Natural, Organic, Wildcrafted botanicals, Cruelty Free and Vegan. What is the difference?
Ever wondered what the difference is between natural and organic? Have you heard about wildcrafted botanicals? What’s the difference between vegan and cruelty free? These questions are becoming more apparent as the Green beauty phenomena is swooping through the world. More and more consumers are becoming aware of the hidden dangers of chemicals that affect our daily health from mainstream beauty products and most large beauty corporations have jumped on board to get in on the action. This is where there can be a level of confusion and deception in the marketing of beauty products.
Plenty of products appear to look natural and or organic based on their branding, label, claims and imagery. The labelling of a product is a huge factor and can determine exactly what you’re getting once you read through the actual ingredients. Vegan, eco-friendly and cruelty-free can blur the gaps depending on what is in the ingredients too and most don’t even meet the standards of pure clean beauty.
Consumers need to be aware of ‘greenwashing’ in their beauty products. Greenwashing is when a product seems to look natural and is promoted to be a naturally sourced product however it contains harmful chemicals. I’ve come across a particular cosmetic product in my Priceline store that is marketed for tweens teens with a vibrant green packaging claiming to be vegan making it look natural. However when I took a look at the ingredients not one natural ingredient was listed, only chemicals including talc and carcinogenic by-products. This is greenwashing at its finest.
Recently a very well-known company was fined $37,000 by the ACCC for misleading claims that their products were organic when in fact they contained synthetic chemical preservatives. While companies do not legally need organic certification to label their products ‘organic’, businesses do need to make sure they are not misleading consumers with deceptive marketing.
Let’s take a closer look at the variations of words used on your beauty products so that you are not misled when making your choices:
A product is considered natural when it contains ingredients that are sourced from nature rather than synthetically made. This term is not regulated and it all depends on what is in the ingredients. The front of a product label may look deceiving with the colour of the packaging or words’ saying it is natural however the ingredients will always be your truth. Ingredients are listed from highest percentage to the lowest. This is where consumers need to be wary especially when paying a premium price for something you think may be natural and the natural ingredient is actually a small proportion of the final product. If there is a synthetic ingredient, make sure it is at the bottom. Some ingredient names may sound like a chemical however they are in fact naturally occurring such as citric acid (made from lemons and other citrus fruits) and sodium chloride (salt). Some natural products like scrubs or exfoliants may have natural ingredients however some use microbeads which are an environmental problem and are made from polyethylene – plastic. A natural exfoliant product will use natural rice grains, Himalayan salt, raw cane sugar, oats and jojoba beads with botanical ingredients derived from plants.
Natural products generally don’t include ingredients like petrochemicals, SLS, parabens, sulfates, phthalates, synthetic dyes and synthetic colours and fragrances. ‘Fragrance’ would be considered natural if it comes from a natural source such as essential oils or from a plant/ flower seeds. Even if it says natural fragrance, it should state the essential oil or what is the actual source.
The main ingredients in mainstream moisturisers are water, fat, glycerine and alcohol which are all readily available from natural sources however they are not entirely great for your skin. Some natural ingredients like tea tree and lavender can cause allergic reactions to some people with sensitive skin so sometimes not all natural ingredients are great for all however there are other natural products that won’t cause those concerns.
The term ‘organic’ is not regulated by law in Australia, meaning businesses are not required to follow specific regulations or standards in order to claim that their products are organic. Therefore, a product only has to have a certain percentage of organic ingredients to label it as ‘organic’. However without a bud logo (Australian Certified organic version) or any other organic certification on the product then there is no guarantee that it’s an organic item.
Certified organic means that it is a stamp of integrity and that you are getting true organic ingredients in your product that are completely free from pesticides, GMO’s, synthetic fragrances, colours, dyes, paraffin, and petroleum products. The Australian Certified Organic standard prohibits animal testing on skin care and cosmetics.
While there are no strict regulations on using the ‘organic’ wording on a product, the amount of non-organic ingredients will affect the type of organic claim. For example, up to 95% certified organic content will be allowed to have the bud logo. If the product contains 70- 95% certified organic content the label can state it’s made with certified organic ingredients however it cannot use the bud logo although there will be a certification number on it ( i.e. ACO99999P). Less than 70% certified organic content cannot make any certification claims however it can list ingredients as ‘organic’ but will have no certification number or bud logo and there’s no guarantee that its claim to be organic is even true.
Wildcrafted botanicals is when the plant is grown in their own natural habitat in the wild in the most remote parts of the world. Their exposure to harsh conditions builds and strengthens their defence mechanism creating unique nutrients and potent antioxidants which are therapeutic, highly effective and beneficial in beauty products. They are organically grown without any farming methods nor are sprayed with any kind of pesticide. It is similar to organic however the difference is that while the plants are growing there is no human interference and have no traces of chemical additives.
While organic ingredients are carefully cultivated, they may have been exposed to certain pesticides in their harvesting period and are therefore less organic in nature to a wildcrafted ingredient. Careful wildcrafting is sustainable and conducted with respect and proper care. Only the fruit, flowers and leaves are taken and the living plant is left intact for continual growth and supply. For an in-depth explanation about wildcrafted botanicals, please refer to Edible Beauty’s blog.
A product that is cruelty free will have the same sort of certification on it or a bunny label on it. This will mean that the product has not been tested on animals and do not harm or kill animals anywhere in the world. However, if a chemical is listed in the ingredients, that particular ingredient may of been tested on animals. This is where the product may not be genuinely cruelty-free.
Tests on animals are often painful and cause suffering and death of millions of animals. Many well-known high end cosmetic companies unfortunately still test on animals however in the green and clean beauty revolution you will find that no such thing exists. These companies test on animals because frankly the chemicals used are not safe for human contact while in the testing period. Many indie and small handcrafted businesses will test on themselves and humans in general. Cruelty free does not specifically mean the product is all natural or organic. You will need to check the ingredient listing to be sure.
A vegan product means that the ingredients do not contain any animal derived ingredients. Most studies show that animal ingredients can be harsh and clog pores and is not so great on your skin. Vegan products are soothing alternatives. Vegan and cruelty free products are pretty much similar as it does not contain any animal ingredients and therefore no animal has suffered in the process.
A product may be natural or organic however may contain something like bees wax and thereby would not be considered vegan. A product that is vegan will state it on the label however as always check the ingredients just to be sure.
So my worldly advice is always check your labels. If you are after solely organic products always look for the bud logo.
Here are some recommendations of my favourite brands that I have personally tested and reviewed:
Edible Beauty – Pure, botanical and edible ingredients, wildcrafted, vegan and cruelty free skin care and teas. (Receive 20% off your order when you click on the link above). Check out one of my favourite reviews here.
If you are looking for something more specific in skincare or make-up or have any questions, please email me.