Natural, Organic, Clean - What’s It All Mean?
A typical conversation with my friend —
Friend: “I’m so loving this new [insert skincare product]. It’s made with natural ingredients, so you know it’s not going to cause my allergies to flare up.”
As a founder of a young beauty brand, I hear such statements being spoken all the time. Natural, organic and clean have become buzzwords, used so casually that it has lost their meaning and become interchangeable. If only there was some sort of definitive voice or beauty authority to explain what exactly they mean. Here’s the bad news: there isn’t. Or at least, not as much as you would expect. Confused yet? Don’t worry - I’m here to help you decode the words and what they really mean.
WHAT DOES NATURAL MEAN?
Sadly, the word natural means nothing. Any brand can claim to be natural - it doesn’t matter if they use 100% natural ingredients or 40% natural ingredients. This means that no matter how questionable the ingredients found in their formula are, they can still call themselves natural as long as they have one extract of natural origins. It’s the skincare equivalent of being the ‘best fries ever’, or the ‘best fish and chips in town’ - a claim that’s pretty much free-for-all.
So, should we completely dismiss the term? Though there are no rules regulating the usage of the word, natural products do tend to contain plant-based ingredients. It might also be a good starting ground for people who are looking out for shorter ingredient lists. However, don’t assume that using natural products means that you won’t get any allergies. Believe it or not, natural products can be some of the biggest culprits behind allergic reactions.
WHAT DOES ORGANIC MEAN?
The term organic means that an ingredient was grown without the use of pesticides, chemical fertiliser and GMOs. Unlike other terms, it is actually regulated. All organic products most be certified by an accredited agent, which varies from country to country.
To identify such products, look for ‘Certified Organic’ seals. For example, products certified by USDA will display the ‘USDA Organic’ seal. The drawback of using organic products is, of course, the limited options. Sure, you’ll find products with classic ingredients like chamomile or shea butter - but if you are looking for the latest and greatest of what nature can offer, organic products might not be what you are looking for.
WHAT DOES CLEAN MEAN?
While the term clean is not regulated, clean beauty brands tend to be safer as they are expected (though not required) to showcase their list of banned ingredients. There is no industry-agreed standard as to what constitutes clean and it is up to individual brands to decide which ingredient to leave out.
This also means that there is lots of room for debate. Some clean beauty brands may think that artificial fragrances are okay, while some would never touch it. Others may disagree with the use of retinol, preferring to use gentler and more natural alternatives like bakuchiol. Either way, we are supportive of the move towards using safer and cleaner ingredients that give results - regardless of whether they are natural or synthetic.
At the end of the day, we believe that what consumers are really just looking for one thing: skincare that works without jeopardising their health. People are more than willing to pay the price for beauty - just not with their health. At Rooki, we believe in creating formulas with a clean chemistry. We invite you to look at the ingredients that we leave out, to see if it resonates with you.