We break down what beauty buzzwords “all-natural” and “organic” really mean.

14 03 organic definition

Along with many people making the choice to go gluten-free, many have also been making the switch to all-natural and organic. So it’s no wonder that more and more products are adding these must-haves to their labels.

Being organic or all-natural (for food, beauty, etc.) means that there is less absorption of chemicals into the body, and that the ingredients are derived from nature. Since many foods (processed ones in particular) and beauty products contain chemicals (sorry to be the bearer of bad news), many people are choosing to live an organic lifestyle, meaning that they abstain from foods that have ingredients that have been treated with pesticides, antibiotics or other chemicals.

When it comes to beauty, however, being recognized as organic or all-natural is a different story.

We chatted with Jean Eng, founder of Pure + Simple, a Toronto-based spa and organic/all-natural skincare destination for those seeking a simpler beauty regimen. In most cases, to be recognized as organic, many companies require certification, which can be a lengthy and costly process—though for largely mass-produced products it’s entirely a necessity, both for vendor and consumer.

For smaller companies such as Pure + Simple who have created their own line of products to accompany their spa services, “much is dependent on trust between the client and vendor.” The trust, of course, being that the appropriate measures are being taken and the right ingredients are eliminated. Sadly, “the certification process right now is very profit-driven for the certification companies,” which is unfortunate since the making better, healthier products comes at a higher cost.

But what are some of the ingredients that you should look for in products touting the organic and all-natural label? Vegetable oils (like jojoba, rosehip and avocado), essential oils (like petitgrain, chamomile and vanilla), mineral colours versus dyes, seaweed and aloe vera for hydration and healing, various vitamins and cocoa and shea butters, says Eng. What should you look out for and avoid? Parabens (a controversial preservative normally found in cosmetics and skincare products), and their recent replacement, phenoxyethanol.

Of course, many products contain vitamins and shea butter, but if you are trying to make the switch over to an organic or all-natural lifestyle, big label brands sold at mass drugstores should have some sort of certification or labeling stating that it is all-natural or organic. The Government of Canada has very strict labeling restrictions for organic products. For multi-ingredient products, a percentage must be given to state how much of the product actually contains organic ingredients and no product can bear the “100% organic” label.

While many people make the switch to organic or all-natural, finding products containing less and more recognizable and pronounceable ingredients is always a good start when going shopping.