Natural, organic, chemical-free. Welcome to the latest beauty industry trend, it's almost definitely already on your radar.

As we highlight every edition, there's always something new happening in the beautiful world of beauty and cosmetics. An industry forever on the move. Constant streams of new products and innovations can make it a nightmare to keep up, but the buzzword right now definitely seems to be green. Both big name and niche brands alike are lining up to introduce natural formulations across the realms of facial skincare, makeup, anti-aging and more. With most of us striving to live healthier lives - gym memberships are still on the rise, a new form of yoga invented every week and gluten heading towards curse word status (at least in Los Angeles) - there's no wonder that attention is turning to the products we put on our skin every day.

Organic beauty products, much like their edible counterparts, are nothing new. If anything they predate the beauty formulas that we've grown accustomed to today. However, the dropping of the 'hippie' stigma attached to using said product is definitely something new to the mainstream. The main questions that arise as a result of this new found fashionable status are - what actually constitutes as organic? Does it count if it's inspired by natural ingredients? Is chemical-free organic? It can be a little unclear and leave us as consumers more than a little confused about what we're actually buying.

 image from http://anviwellness.com 

First things first, what does it mean to be classified as 'organic'?

If you work in chemistry, organic quite simple refers to a chemical compound derived from an animal or plant. It, therefore, must contain carbon.

If you ask someone working in the food or beauty industries, the definition alters slightly. Different countries have different regulating bodies that are able to certify products as organic. Suppliers need to be deemed organic status before they can be advertised as such. In the USA it's the USDA, the UK has 9 controlling bodies but some of the behaviours they all require are avoiding or limiting the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilisers, maintaining soil fertility and promoting biodiversity. If a beauty brand advertises itself as organic, it means that (almost) 100% of the ingredients have been grown under the strict guidelines laid out by the organisations above. 

The confusion occurs when words like 'natural' and 'non-toxic' get involved. Neither of these terms are legally governed and their origins lay predominantly within the marketing department. A product can be deemed natural even if only a few ingredients are and non-toxic simply means companies have avoided ingredients that are known to produce toxic responses in humans. Once you look at the list on the back, it usually becomes apparent whether it's full of lab-produced components or if it really came from mother nature herself. Don't let the latin names confuse you - it may well be natural.

Problems can also arise when 'greenwashing' occurs. This is when products that may well use natural and organic ingredients but have not been certified but are still advertised as such. This often occurs with smaller brands, it's not to say that their products are not able to be deemed 'organic status' but they have not in fact been regulated, perhaps because the brand are unable to afford the certification process.

 

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According to one of the UK's governing bodies, The Soil Association, sales of organic health and beauty products have increased by over 20%, with the market now standing at £61.2 million in the UK. The demand is growing, fuelled not only by the healthy living trends but also changes in environmental awareness. Not only are new regulations coming in, such as the reduction of microbeads within exfoliators which have been shown to be harmful to the oceans, but also the impact of the environment on one's health and skin. Last year we saw the claim of anti-pollution brandished across products, claiming to protect against micro-particles.  

Overall, this trend is one that has the ability to help self-guard our future. The impact of non-organic and GM ingredients are still not entirely known and environmentally, the move towards higher numbers of organic products is a positive step. Organic farming reduces reliance on chemicals that can have adverse effects on the planet, wildlife, and farmers. Organic products tend to be higher in nutrients which are also beneficial to the user, though those with sensitive skins should be aware that some ingredients can still lead to irritation.

As more and more brands follow suit and consumer awareness rises, let's hope this is more than just a fleeting trend.