically reduce. Often the switch to organic clears up dermatological issues people have been experiencing for years. The power is in the products — if you get the balance of ingredient right in a way that delivers nutrition to the skin and that can be easily absorbed, the magic happens!
What would you say to people who are thinking about going natural but are worried about organic products not being as effective?
Natural and organic products have come on leaps and bounds over the years. The brands — including one of mine — used to be so small they could barely package their products sufficiently! However, everything has massively advanced over the last half a decade. They are now stocked nationwide and doing deals with huge chain stores. The demand is rapidly growing, and it has only got to this point because many natural and organic products actually perform better than standard products.
Which products are most worthwhile switching to organic and natural?
The best products to invest in first would be, what we call in the trade, ‘leave-on’ products, like toners, moisturisers and serums. This is because they stay in direct contact with the skin until absorbed. Next, it would be worth swapping your ‘wash-off’ products, such as cleansers, exfoliants and face packs.
What’s your hero organic beauty product?
The Rawgaia MSM Organic Beauty Cream, which has won lots of awards and garnered a worldwide fanbase! People tell me it instantly makes their skin look younger and brighter. I personally found after applying it at night it took a fair bit of water retention away from my face by the morning!
Are there legal standards that products must adhere to?
It’s largely unregulated at the moment and this is the big problem. Companies only need to add a tiny amount of a ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ ingredient to be able to write it on the label.
To legitimise the classification, brands can gain a Soil Association certificate if they comply with COSMOS-standards. It’s the highest standard for natural and organic products, proving they are safe and effective.
Becoming a certified organic brand catapults it into a different league in terms of quality and assurance. Factory cleaning schedules and cleaning products have to be approved, along with Environmental Policy, packaging and every single raw ingredient — with what percentage is organic and natural — that goes into a product.
In short, customers who buy organic skincare, certified by an organisation like the Soil Association, know they aren’t getting ripped off.
Do these differ if products are coming from outside the UK?
Countries, including the US, have different standards. Several organic organisations from different countries grouped together and created the COSMOS Organic and Natural Standards as a way of having one main reliable certification that people could recognise and trust.
Where would you recommend buying organic beauty and skincare?
Infinity Foods in Brighton and Whole Foods Market stores have expansive ranges which allow you to try before you buy, experiment with testers and speak to the knowledgeable staff to recommend the best raw, organic, vegan, superfood skincare products. I’m still yet to find a UK website that sells all of the best natural and organic brands.
Jessica Michael’s founded raw, organic, superfood skincare brand Rawgaia, which makes its range of cold-pressed cleansers, balms, face mists and serums in small batches to ensure the best possible freshness, and is registered with the Soil Association to COSMOS Organic Standards, Cruelty Free International (Leaping Bunny) and also the Vegan Society.