Are you looking to clean out your beauty cabinet? We don’t mean for minimalist beauty intentions (although that’s another good way to clean your skincare cabinet, too). We mean - in terms of the ethical, green, and sustainable beauty movement. Clean beauty is here to stay (for good reason) and it’s all about taking care of your skin and the environment.
Many of us want to know how to make changes that have the biggest positive effect on reducing the environmental damage of the beauty industry. ‘Organic’ is a term that’s often thrown around these days. But what does it actually mean? And does being organic ensure your beauty and skincare products are sustainable?
In this article, you will learn about the truth behind organic beauty and if organic green cosmetics are really more sustainable after all.
Are Organic Beauty Products Sustainable?
The truth is, not necessarily. Just because a product is ‘organic’ doesn't necessarily make it more sustainable. Organic and natural products can be more sustainable, but being organic alone—or containing organic ingredients—does not define if a product is sustainable.
Green beauty products are not just for looking good. They are part of the ethical beauty and conscious skincare movement which seeks to be as sustainable as possible. Many people think that organic ingredients make products less harmful to the people who use them and to our planet.
But the truth is, this isn’t strictly true as the toxicity of ingredients and products on human health and environmental health are quite complex. Spanning different areas of manufacture, production, transportation, sales, marketing, and disposal.
The use of organic compounds in the production of cosmetics became popular in the 1990s. It was driven by loud consumer demand for clean beauty products made without the use of pesticides, other harmful chemicals, petrochemicals, and unsustainable manufacturing methods.
Through the ongoing navigation of sustainable beauty and ethical skincare, there is now a much clearer understanding that natural products can still be polluting to both humans and the environment. It has become a new-age trend to use the terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’, which are both unregulated buzzwords. And the lack of regulation around certain ‘natural’ and ‘clean’ key terms means that they can, unfortunately, be abused and consumers can be misled. Not only that, but unregulated buzzwords may also give a false representation of safety for human health and the environment.
A good example is organic palm oil. Palm oil is used in just about everything from shampoo and lipstick to foods. And even though it’s possible to get organic palm oil, it doesn’t mean it is sustainable and good for the environment. The Australian WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) advocates for the purchase of certified sustainable palm oil to minimize the widespread environmental damage that is caused by palm oil production.
In general, organic ingredients are great for the environment as they contribute to soil quality and sustainable farming methods which protect the earth, wildlife, and human health. It’s just that this isn’t the only aspect of organic products that decide if they are truly sustainable.
What’s The Difference Between Organic And Sustainable?
An organic product is made from ingredients that are obtained without the use of pesticides and fertilizers during their production and manufacture. Organic is not a regulated term, so to ensure that your product ingredients are organic you may wish to choose products that contain certified organic ingredients. Organic beauty product brands focus on clean ingredients that are non-toxic, but they might not certify their products as organic.
Whereas a sustainable product is made with the environment in mind across various different areas of its life cycle from production and distribution to waste disposal as a consumer product.
The term sustainable is also not regulated. So the term ‘sustainability’ can be misused, and it can also just innocently mean different things to different brands. There is no framework that defines what sustainability actually is. Which can result in confusion for you as a consumer, as it’s hard to understand what a brand truly means when they say their products are ‘sustainable’.
Sustainability can cover different ethical business practices such as sustainably sourcing products and materials, thoughtfully designing biodegradable and non-toxic packaging, adhering to environmentally friendly resource standards, and environmentally friendly waste management. Sustainable beauty product brands focus on ensuring their products are made with as minimal negative impact on the environment as possible.
Are Organic Cosmetics Really Organic?
If fully certified as ‘organic’ by a reputable regulatory body - then you can rest assured that the ingredients within your organic products are reliably organic. But ‘organic’ is actually just a term, and anyone can use it to describe their product. And just because a product contains ingredients that are not officially certified as organic, it also doesn’t mean that they are not organic.
There are many reasons that a brand may not want to use certified organic ingredients, and the cost of certification can be one of them. Using certified ingredients can be costly because of the regulation process. And this cost is passed to the consumer, simply for having a trendy label that they can use on packaging. Many brands prefer to save this money, which also means lower costs for the consumer too.
But unfortunately, due to the lack of regulation around the term ‘organic’ brands can also ‘greenwash’ to appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. There are many brands that loosely use the term organic, and even misuse it, because of the lack of regulation around it.
