After years of being consigned to dusty sections of a health food shop, organic skincare are now absolutely considered to be 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 Beauty & Wellbeing Week - the Soil Association's brand new Organic awareness campaign - we've asked the experts to help us debunk the terms.
So what are the benefits of going organic?
'Making the switch to organic beauty means you’re contributing to the protection of our wildlife and the health of our soilbecause organic farming avoids artificial fertilisers and weed killers. Choose organic beauty and you’ll be joining a movement that is striving to work with nature rather than against it,' says Peter Melchett, Chief Exec of the Soil Association.
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.
'Certified organic beauty means that someone else has checked what’s in the products so you don’t have to. The Soil Association has always campaigned for the sustainable choice and you can rest assured that beauty products certified to rigorous and independent standards like COSMOS are not tested on animals and are free from genetically modified ingredients,' says Melchett.
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!
What about if I live outside the UK?
In the UK, Soil Association is the most commonly found stamp, 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.
Want to try going organic? Here are the products we recommend:
Trilogy Rosehip Oil Antioxidant +. New Zealand brand Trilogy are committed to making organic skincare that really works. This oil is testament to that - it’s nourishing, will reduce scars and redness, and helps to fortify skin against environmental damage in one whammy. Apply under an SPF in the morning to really ward off harm from the sun’s rays.
Bamford Rose Bath Oil. This oil will make you forget the notion that rose is a staid, cloying scent. Combined with chamomile and lemon, this one’s uplifting and energising and as it’s suspended in almond and apricot oils, you could massage it onto dry knees and feet too.
Ila Spa Gold Cellular Age-Restore Face Serum. Ila’s founder Denise sources her ingredients globally to make the most potent products she can. This serum is packed with ingredients to treat dehydration and dryness, so pat it on to your skin morning and night if your skin is prone to feeling tight and parched.
Bjork & Berries From The Garden Bath Salt. If you hate the sensation of a bath oil on your skin but love a fancy bath product, opt for a salt instead. These will act as an antimicrobial, making them ideal for acneic skin, and are infused with chamomile, lemon, citrus and birch to provide an olfactory lift.
Rahua Color Full Shampoo. Let’s face it: lots of organic shampoos are hugely disappointing owing to their poor ability to pick up products and treat hair. Rahua really don’t fall into that camp - their products foam enough to satisfy those of us who are used to more synthetic shampoos, and this one is particularly good thanks to the host of clever ingredients that up colour retention.
Made for Life by Spiezia Organics Daily Radiance Facial Cleansing Balm. Amanda Barlow, the brains behind Spiezia, has been known to demonstrate how very organic her range is by eating a spoonful of the products. We salute her, but wouldn’t dream of wasting a morsel of this balm - it’s too good as a make-up removing, skin-cosseting cleanser. Remove with a warm, damp flannel and chase with a serum or oil.
Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic Defence Hand Spray. Neal’s Yard is a veritable emporium for all things organic - and they knock it out the park on most fronts. As we imagine you’ve already got a favourite, let us direct you to this more niche buy, which is a lovely smelling, non-sticky hand sanitiser that you should buy immediately.
Intelligent Nutrients Plant Stem Cell Science Detoxifying Glycolic Gel. Containing a sugar-derived form of glycol, expect this gel to gobble up the dead top layer of your skin, revealing fresh, soft skin underneath. Use it twice weekly to start, then work your way up to every other night.
Salt Of The Earth Deodorant. Many, MANY organic deodorants were tested and many days subsequently spent being a bit whiffy before coming across this brilliant buy. Containing antimicrobial and antibacterial salt, it really does deodorise effectively - and contains none of the nasties associated with traditional deodorant.
Pai Camellia & Rose Gentle Hydrating Cleanser. Need your skin to be clean but EVERYTHING irritates it? Try this one - it softens, soothes, and rarely irritates thanks to the alcohol and detergent-free formula.
S5 Neutralise Cleanser. If your skin is prone to acting up, you want to step away from a foaming cleanser that may strip and exacerbate the sensitivity. This cleanser is a nice alternative - it’s a speedy worker but won’t whip off moisture and leave your skin red. Use after removing make-up as a second cleanser, or in the morning.
Dr. Bronner’s Pure-Castile Liquid Soaps. These soaps promise they have 18 uses, but we’d recommend sticking to using it as: a shower gel, a hand wash, a brush wash (this is not mentioned in their long dossier of uses, but it’s brilliant at it), and a face wash at a pinch.
MOA Hello Sunshine Energising Body Oil. This oil isn’t only uplifting and zingy - it’ll infuse your skin with a whammy of antioxidants, circulation-boosters and purifying agents. We love to apply this after body brushing for ALL the circulation-enhancing, cellulite-busting action.
Romilly Wilde Advanced Supercell Serum. This all-round good egg works just brilliantly when applied neat to skin post-cleansing as it does mixed into a moisturiser or foundation for extra juiciness.
INIKA Micellar Cleansing Rosewater. Micellar waters are clever things that attract sebum and make-up without disturbing the skin’s balance. This contains no alcohol so won’t dry skin and also is (subtly) scented thanks to the addition of rosewater.
Jurlique Rose Hand Cream. Purveyor of really brilliant organic hand creams, serums and one famous rosewater mist, we’ve chosen to single out their hand cream because it’s completely and utterly dreamy, cosseting hands in a layer of non-greasy moisture while smelling delicious.
Tata Harper Illuminating Eye Cream. Tata strips skincare of unnecessary components, making a product that’s both packed with actives and organic. This eye cream is no different, using a soothing aloe base in which to suspend a blend of firming and revitalising ingredients, along with a little diamond dust for instant brightening.
Living Proof Timeless Pre-Shampoo Treatment. Buy this if your hair is looking coarse and frizzy - the cream acts as a hair-strengthener and softener, safeguarding it against heat damage, UV rays and colour fading. Apply it pre-shampoo to dry hair and leave it to do its thing before shampooing and conditioning as normal.
Picture this: you’re getting ready for bed and your bedroom is redolent with a blend of lavender, sweet basil and jasmine. You walk over to the candle providing said scent, blow it out, pour the warm wax into your hand and massage it over your skin, before falling into bed in a haze of scent. If that sounds like actual heaven, get this candle pronto.