After years of being consigned to dusty sections of a health food shop, organic skincare products have finally gone mainstream - with everything from organic shampoo to organic fake tan now residing on shelves alongside their non-natural counterparts.
But what exactly does it mean for a beauty product to be classified as organic? And what are the benefits of going au naturel? To coincide with Organic September - the Soil Association's brand new Organic awareness campaign - we've asked the experts to help us debunk the terms.
'Most people are cautious of what they put into their body, but very few take time to think about what they are putting onto it,' says food and lifestyle blogger Lucie Powell, of The 9to5 Foodie.
'The skin is our largest organ and so all those soaps and creams are going to absorb straight into your system, therefore it's so important to really take time to look at all of those "wonder" ingredients being added into your beauty products.'
So what are the benefits of going organic?
'Organic products avoid the use of artificial pesticides, herbicides and fungicides all of which are extremely poisonous to our health and that of the environment,' says organic expert and founder of The Organic Pharmacy, Margo Marrone.
'Organic skin care is better because not only does it avoid these poisonous pesticides but also other harmful ingredients. We absorb what we apply topically, so make sure it’s toxin free'.
Are there any legal standards?
Unlike the food industry, there are no legal standards for beauty companies wanting to obtain an organic rating, meaning a brand could label a product ‘organic’ even if the organic ingredients amount to as little as 1% of the product.
To address this, The Soil Association, along with four other European certification bodies, founded the Cosmetics Organic Standard (COSMOS) in 2010 to harmonise international standards for the certification of organic and natural products.
What does the definition 'organic' actually mean?
To be classed as organic by the COSMOS-standard, a product must comply with strict UK, European and international rules. The rules, which are known as standards, ensure the products can actually be traced back to the farms in which they were produced.
According to The Soil Association, organic standards 'cover all aspects of organic food certification including production and packaging, animal welfare, wildlife conservation, and ban unnecessary and harmful food additives in organic processed foods. A product can only be called 'organic' in the product name where 95% of the ingredients (excluding water) are organic.’
So that's organic... but what is 'natural'?
‘Natural means that the majority or all of the ingredients are sourced naturally, whereas organic means that the same natural ingredients are grown according to organic standards,' says organic expert, Margo Marrone.
Is there ever a crossover?
Yes. Despite clearer definitions around the differences between 'organic' and 'natural', the distinction between the two remains a bit of a grey area. So if in doubt, always read the label!
Want to try going organic? Here are 5 brands - including everything from skincare to shampoo - with InStyle's tried-and-tested seal of approval...
- Organic skincare: Pai Skincare, Organic Pharmacy, Neal’s Yard Remedies
- Organic makeup: RMS
- Organic shampoo and conditioner: Voya
If you're looking to live an organic life, look out for certification stamps on your products. In the UK, Soil Association is the most common, but around the world there's others including USDA National Organic Program (USA), NATRUE (international), ECOCERT (France), BDIH (Germany) and COSMOS (Europe). Just scan the shelves and find the products with their stamp...