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Organic Vs. Natural Vs. Clean—What Is the Difference?

Organic Vs. Natural Vs. Clean—What Is the Difference?

The words “clean,” “organic,” and “natural” are tossed around so often in the beauty world that they almost lose their effect after a while. They seem to be blown up on every product label on the shelf, validating your pre-existing skepticism and furthering your confusing. The worst part is that no one seems to have a straightforward definition for any of them. But actually, what does natural really mean? Sorting through the vasty array of endless products can be absolutely daunting. The most important thing to note, is that no, these words aren’t interchangeable.

What does natural really mean?


According to skincare experts the word “natural” isn’t regulated by the FDA… at all. That means any company can say natural on its label. It also means that no matter how many potentially harmful or toxic ingredients are found inside a skincare brand, the brand can legally still call it a natural product. Due to this lack of regulation, the word natural on a product shouldn’t hold much weight in your beauty book. 

What does clean really mean?


While the word “clean” isn’t strictly regulated either, it does carry a little more weight than natural. Most interchange the term clean with safe cosmetics. Usually, clean beauty includes a long list of “free from or anti-this” ingredients, toxins and questionable ingredients the products are formulated without, like sulfates and parabens. Dissimilar to natural and organic beauty, clean beauty doesn’t run from synthetic (lab-created) ingredients, like hyaluronic acid—as long as those synthetic ingredients are safe. And since the FDA has only banned 11 chemicals in cosmetics, it’s up to brands (and consumers) to define clean for themselves. 


What does organic really mean?


“Organic” can be the trickiest to define, but it’s the most regulated certification of them all. The FDA regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act(FPLA), However, The term ‘organic’ is not defined in either of these laws or the regulations that FDA enforces under their authority.


To make a drawn out and super confusing story short, USDA-certified organic beauty products must be certified by an accredited agent, meaning any product with that certification is made from ingredients that were produced, handled, and packaged to the proper standards. What you need to know is, “organic” is the word that carries the most meaning, however that’s only when it comes with an official certification.


How do you know the products you’re using are safe, really working, but also sustainable?


Unfortunately, most of the work is left up to the consumer. If you’re unfamiliar with a brand or product, it’s worth doing some research. Look at the brand’s website, read the ingredients label, and check out any certifications it might have. Researching products and their ingredients online is also a great way to learn any toxic ingredients to watch out for. Check out our vegan products here

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