What is the difference between natural, organic and eco-friendly cosmetics

How to recognize if a cometic product is really green? Follow these simple rules

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The consumption of natural and organic cosmetics is part of the ethical and supportive choices that the consumer makes. The choice of organic cosmetics fits into a social context that directs companies towards the production of products that first of all respect the skin. 19.6% of the Italian population purchases certified organic cosmetics, almost double (33.7%), prefers certified natural cosmetics: these are therefore important numbers, destined to guide the research and development of these products (source Cosmetica Italia year 2018).

A first step in choosing our cosmetic is to know the difference between the different meanings of the terms “natural”, “organic” and “eco-friendly” that are offered daily by the media, by advertising and by the labels of products on the market.

The term “natural” usually applies to those products that are proposed as alternatives to “traditional” ones. Unfortunately, there is still no Community regulation for the use of the term “natural” as a characteristic of consumer products. However, it is possible to consider as natural those products that have natural active ingredients in their composition.

The term “organic”, on the other hand, is used to indicate agri-food products derived from crops and farms that do not involve the use of synthetic chemicals and genetically modified organisms. All organic products must be strictly controlled and certified by bodies authorized by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Finally, the term “eco-friendly” describes a product that has been formulated and developed in such a way as to have a low environmental impact. The term refers to the entire supply chain: from raw materials to manufacturing and distribution processes, from waste disposal to the choice of biodegradable and recyclable packaging, all in compliance with ecological criteria.

Reflecting on the meaning of the terms “natural”, “organic” and “eco-friendly”, the ideal cosmetic for the skin and the environment is a bio-eco-cosmetic.

What is a bioecosmetic?

We can define a bio-eco-cosmetics as a completely new, but also ancient, way of making cosmetics, based on fundamental characteristics such as respect for the person and the environment. Bioecosmetic is characterized by a high percentage of natural ingredients, mainly of vegetable origin, which must possibly come from organic farming or certified spontaneous harvesting. In its composition there are no substances derived from petroleum or from industrial chemicals.

Unfortunately, recognizing it is not easy if we do not go into the reading of the composition. Fortunately, this “critical” reading is simpler than what is believed.

The first rule is to forget the brand as a “guarantee of safety”. Large and established cosmetics houses, whether they call themselves “Green” or not, do not put the composition on their official website. This omission does not favor the consumer as it does not put him in a “critical” condition but in the condition of giving unconditional trust to the brand. Clearly if I go to the physical store (distribution, pharmacy, perfumery, herbalist’s shop, etc.) I can read the composition while in the online store I cannot read it. In my opinion, this is a valid reason to exclude the brand.

Having made this first selection, I evaluate whether the company is certified for the use of organic products within its cosmetics. Some certification bodies of organic cosmetic products are: ECOCERT, COSMEBIO, ICEA, CCPB, COSMOS and NATRUE. Each of these bodies has its own specification which, if applied, will allow the product to be certified.

The cosmetic biodictionary

Finally the most important evaluation: let’s analyze the composition. If we are not experts, we can use the online bio dictionary. For more than 15 years, the bio-dictionary has been collecting and cataloging cosmetic substances, classifying them with the color of traffic lights according to a “bio” and “eco” logic. Just copy / paste the composition on their site and for each individual substance a traffic light will appear next to it with its classification and a possible link on the forum with more detailed explanations and details.

I invite you to give it a try with brands that claim to be “Green”: you will find that often alongside the “Green” there is a majority of chemicals.

  • The brand does not influence;
  • Product information also available online;
  • Organic certifications;
  • Reading and evaluation of the composition;
  • Anything that matches your specific needs.

Clearly your purchase choice will include other factors but a good basis, in my opinion, for a critical choice is the one just described. The reasons for choosing a bio-eco-cosmetics are essentially two: the protection of our skin (hair, nails, etc.), the protection of our environment understood not only as nature but also as a social one.