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The real difference between natural, organic and other beautiful labels on cosmetics

Don´t get lost in translation. Don´t be fooled by misleading concepts. Natural is not a synonym of organic. Cruelty-free doesn´t necessarily mean natural. And toxic-free… what does it refer to exactly? Get chilled because we come to rescue you from this messy concepts puzzle that has emerged in the beauty and skin care industry.

Organic vs. Natural

Though being used interchangeably many times, the terms “organic” and “natural” are not the same. So to keep it simple:

  • Natural beauty and cosmetic products are made with ingredients sourced from nature or their derivatives - it means, not created synthetically. A common kind of natural beauty product is that one including essential oils or extracts from fruits and flowers. The best way to understand this is to associate it with food. Think of strawberries: they are 100% natural, as they are fruit, but they may be or may be not organic, may or may be not a Genetically Modified Organism, etc. Generally, in the industry, natural products don´t include ingredients like petrochemicals, parabens, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates, phthalates, synthetic dyes and synthetic colors, although some companies consider petroleum technically a natural ingredient. Also, there’s not a specific regulation neither in the US nor in Europe to exactly how much natural ingredients a cosmetic product should have to be considered natural. So you may find a cream, lotion or serum with a considerable amount of synthetic ingredients, like 30%, and yet be considered ‘’natural’’. Examples of natural beauty from my shop? There are many, like this Epsom salt from Westlab or are this seaweed peel-off face mask from Dead Sea Spa Magik.
  • Organic products are those made with sustainably grown and sourced ingredients. So it’s directly related to organic agriculture, respecting the pace of seasons, freedom of animals, etc. Depending on the country, organic products, whether cosmetics or food, are also called ‘’bio’’ or ‘’ecological’’. It means that their level of purity, efficiency, and benefits are higher as they are free from chemical pesticides, artificial fertilizers or GMOs. To know if a product is really organic, it should be certified, just as it happens in agriculture. Some good examples on LaLoquita.com are from cosmetic brands like Green People, Weleda or Andalou Naturals.

Are non-toxic cosmetics pure marketing?

According to Adina Grigore, entrepreneur and expert, author of Skin Cleanse: The Simple, All-Natural Program for Clear, Calm, Happy Skin, yes. Naming a cosmetic ‘’non-toxic’’ is a way of saying nothing in particular, but just that it probably doesn´t contain phthalates, petroleum, asbestos or lead acetate - in other words, it leaves out ingredients linked to toxic responses in humans, like cancer or hormone disruption. Many natural products already comply with that. Besides, if it doesn´t say anything about ‘’organic’’, ‘’bio’’ or ‘’eco’’ certifications, it´s more of the same.

Vegetarian vs. vegan: Is there a difference?

Another aspect of this new cosmetic industry is the concern about animal presence - or not - in our favorite cosmetic serums and creams. Sometimes we take it for granted that a natural or organic product is only plant-based - which may not be the case, as many cosmetics and beauty products contain extracts of fish, for example.

There are cosmetics, which are natural, organic or none of these, allowed for vegetarians, which means they don´t contain animal ingredients.

The second aspect is about a higher level of purity: vegan products, that not only do not contain animal ingredients but also don´t contain any animal bi-product or derivatives, like honey, milk or eggs.

Is vegan vs. cruelty-free the same?

Yes. If a product has no animal ingredient, bi-product or derivative, it is cruelty-free, which means that there was no animal testing in its research and development.

However, a cruelty-free cosmetic doesn´t mean it is a natural or organic cosmetic: it may contain synthetic ingredients such as methyl- and propylparaben, and yet not use animal ingredients - in other words, still be cruelty-free.

Also, a product may be cruelty-free, because no animal testing was taken in its production, but not vegan. An example of a great product that is cruelty-free but not vegan is this face exfoliator with manuka honey from Wild Ferns Cosmetics. As it contains honey, although the best honey in town, it´s not vegan.

Besides being organic or natural, what else a beauty product can be?

Well, while on LaLoquita shop we focus more on cosmetics that are at least natural, the vast majority of the industry goes undoubtedly on the other way. So the most famous cosmetic brands, those that spend millions on marketing and advertising, are NEITHER organic NOR natural. They sell almost entirely synthetic products, many of them derived from petroleum and some of them suspicious of causing serious illnesses. Besides, most of the glamorous cosmetic brands are NOT cruelty-free. They test your makeup, fragrance and best wrinkles cream on rabbits or rats. You can check which brands are these, here. Ready to get shocked?

Stay alert: some ''bio'' are only bio on their brand

One of the best-known examples of a global successful product, taken as a bio cosmetic, is super famous Bio-Oil. However it is highly criticized by specialists for taking liquid paraffin, a petroleum-derivative, amongst other hazardous ingredients, even considered cancerigenous.  So… watch out.

China vs Europe

It is important to remark that a growing part of the cosmetic industry, mainly makeup, is being manufactured in China, that until 2014 demanded cosmetic products to be tested on animals. Yes, you read it right: in China, until recently it was not forbidden to test cosmetic products on animals; It was an obligation to do so. Now while a manufacturer in China can test cosmetics in vitro, cosmetic manufacturers from outside China are still obliged to test on animals. 

On the other hand, European Union banned animal testing for cosmetics in 2013.