clean beauty eight saints organic skincare

Everything You Need to Know About Organic and Natural Skincare Claims

These days, more and more skincare companies are going the natural route; even big-box stores like Sephora have entire sections dedicated to “clean” beauty lines made without harmful or synthetic ingredients.

And we get it. At Eight Saints, we only use responsibly sourced, cruelty-free, plant-based ingredients, and we pride ourselves on only using effective ingredients that are proven to work.

Yet, while this “clean” movement is certainly a step in a healthier direction, it can also be confusing. Terms like “natural” and “organic” aren’t regulated, meaning that companies can make clean claims without having the products to back them up.

Plus, is natural always better when it comes to skincare? After all, certain essential oils are known to cause irritation, and some natural products just don’t seem to work as well as their more traditional counterparts.

Let’s clear the air.

The Move Toward Cleaner, Healthier Beauty

Clean beauty is big business. A survey done by Statista discovered that the organic cosmetics market is projected to double in size by 2024. What’s more, nearly 40% of U.S. consumers believe that organic personal care products are healthier than conventional items. Those same consumers value that these products are alcohol-free, skin-friendly, and environmentally friendly.

This growth marks a necessary shift in the U.S. cosmetics industry. While the EU has banned over 1,300 harmful ingredients from cosmetic problems, the FDA has only banned 11 cosmetic ingredients. Translation? A lot of conventional beauty products are chock full of harmful ingredients, including endocrine disruptors, carcinogens, and known skin irritants (you can read more about those no-no ingredients here).

In short: the industry needs to clean up its act, and consumers today expect nothing less.

The Problem: Ambiguity and Marketing Jargon

the problem with the clean skincare industry marketing jargon

The problem, though, is that there is still a lot of ambiguity around terms like “clean,” “organic,” and “natural,” - and companies can basically define these words as they wish. Because of this lack of standardization, many companies have slapped these terms onto their products as part of larger marketing campaigns without having the goods to back up their labels.

This is possible, once again, because the FDA is fairly absent from this conversation (they only step in when it comes to prescription skincare). The word “natural” isn’t even on their radar as far as regulation goes, so it’s kind of the wild west when it comes to what companies can say on their labels - as long as they can claim int’s not “misleading.” Following that logic, a conditioner can label itself as organic if it has one drop of organic jojoba in it...sigh.

There is currently a push toward transparency, regulation, and clearer labeling with legislation like The Personal Care Products Safety Act, but the industry still isn’t uniformly there. It’s on you, then, to be a discerning consumer and to understand what you’re looking at and where you might be misled.

Tips for Buying the Right Clean Beauty

There are a few tips and tricks to becoming that discerning consumer:

1. Understand the Terms

First, it’s important for you to understand what kind of products to look for - and what misleading jargon to steer clear from. Here’s what you need to know about the most common clean skincare terms out there:

  • Natural: The term natural is meant to signify that the product is largely - or, ideally, completely - made from naturally-occurring ingredients and free of harmful synthetics. Luckily, you can double-check this a bit, as truly natural products can have a NATRU certification.
  • Organic: Only one, or a few, of the ingredients in a product actually need to be organic for a company to be able to label it as such. The same goes for “sustainable” and “vegan.” Luckily, truly organic ingredients will also likely have the NATRU certification. What’s more, personal care products that are certified to be at least 95% organic will bear an official USDA Organic seal.
  • Clean: Clean is supposed to signify that products are healthy and free from “bad” ingredients, but every store you buy from can come up with their own definition for what this means to them. A good rule of thumb? If a company clearly and transparently defines its clean standardsyou should feel more comfortable buying from them. If you can’t find this information on their website or you feel like the company has something to hide, then your instinct is probably right. 
  • Cruelty-free:This term means that no animals were harmed in the making of a product. The Leaping Bunny stamp can help you ensure that you’re really dealing with a cruelty-free product (yay).
  • “Free of”:This is one that companies use to mislead consumers a lot.Shampoo companies, for example, will say that their shampoos are “free of silicones” - but shampoos never contained silicones to begin with, conditioners did (see what they did there). 
  • Hypoallergenic: “[Hypoallergenic] means whatever a particular company wants it to mean," the FDA states on its website. “Manufacturers of cosmetics labeled as hypoallergenic are not required to submit substantiation of their hypoallergenicity claims to FDA. The term [...] may have considerable market value in promoting cosmetic products to consumers on a retail basis, but dermatologists say it has very little meaning.”
  • Non-comedogenic:The same goes for non-comedogenic - you won’t find any regulations about this term anywhere in the world. But you canfind studies behind certain ingredients that illustrate their impact on human skin - you just have to Google it. Which brings us to our next points.

2. Familiarize Yourself With Ingredient Lists

The fact that you’re dealing with such misleading or confusing claims means you should always look at - and familiarize yourself with - the actual ingredient lists of your product. A few tips to this end:

  1. The ingredients on a product are always listed from highest to lowest concentration. So if you’re looking at a vitamin C serum, but “vitamin C” doesn’t appear until the end of that label, it probably won’t work. Conversely, if you look at the ingredient list for a product like Seeking C, you’ll see that vitamin C is second on the list and that the other primary ingredients - including MSM, jojoba oil, and vitamin E - appear shortly after.seeking c ingredients eight saints skincare
  2. Look out for no-no ingredients that are known to irritate or harm the skin - and if you spot them, run.
  3. On the flip side, understand the scientific terms for your favorite ingredients. Vitamin E, for example, is tocopherol on most labels. You can find a more comprehensive list of beneficial ingredients and how they appear here.

3. Understand the Efficacy of Ingredients

Yes, there are many clean ingredients that work - and a lot that don’t.

There are two things to keep in mind here: First, many truly organic ingredients can be super volatile, and they need some synthetic ingredients to help stabilize them. That’s not bad (just like not everything natural is good - hello, arsenic)... so don’t automatically freak out if you see something synthetic in your product.

Second, many natural ingredients don’t have studies to demonstrate their efficacy. Luckily, a lot do, including our Eight Saints.

But keep in mind that this isn’t a given, and you should do your own research if you have some doubts or you’ve never heard of something before.

4. Finally - Figure Out If Clean Beauty Will Work For YOU

Yes, clean beauty products from a vetted source can be a great way to treat your skincare concerns while cleansing your life of harsh chemicals. But natural beauty may not be the right choice for you, and you have to evaluate your specific needs.

If you’re prone to allergies, for example, many natural skincare products contain ingredients - like tree pollen, nuts, and stone fruit - that may provoke a reaction, so you should take that into account or patch test on your skin accordingly. Similarly, if you have an extreme condition like psoriasis or cystic acne, you may need to consult a physician and go with some pharmaceutical-grade products.

Stay informed and shop safely.