Unmasking “Natural,” and Why USDA Organic is the Best in Clean Beauty
We’ve purposefully set ourselves apart from conventional skincare brands with our USDA organic certified skincare line. We take a firm stance against artificial aromas, colors, parabens, phthalates, GMOs, and more toxic chemicals that should be banned from your cosmetics, but unfortunately are not due to outdated FDA standards. Maybe you’ve started to take steps to protect your loved ones and yourself from such chemicals by investing a few additional seconds in the skincare aisle or online to select products you can trust. We applaud you for your efforts, but at the same time that consumers are stepping forward in making healthier choices, companies have produced new sets of “natural” products to cater to more health conscious shoppers. The unfortunate reality is that unlike USDA organic, “natural” is still an unregulated term, and oftentimes fares no better than conventional products. It’s time to bring more transparency to the lack of a “natural” standard, and why USDA organic means the best in clean beauty.
Unmasking “Natural” in the Beauty Industry
The unfortunate reality is that the current state of the beauty industry is not too dissimilar to the tobacco industry in the 1940s, when popular brands sold products containing known human carcinogens without the warning labels we see today. Today, conventional beauty products list toxic ingredients on their containers that are known by researchers and scientists to cause detrimental health effects, but these toxic truths are easily covered up with attractive packaging and advertisements. Like the benefits you are looking to get from your skincare, the ingredients used to accomplish it are just as important, if not more. What you put on your skin can be absorbed into your body, so why would you use products that contain ingredients you would never even consider eating?
The problem, however, worsens when the same products are labeled as “natural.” While that attractive, floral packaging might claim to revitalize your complexion with “all natural” ingredients, since there is so little regulation "all natural" products may still have petrochemicals and possibly no actual "natural" ingredients at all. If you don't see regulated organic labels like USDA Organic or others (see below), you have to read the ingredient list.
The truth is, the FDA has not set a government standard for “natural” cosmetics. Due to this lack of restrictions, and the resulting freedom that brands have in using the word “natural”, many companies try to take advantage of customers who aim for a healthier lifestyle by deceitfully marketing a product as “natural” while it clearly contains unnatural ingredients. While some brands are trying to impose self-created standards, they are not the norm.
But the reality is, your search for cleaner and safer beauty products needs to reach beyond “natural” because the US government lacks the power to regulate what cosmetic companies put in their products. One of the more overt examples of the harm this can cause is found in how the FDA allows a special loophole in cosmetic regulations and ingredients surrounding the transparency for fragrances. While the FDA requires companies to list individual ingredients separately on their products, companies are allowed to simply label fragrance ingredients - that often contain a whole range of toxic chemicals like phthalates, octoxynols, and nanoxynols - under a single word “fragrance” for the purpose of protecting a company’s “trade secrets.” The FDA’s complicity in the use of toxins and human carcinogens in cosmetic products is a sobering fact that should incite you to take actions to protect yourself from conventional beauty products and also question the use of the word “natural” and other similar unregulated terms.
What Does Organic Mean?
Another label you might see while shopping for more healthy cosmetics or skincare is “organic.” While “organic” is more closely regulated than “natural” is, there are still different standards of “organic” that you need to pay close attention to. In regards to regulations enforced by the US government, any product that is labeled as “organic” or “100% organic” must contain at least 95% organically produced ingredients, and any remaining ingredients must appear on the USDA allowed substances list. Any products labeled as such are allowed to bear the USDA seal on their packaging pending approval from a certification board. In addition, there are products labeled as “made with organic ingredients” but this only guarantees that at least 70% of the ingredients are organically made, and this designation cannot use the USDA seal.
There are other standards of “organic” that are regulated by other certification bodies, such as ECOCERT and COSMOS. The ECOCERT organic standard for cosmetics is not as strict as the USDA organic standard that was designed to be enforced on food grade products. The ECOCERT organic cosmetic standard only requires 10% of all ingredients by weight to be organic, and only 95% of plant ingredients to be organic. Furthermore, the prohibited substances list for the ECOCERT organic cosmetic standard does not cover as many harmful substances - such as some dangerous synthetic preservatives - as the USDA organic prohibited substances list does. The COSMOS organic standard also lacks stricter regulations on synthetic preservatives, thus allowing petrochemicals - that are often contaminated with harmful polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons - that the USDA organic standard has banned. As a result, USDA organic remains the best organic standard for cosmetics.
USDA Organic - The Gold Standard
In the face of the great range of beauty products you can find on the shelves and from online retailers today - from drugstore brands all the way to boutique brands that market themselves as “all natural” - and given the fact that the FDA fails to provide adequate regulation of the industry, it’s important to be able to depend on a standard that you and your loved ones can trust. The USDA organic label is the gold standard for clean beauty because it’s the safest and easiest way to gauge how healthy and truly “natural” the packaged beauty product you’re holding actually is.
At Plantioxidants, we obtained USDA organic certification for our entire skincare line because we want USDA organic to be the norm for “natural” and clean beauty. In order show transparency and make it easier for you to identify "healthy", we added the label to the front of all of our bottles and boxes. The USDA organic certification process was long and difficult, and developing perfect formulas to meet the standards was a true challenge. But it is important to us that we set a standard for the healthiness of our ingredients (we still encourage you to read all labels until this is the norm).
We believe more companies should do the same to define a regulated standard for their products. But because of how difficult the USDA organic certification process is, and how long it takes the FDA to even examine controversial ingredients, it’s necessary for you to start making more informed consumer choices today to take care of your health, and participate in our movement to set more transparent standards in the beauty industry. At Plantioxidants, it’s important to us that everyone can have access to clean beauty they can trust.