Organic? Natural? What Does It Mean?

When you want the best for your body and hair, organic may be a word that springs to mind. Organic products have been steadily gaining popularity and power in the beauty industry, and for a good reason. Organic products help to ensure that the beauty and personal care items we consume are produced more responsibly, in a way that is better for both us and the planet. However, with the growing interest, those who want to take profit without effort are bound to show up. Having a product be natural has become a standard marketing tool rather than a true signifier. Today we’ll take you through some of the basics to help you get a better understanding of this complex issue.

Natural Vs. Organic

When it comes to the difference between natural and organic, the answer is quite simple at first. Organics are strictly labeled and must undergo stringent verification and frequent announced and unannounced certification inspections. Organics must follow a variety of industry standard requirements including no toxic and persistent pesticides, no synthetic growth hormones, no GMO’s, no antibiotics, no growth hormones, no sludge or irradiation. They must also meet animal welfare requirements, help to lower levels of environmental pollution, have a documented audit trail, there are legal restrictions on allowable materials, and there are a series of required certifications and inspections. Natural products, on the other hand, don’t have to follow or adhere to any of these factors. There have been many examples of companies facing legal action for using a facade of natural and organic concepts in their marketing without the follow-through.

The Natural Conundrum

Natural products aren’t necessarily evil; there are companies and products that are high quality and more than worthy of your money that are natural, but not organic. However, recognizing these products can be difficult. Because ingredient lists and sources can be difficult to understand, it can be difficult to know if a non-organic product is worth your time.

How To Identify Quality Products

We’ve referred to the idea of a “truly natural” product a few times in this issue, and now we want to give that a full definition. To us, true natural indicates a product that is not organic but actively seeks to fulfill many of the same qualities. These products will use wholesome, mostly from nature ingredients with limited human-made chemicals, have limited ingredient lists, make an effort to fulfill a promise of social and environmental responsibility, and skip out on lazy labeling such as “natural extracts,” or “fragrance.” Obtaining and retaining a USDA organic certification is difficult and costly, and something not all small and indie companies are capable of right away. Additionally, some products are difficult to obtain in an organic format for a variety of reasons. To that end, some companies are doing good work even without certification.

Make Organic An Option

For many, organics can have a price tag that is out of reach even if the cause is something you appreciate. While you may think “Why bother? It’s out of my budget.” but, even switching out a few of your products can make a huge difference. There are some products in every beauty routine that has more potential to affect your body and the environment. Products like shampoo and conditioner, which are washed out into the water system and applied to the delicate skin of the scalp are great first choices for replacement. Not only are there plenty of options for an organic alternative at any price point; shampoo and conditioner are higher impacts than a lot of other beauty products. Another easy organic switch is for your face creams, while these don’t have as substantial an environmental impact, most of the product never returns to the water system, the ingredients can affect you more seriously. Deodorant is another item that it is essential to switch to organic. While organic deodorants were once less effective these days, there are plenty of options with great, effective formulas. Because it is applied directly to the armpit, a sensitive area of skin located on a lymph node, removing any potentially harmful chemicals and minerals is critical.   

Know Your Ingredients

One of the most important steps any consumer can take is to learn how to read a label. There are plenty of ingredients that are entirely (true) natural that look artificial and plenty of human-made chemicals that seem natural. The second best thing is to know a little about the ingredients. While we don’t expect the average person to become a botanist, knowing a little about the plants you consume is important. Palm-based products, for example, can be grown organically and added as a great ingredient in true natural products, but the farming of palm has created huge deforestation and environmental degradation all over the world. Additionally, knowing whether the products your purchasing pay a fair wage for labor is an excellent indicator of their commitment to quality. Often, when a company is willing to invest its money in one area, it’s willing to do the work to make a product that is worth your time and conscience.

Great Examples

We can’t share an article about organic and natural products without sharing one of our favorites! In the last ten years, there has been enormous growth in the organic beauty industry. With more and more people aware of its potential consumers are more willing to try new organics than ever. These days organics come in every price range, effectiveness level, and variety. There were too many options for us to choose from. That said, there is one company we wanted to highlight, Second Nature. One of the most behind segments of the personal care industry is the men’s grooming sector; this is particularly true when it comes to organic men’s grooming products. Fortunately, companies like Second Nature are on their way in! We recently got the chance to check out Second Nature’s Organic Beard & Hair oil made from hemp seed oil and were very impressed. Not only is it a stunning, organic product, to works perfectly for men of color who have curly hair. All of the men who have tried this rave about it: we expect it will help set a new standard for the men’s grooming industry.