Organic skincare – should you make the switch?
What are some benefits of using organic skincare/make-up over non-organic brands?
Did you know that we ingest over 70% of what we put on our skin? So it’s a really good idea to check what is in the skincare you’re using. I started looking about 12 years ago after reading an article on organic food that ended on the question ‘I wonder what we ingest through our skin?’.
Off I trotted to my bathroom to check the labels of my luxurious, deliciously fragrant products which I was sure would only contain good things to help me look and feel great and couldn’t possibly be harmful.
I was greeted with names like Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Butylene Glycol and Polyethylene Glycol which, not having a Masters in chemistry, were gobbledegook to me. So, with the bit between my teeth I spent hours researching them online… and promptly felt sick.
I discovered that what I was actually putting on my skin was engine degreaser, anti-freeze and oven cleaner.
Yup, the luxurious, deliciously fragrant skincare products I was paying a premium for used the same ingredients that I kept under my sink. And worse than just being icky, they contained known carcinogens and endocrine (hormone) disruptors which I really could do without!
I did more research and discovered that most high-street brands contained ingredients that I simply didn’t want to use on my skin. Unfortunately this is still the case despite the ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ claims made by many brands.
So, why should you choose organic? Well, organic refers to a farming process (which is why water, salt and clay can’t be classified as organic as they aren’t farmed ingredients) which only uses natural fertilisers and pesticides. These are widely believed to be safer both for us and for the environment and organic ingredients are often more ethically sourced and processed.
Organic skincare isn’t going to make all your wrinkles or eye bags disappear any more (or less!) than non-organic skincare will, but at least you won’t be ingesting the same chemicals as you wash your car with.
What tips do you have for someone who is interested in making the switch to organic?
Having made the switch and fallen off the wagon several times, here are my top five tips:
Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey. Unless you have a health requirement to throw all your current products in the bin and switch to all organic, then just replace one item at a time as you run out. Not only is this cheaper and less wasteful, it also gives you plenty of time to try different brands to see which you like without investing too much.
Follow the 80/20 rule. We all have our favourite products which make us feel pampered so don’t feel you have to give these up completely. Aim for the 80/20 rule, using organic products for your day to day but keep those favourite non-organic products for occasional treats and you will be more likely to stay organic.
It will seem more expensive, but it isn’t really. Yes, organic ingredients cost more to produce (there’s a reason why so many companies use non-organic ingredients!) but even though the initial cost of a product may be higher, you may find you need less of it so it often lasts longer too.
Not all organic brands are created equal. Unfortunately the legislation in the UK means that a product can be called organic with just 1% of organic ingredients so you need to do some research and read the advice below about how to avoid greenwashing.
Be prepared for ‘toxic withdrawal’. You may find when you switch to organic and natural skincare that your skin reacts. However, it is usually not reacting to the new skincare but reacting to the ‘loss’ of and possible sensitisation that your previous skincare caused. You can do a patch test to know for sure if this worries you.
Can you explain what greenwashing is and how to watch out for it?
Skincare companies in the UK are self-regulating and the legislation for organic skincare is not as stringent as it is for organic food. As a result it means a product can be called organic even if it’s 99% not organic.
Watch out for phrases like ‘botanical’, ‘derived from nature’ or ‘natural extracts’ as these likely mean that the product contains very little natural or organic ingredients.
It’s now so common for a company to claim green credentials, which are in reality just a marketing gimmick, that a new term has been coined to describe it; ‘greenwashing’.
Thankfully there are a few things you can do to avoid falling into the greenwashing trap:
- Choose ‘certified organic’ products which have been independently verified by the Soil Association as being at least 70% organic.
- Good brands will put the % of organic ingredients contained within on the product’s packaging.
- Use an app such as the Environmental Working Group’s Skindeep to see what’s really in the product you’re about to buy.
- Read the label – organic ingredients should be marked and if they’re all near the bottom of the list then you know to put it back on the shelf.
What are your favourite brands for skincare?
When I first made the change, there weren’t many brands around that I could trust. But happily now, there are lots of good quality, certified organic, natural and ethical skincare brands to choose from. And as with non-organic brands, you’ll need to shop around to see which work best for you.
Personally, and in my treatments, I mostly use Neal’s Yard Remedies as it has the UK’s largest range of certified organic health and beauty products and is the only UK skincare company to be rated 100% for ethics in The Good Shopping Guide.
Other brands worth considering are Living Nature, Jurlique, Dr Hauschka, Weleda, Green People and Botanicals.
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