Do you really know what’s in your favourite skincare product? How much of it is “organic” or even “natural”?
What does it mean when something is labelled organic or natural?
If chemistry is your thing, an organic substance contains the element carbon. This includes benzene, toluene, kerosene, petrol and a whole host of other organic chemicals you wouldn’t want anywhere near your face (or any other part of you for that matter).
Any biologist worth their salt will tell you that lifeforms that are carbon based are called organic lifeforms.
An organic farmer (also made mostly of carbon) will tell you that organic produce is grown according to strict guidelines pertaining to the use of synthetic pesticides or genetically modified organisms and any livestock must be free range, pasture fed, cruelty free and raised in a socially responsible way.
In skincare, the meaning is a little more confusing.
For ingredients to be labelled organic, they must be derived using organic farming under strict certification conditions (like EcoCert or USDA). Skincare manufacturers then include those organic ingredients to make up their products.
Stay with me. The resulting products can be labelled organic if they contain 95% or more of these certified organic ingredients (not including any water or salts, so water based products like shampoos can contain very little organic ingredient by volume).
Manufacturers can still label their product as “Made with Organic Ingredients” even if it contains just 70% to 94% organic ingredients. That’s despite almost one third of the product is not organic at all.
So how do you choose organic skincare with confidence?
Read the label. By law, Australian skincare products must have a full list of ingredients either on the bottle or on the external packaging.
The label will also tell you what the key ingredients are and their relative percentages. For example, the ingredient that is listed first constitutes the largest percentage of the contents and the rest of the ingredients are listed in order of decreasing volume. So in the example shown, our Phytonutrient Skin Rescue Night Facial Oil contains Camelia oleifera seed oil in the highest percentage of the total volume, followed by Prickly Pear Seed Oil etc. Here’s where you can see if you are paying for active skin-loving ingredients or just cheap fillers.
Any ingredients present above a 1% volume must be listed in descending order but ingredients used at less than 1% can be listed in any order.
So how do you know what’s there as an active ingredient and what’s there in such small volumes that it’s there for marketing purposes only?
Well, the relative percentage of an ingredient in a formulation can be estimated by using the percentage of (for example) Vitamin E (Tocopherol) if it’s present.
Vitamin E is rarely used above 2% (typically 0.5% to 1%). So, if Vitamin E is listed towards the top or middle of the list it is safe to assume all ingredients following are used at less than 1% or 2%. The same can be said for preservatives (like phenoxyethanol).
Some manufacturers may include 20 or 30 ingredients in their formulations, including expensive or “exclusive” ones. If these are listed below Vitamin E, the chances are they are present in very small volumes and are there for marketing purposes (it’s perfectly legal to advertise their presence, albeit in ineffective volumes). You should always check where they are in the list before succumbing to the marketing hype or clever advertising.
It should be noted that Essential Oils are typically used at small percentages for safety reasons.
So why don’t manufacturers exclusively use organic or even All Natural ingredients? Some ingredients are just not available as organics or are so difficult to come by that it’s just not feasible to include the organic version. Most likely, they are just too expensive. Synthetic or non-organic ingredients are much cheaper and are more readily available. Synthetic ingredients behave more predictably too, allowing manufacturers to extend the shelf life of their products – highly desirable if you are selling products to department stores or super pharmacies. They are also generally preferred because they invariably lead to higher margins.
At Flora Maia Skincare we choose to formulate our products with 100% Natural ingredients (and certified organic where possible). We absolutely refuse to use synthetic ingredients in any of our formulations. If it doesn’t come from Nature, we will not use it. This includes ingredients from genetically modified sources. We never include parabens, mineral oils (cheap man-made and noneffective) or artificial preservatives either. Our hero product (and an active ingredient in almost all of our products), our Flora Maia Prickly Pear Seed Oil is sourced from farms in Morocco that are certified organic through EcoCert, Europe’s strictest organic certifier. These farms also employ many locals from poor rural communities with no other source of income.
So be discriminating when it comes to your skincare. Insist on using all natural or organic skincare, read the label and steer clear of the marketing hype and cheap man-made fillers.
When you buy one of our products you are getting something that is 100% Natural, organic (where available) and effective. Our ingredients are chosen for their benefits to your skin not their price tag. You won’t get wild claims or cheap fillers, just natural, gentle and effective skincare.
Inspired by the Science and Beauty of Nature
Steven @ Flora Maia