Why Use Organic?
Being organic is not that important. Kind of.
Okay, maybe we should say that ‘reading a label that says organic’ is not really that important. Any company can put a couple drops of an organic ingredient in their product and taut it as an organic product on the fancy label. It’s about so much more than just being organic – it’s about being organic AND being as pure and non-toxic as possible.
Things to Look for include:
How many toxins or harmful ingredients are in the product? This is by far the most important thing to look at; the product may contain some organic ingredients (which is great), but is it also full of parabens, petrochemicals, synthetic fragrances, silicones, and other harmful ingredients?
How much of the content is actually organic? Do they only have a couple organic ingredients or are most of them organic? What’s the percentage of the organic content?
Are there any wild crafted ingredients used? Many botanical ingredients that are grown in the wild without pesticides are not available in organic forms (since they’re wild already); many of these are very effective and to use an organic alternative may even lower the efficacy of the product (it’s complicated, isn’t it?!). It’s all about finding the best quality ingredients, using the most organic ingredients possible, and the least number of toxins possible.
Why use organic, non-toxic products?
Because only 10% of ingredients have been tested for safety. Not sure this even needs more explaining. In case you’re not good at math, that means that in North America 90% of ingredients in your personal-care products have never been tested for safety by anyone. By the way, of that 10% that has been assessed for safety, most are still allowed; the FDA has only restricted 9 ingredients in 67 years.
Because your skin absorbs things easily; there are some who will argue it’s the case but they probably think that nicotine patches and birth control patches don’t work either.
Because cancer rates are really high and even the established medical community is starting to realize that it’s largely due to the huge number of carcinogens that we’re exposed to on a daily basis; woman are generally exposed to more than men because of their extensive beauty routines.
Because hormone-disrupting ingredients are affecting everyone from teenage girls to newborn babies to grown men and woman; many of these ingredients (i.e. phthalates) are never even listed on ingredients lists since they are hidden within other ingredients.
Because good quality organic brands strongly support sustainable farming methods, fair trade, and eco-friendly policies.
Because you’re worth it; treat your body with the respect it deserves…..feed it junk and it will respond accordingly; feed it well and it will serve you well!
Ingredients to avoid
This is by no means a complete list, but just a summary of some of the more important ingredients to avoid; for more exhaustive lists, please refer to some of our recommended resources below.
- Synthetic fragrances
- Synthetic colours
North American standards (or lack of)
It’s important to note a few things about some differences in standards around the world; here are some tidbits:
- To put it nicely, standards in our end of the world are not quite up to par with many other regions. Many ingredients that are banned in Europe, Australia, Japan, and even China are allowed in our products here in North America.
- Most large cosmetics and skin-care companies use one formula that they export to Europe and other international destinations, and another, more toxic formula that they keep especially for use in North America since the rest of the world won’t allow it. Why?? Because using cheaper toxic ingredients keeps their costs down and the lack of regulations in North America means they can get away with it.
- In North America anything is allowed into a product until it is deemed harmful (which means it has to have a number of complaints and even then the process is extraordinarily tedious); in Europe and other areas, companies are given lists of ingredients they can’t include in their products, rather than waiting for potential problems to arrive before banning an ingredient (as an example formaldehyde is still allowed in our products because not enough people have put claims in that it’s harmful; in Europe companies are told they can’t include it).
- Important to note: labeling laws are different in Europe and in North America… European companies use an international system for labeling their products called INCI – therefore all ingredients are listed by their chemical name (the point being that it promotes consistency regardless of language). North American ingredient lists do not have to follow INCI.
This means a few things:
- European labels/ingredients sound more toxic than North American ones – but they’re not necessarily.
- European ingredient lists must by law include any known allergen that are a natural byproduct of essential oils; for example, a product made in Europe which use lavender essential oil must state that ‘linalol’ is present in the formula since it has been identified as being a possible allergen to some people; a product made in North America that uses lavender essential oil is not required to add ‘linalol’ to their listing. This makes European lists look longer and more toxic, when in fact the same ingredients may be in a North American product that does use INCI labeling.
Want to learn more?
Unfortunately even among experts in the natural and organic industry there is a lot of disagreement about what ingredients are safe or not. If you truly want to learn more, our advice is to learn from a variety of reputable resources and see what things they do all agree on – those are likely the most established and proven. Among the controversial ones …..nano-particles or not, synthetic preservatives or not, certification or not….these and many others are hot topics and have two sides to each story. Educate yourself as much as possible and then do what feels right for you.
Here are a few resources that can start you in the right direction:
- The Green Beauty Guide by Julie Gabriel
- Not Just a Pretty Face by Stacey Malkan
- The Green Guide Dirty Dozen
- The Organic Consumers Association Top Ten Ingredients to Avoid
- The Natural Ingredient Resource Centre
- EWG Ratings
- Note: although we think this system is a huge step in the right direction, it’s not without its limitations, of which some include:
- Many ingredients can be natural or synthetic and this is not accounted for in their ratings (for example the word ‘fragrance’ as listed on European products but being derived solely of essential oils is given the same rating as ‘artificial fragrance’.
- Some ingredients, such as essential oils, can be extracted using different methods (some better than others); the ratings do not take different extraction or processing methods into account.
- Ingredients listed as zero often have no safety data on them so a product that contains many ingredients that have not been accessed for safety will often have a low (good) score only because there is not data on its safety.
- We could go on – a wonderful resource in many ones and not one to be dismissed, but a resource that should be used in context of its limitations.