In an age of quinoa and baby yoga, where there’s a health or wellness trend, there’s an enthused consumer who can’t part with their poppy fast enough. I know this because I’m one of those people – or at least was – who couldn’t resist a health fad or three. Ahem, Goji berries, ‘fountain of youth’? Sure. With the latest in a very long line of health and beauty buzzwords – organic, natural and non-toxic – appearing on more of our hair and skincare products, one can assume the ‘clean beauty’ movement is well underway.
So grab me a green beret, I’m off to join the revolution!
Just kiddin’, I’m still here.
Let’s get physiological, physiological
The clever folk in lab coats now have a clearer understanding of the link between environmental man-made toxins present in our beloved beauty products, and disruption in the body. It’s suggested that exposure to certain chemicals can have a significant impact on our health because ingredients cultivated using artificial chemical fertilisers can find their way into our products and are absorbed into the skin. Being exposed to certain pesticides have been shown to disrupt the human endocrine system, the network responsible for hormone regulation and others linked to breast cancer, uterine cancer and asthma.
Findings like these have created an awareness and subsequent surge in demand for natural and organic products. Savvy wellpreneurs have reacted to consumers’ ‘green’ needs simply by fulfilling them. According to the Soil Association’s* newly published annual Organic Market Report, the organic health and beauty market in the UK increased by 21.6% to £54.2m in 2015. Another report by market research consultants, Brisk Insights, predicts the market will be worth an eye-poppin’ $15.92 billion by 2022.
Could a beauty movement previously dismissed as fad actually be the driving force behind a complete and fundamental industry shift?
In short, yes.
But whilst the numbers paint a pretty picture for the future of synthetic-free beautifying, there are still a notable number of us seemingly unconvinced. In a study I conducted earlier this year into personal care buying habits, a common misconception among the 50 participants surveyed is that products certified as organic standard or made with natural ingredients don’t deliver on efficacy. According to the sample, this renders them unworthy of their often hefty price tag: 46% cited these as the reasons they were undecided as well as a lack of knowledge on the benefits of going organic.
Poor performance and accessibility in terms of price point may have been the case in as little as a few years ago, but today there are many brands now nailing product design and effectiveness and are safer to use.
More than a label
So what do ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ really mean on product labels?
Generally speaking, organic ingredients are those grown in environments or involving production without the use of chemical fertilisers or other artificial chemicals such as pesticides. These ingredients must be free of genetically modified organisms (or GMOs) and to carry an official organic stamp, products must have been certified by the Soil Association in the UK. To be certified officially, the products also have to contain mostly organic ingredients.
The word ‘natural’ however, is a little more problematic due to its ambiguity and difficulty pinpointing its exact definition for regulators. Natural essentially means derived from nature, but it doesn’t necessarily mean organic. However flipping your bottle over will give you the information you need when it comes to sorting brands using ‘greenwashing’ marketing tactics, from those with integrity that remain true to their word. For example, true organic products will often have very few ingredients listed on the back in comparison to regular products.
So, it seems a little research really pays off in the end. If you’re thinking of making the switch, look out for brands who commit to ethical business practices and take the issue of sustainability seriously. Remember this isn’t about organic shaming, but swapping just one of your regular products to organic may be better for you and you’ll be doing your bit for our planet, making for an altogether greener affair.
Please look out for my next post where I’ll be investigating the ingredients that are giving consumers cause for concern and their alternatives.
Godspeed, green warriors!
Have you recently made the switch to organic beauty products? Are you considering making the switch? Let me know your thoughts.
* The Soil Association is UK-based charity that campaigns on issues such as opposition to intensive farming and public education on nutrition; as well the certification of organic food. It certifies over 80% of organic produce in the UK, encompassing the food, textile and health and beauty industries.