Organic, Natural And Vegan Cosmetics: What Are The Differences?

What are the differences between organic, natural and vegan cosmetic products and why are they important?

Over the past several years, natural and ‘green’ beauty have become increasingly popular. Whether we want a 100% natural guarantee or need lab-based proof, as consumers, we are more switched on than ever. And many of us pay a lot of attention to detail (and ingredients lists) before trialling products and offering our brand loyalty.

The side-by-side existence of natural and man-made beauty has led to a kind of split, with customers tending to go for one or the other. But how consumer savvy should we be when buying products that are going directly onto our skin?
What is the difference between organic, natural or vegan products and, why is it important?

Why is it important?

Impact on the environment:Modern farming methods typically use genetically modified seeds, pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals to make their farms more productive. While it sounds reasonable to want to increase productivity, these methods negatively impact both the immediate environment in which the plants are grown and the broader environment.

Impact on our health:Our skin is our biggest organ and since it’s porous anything applied to it is absorbed into our bloodstream and lymphatic system. While the FDA and some large cosmetic companies maintain that chemicals typically used in beauty products (e.g. parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, petrolatum, fragrances and many more) are safe in small quantities, no one really knows the long-term effects of their application.
What is organic?
Across the USA, UK and Australia certified “organic” has a very similar definition. If you’re buying certified organic you can rest assured that your products (food or the ingredients in your cosmetics) come for a farming system which ensures:
  • No manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers
  • No artificial or synthetic colours, preservatives or chemicals
  • No routine use of antibiotics
  • No GMOs (genetically modified organisms) or growth regulators
  • Very limited number of pesticides allowed
  • More sustainable land management
What is natural?
While “organic”, for the most part, is a fairly regulated term. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for “natural”. Unless you spot a recognised certification label, this can mean just about anything. 
If you buy your products from a certified natural supplier and they have the label to prove it, the definition to them means the following: 
  • Ingredients must come from plants, flowers and mineral origins found in nature
  • No genetically modified (GMOs) ingredients
  • No parabens, sulfates or other harmful substances
  • Limited or no petrochemical ingredients
  • Never tested on animals
  • Manufacturing process retains the integrity of the natural ingredients
What is vegan? 
Again, there is no legal regulation on a product labelled as vegan so check the brand's credentials to assess their values. The quickest way to ensure products are vegan is to look for the vegan society logo. It certifies that products do not contain any animal extracts or animal by-products in the ingredients or the manufacturing process. It also assures that the products and ingredients have never been tested on animals. 
  • Another logo to look out for to make sure your products are cruelty-free is the Leaping Bunny logo - this is the only internationally recognised symbol guaranteeing no animal testing was carried out in developing the product. 
  • EU law has strict regulations around animal testing, whereas China requires it by law, so any products sold there will automatically have been tested on animals. 
  • It’s worth noting that a product labelled 'vegan' doesn’t necessarily mean that botanical replacements are used in place of animal-derived ingredients; they can include synthesised ingredients made in a laboratory.
The best advice would be to research your brands, see what they have to offer. See which brands offer what you see as important. When you find a brand you like and trust stick with them!

Laura Doyle, Mum of 4. Kyle 9, Noa Belle 4, Briar 2 and Milla 12 months. Breastfeeder, co-sleeper, coffee drinker. Staying positive and inspired by the chaos of it all. Follow her on Instagram.


Laura Doyle

Mum of four, Gentle parent living on coffee and trying always to stay positive and motivate in the midst of the madness.

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