There are no verifiable standards for the word ‘organic’ in cosmetic labeling. In many cases, an organic product may not necessarily be any more natural, safe, or effective than a non-organic one.
Organic beauty products have been around for decades but recently have been gaining more attention from consumers and companies alike. Consumers are becoming more aware of the chemicals in their cosmetics and opting for "clean" beauty products which are free of synthetic ingredients and potentially toxic chemicals. And clean beauty has become a new marketing term for a niche of personal care products that cater to these conscious consumers by being environmentally friendly or nontoxic.
But the question is, are products really organic if they contain organic ingredients? Well, the truth is - not always. You also need to check two other things; the other ingredients in the product and the product packaging.
If the product contains organic ingredients, but it also contains loads of other harmful chemicals, then it really isn’t an organic product on the whole. And it will lack the health benefits of a truly natural and organic product. The other main issue with organic and natural cosmetics is their packaging.
Quite often due to transportation, temperature changes, and ingredient sensitivity - skincare and beauty products need to be kept in certain types of storage solutions that protect the product formulation. As we can already see, more often than not - these packaging solutions are made of plastics due to their durability, weight, low-cost of production and transport.
But the container for your product is extremely important as academic research shows that chemicals from packaging can leak into the product inside.2 So a product that starts of as natural, organic, and clean - may end up contaminated by its very own packaging.
This means that even though your products may have been created with organic natural ingredients - and they could even be labeled as organic. The end product that arrives may not necessarily be as clean as you think it is. For brand owners, it's important to pay as much attention to the product packaging, as the product’s ingredients.
And as a consumer, ensure that you not only check the label for all of the ingredients within the product. But also be wary of the product packaging and its possible effects on your skin care product. Glass is a great packaging option that doesn’t leach harmful chemicals into natural products. And paper and cardboard can be good options too, however you want to check on the ink quality used. And make sure that any ink used is non-toxic and sustainable.
Organic And Sustainable Beauty Brands To Support
Āthr Beauty uses organic ingredients in their organic makeup palettes such as the Topaz Crystal Quad. The Āthr Beauty makeup palettes are fully vegan, clean, and cruelty-free. Check out Āthr Beauty for eyeshadows, highlighters, blushers, and makeup palettes.
Axiology is a vegan sustainable beauty brand that uses organic natural ingredients in its green beauty products like the Balmies. Their Balmies are multi-use vegan cosmetic products that are plastic-free and natural. Check out Axiology for a variety of different natural cosmetics that can be used on the eyes, lips, and face.
Earthwise Beauty is a botanical natural skincare brand that uses organic natural ingredients in its product formulations. Their Nap In The Meadow Face Serum is vegan, free from animal testing, hand-crafted, and contains active organic ingredients to deliver the best skincare results.
Earth Harbor creates delicious ampoule serums and other delicacies for the skin that are crafted using botanical organic ingredients. Their Aurora Superfood Luminance Ampoule is boosted with organic oils and plant extracts for the most potent radiant effects for the skin.
River organics make sustainable cosmetics and organic skin care products like their Tinted Lipbalms. These beautiful natural tinted balms are vegan, zero-waste, and plastic-free.
UpCircle lovingly creates green products that are kinder to the environment, and human health, than conventional cosmetics. They use natural ingredients which are often upcycled to deliver us with vegan and palm oil free organic skin care products. The Organic Face Serum With Coffee Oil is a great example of its repurposed green beauty products filled with organic and upcycled goodies.
Organic skincare and beauty products are great. And they definitely are better for human health, and long-term environmental safety. However, just because a product is labeled as organic - doesn’t mean that it is clean or eco-friendly. And as consumers, we are still required to do a little more digging before being hypnotized with unregulated conscious consumer buzzwords.
Carmen Lee is a certified yoga teacher, childbirth doula, and wellness coach. She educates on womb wellness, sacred wisdom, and ancestral-connected living. You’ll find her passionately advocating radical self-care and transformational self-empowerment through sustainable beauty and self-love rituals.
Some of the products promoted in our blog are from our online store. Many others are brands we have researched and found to be great examples of sustainable, ethical, and innovative brands in their field, and we don't make any profit from mentioning them in our blog. #CollaborationOverCompetition