If you weren’t already aware, here at Cocoa Cure, we are all about pure and natural skin, hair, body and beauty products. Many people try to avoid harmful chemicals by buying grooming products labelled ‘natural’ or ‘organic’, assuming these goods contain plant extracts from nature or biological ingredients that have not been touched by synthetic chemicals, respectively.
We clearly state that we provide natural AND organic products as they are not the same thing. For those that have asked what the difference between the two is, here is the breakdown on what these terms actually refer to!
What does Natural mean?
It is important to firstly understand that the term “Natural” isn’t regulated at all. It will generally mean that at least some natural ingredients have been used in the formula, but a product can be labeled as natural and contain up to 30 percent synthetic ingredients. Whilst it is a misleading word used on thousands of products, it doesn’t mean that all products that have this word on the label are fraudulent, you just need to study the list of ingredients and find out what they are for yourself.
A product is considered natural when it contains ingredients that are sourced from nature rather than created synthetically. This refers to ingredients such as naturally occurring minerals and plant extracts, not synthetic chemicals that are produced through laboratory manipulation (e.g. Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Decyl Poly glucose and cyclopolymethicone) some of which can’t be found in nature, however it is possible to create synthetic versions of natural ingredients (e.g. Vitamin E.) by mimicking the same chemical structures in lab production.
Sadly, some companies will tell you that natural means anything that originated somewhere on earth – no matter what has been done to it in a laboratory. We now even eat so-called “natural” foods that are genetically modified or some hybrid forms- there’s nothing natural about these foods, however, they are still referred to as natural.
Natural products generally don’t include ingredients like petrochemicals, parabens, sodium lauryl and laureth sulfates, phthalates, synthetic dyes. Conversely, a natural product isn’t necessarily organic just because its origins are the soil itself. Some products that have been produced with natural ingredients could still have involved the use of additives for growth as well as the use of pesticides.
The lure of products labelled as natural is understandable as they indicate the ingredients used in the formulation have been pulled straight from the Earth. Whilst this may be so, as mentioned before, they may still be laden with controversial chemicals.
The point here is that wherever you see the term “natural”, “all-natural” or “100% natural”, proceed with caution as the cosmetics, food and drug industries as well as the associated regulatory boards cannot be depended on to give you an honest picture of what is or isn’t good for you.
What does Organic mean?
The term organic is more rigorously regulated globally- maybe not as much here in Kenya (there is Encert- which i suspect are related to Encert To be labelled as organic, 70-95% of the ingredients need to meet this criteria and this figure may vary depending on where in the world you are. The other 5-30% can be made up of synthetic chemicals. Beauty products labelled as organic or made with organic ingredients are those that contain ingredients grown in environments, or have involved a start to finish production process, without the use of chemical fertilisers or other synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, petroleum fertilisers and sewage sludge fertilisers. The ingredient on its own must not be a genetically modified organism (GMO).
In short, when it comes to the cultivation and farming of ingredients, whether destined for food or beauty bottles, organic is the rearing of crops without artificial chemical fertilisers and growth manipulation. In Kenya and many other African countries, the misconception is that all the food is organic! This is unfortunately not the case, as farmers have been increasingly encouraged (largely due to international influence) over the last few years to include the use of pesticides, fungicides, growth regulators and stimulants in their farming processes. This means that even here, you need to ask questions about your food and how it is grown.
The lower levels of pesticides, manufactured herbicides or artificial fertilisers makes for a more environmentally sustainable management of the land and the environment. But besides being better for the planet, these organic products are also kinder to skin, safer to use and better for your health.
Why it matters.
We strongly feel that beauty care products are notoriously under-regulated as any number of dangerous chemical and synthetic additives are used in their processing. Regulatory bodies globally remain vague about when and whether organic personal care products will be held to the same standards as organic foods. In the meantime, many beauty care manufactures have seized on the label “organic” as a clever marketing scheme, heralding their products as natural and organic when their bottles are filled with synthetic, possibly dangerous, chemicals.
We hope this has made the difference between the two clear allowing for you to make more mindful and informed choices, like we’re doing increasingly with our food. This means we get to better decide which products tally with our own personal values and take our wellbeing into consideration.
Other terms to look out for:
1. Non-toxic: Another claim with almost no regulation (it’s mostly a marketing tool), although it’s not necessarily a harmful claim. When companies claim to be non-toxic, they are specifically referring to leaving out ingredients that have been linked to toxic responses in humans: neuro-disruption, hormone disruption, cancer, even death. A great, or rather a horrible example is phthalates (found mostly in household products and shampoo and conditioner, they give products a uniform consistency and make them easier to pour). Here are some of the other offender ingredients to always avoid: formaldehyde (found in nail polish, hair gel and color cosmetics); petroleum (found in moisturizers and lip balms); asbestos (labeled as talc or hydrous magnesium silicate); lead acetate (found in hair dye and lipstick); coal tar (found in hair dye and anti-dandruff shampoo)
2. Cruelty free: Cosmetic or beauty products labelled as cruelty-free haven’t been tested on animals. Animal testing is a practice that has thankfully been banned within the EU since the legislation came into complete effect in 2013. Testing a finished cosmetic product and/or cosmetic ingredients on animals is strictly prohibited, although there are many other countries that still do. Additionally, it is prohibited to market finished cosmetic products within the European Union. This claim doesn’t necessarily make them vegan, organic, or natural: some products are cruelty-free, but their products may be comprised of synthetic ingredients
3. Vegan: Vegan is the term used to describe cosmetics or personal care free of animal products. Vegan cosmetic brands are also cruelty-free, but it is possible a vegan product could be composed of synthetic preservatives such as methyl- and propylparaben, and therefore not be 100% natural.
4. Hypoallergenic: Products labeled hypoallergenic are making the claim that they cause fewer adverse reactions than their competitors, but any product can be marked with the word.
5. Plant-based: The term “plant-based” might be a little more flexible, but generally indicates that the product is made with botanical ingredients. This term is unregulated
6. Synthetic-free: Theoretically, a product labeled as “synthetic-free” contains no man-made ingredients to speak of—it’s 100% made of naturally occurring elements or compounds. Again, like many of the aforementioned terms, this one is also unregulated.
Let us know your thoughts below!