Organic Skincare is predicted to be the fastest-growing area in the cosmetics industry in the next decade. On the face of it, (nope, no pun), that sounds to be a good thing. We’re becoming more discerning; the quality of products will increase; perhaps, even, with tougher competition and with higher demand, those tiny high-end, breathtakingly expensive organic pots of face cream might even become attainable…
But the reality is messier. Whilst there are growing numbers of independent companies with the purest of intentions and incredible ingredients, standards of ‘organic’ are at the same time being watered down by the big beauty houses, whose values are financial and who see the trend as nothing more than another money-making opportunity. What constitutes ‘natural’ and ‘ethical is therefore being stretched thinner, and it can feel like you have to be exceptionally savvy, (or have a degree in chemistry.) to know the difference.
The “organic argan oil’ promised loudly on your ‘natural’ facial cleansing foam only has to make up a tiny percentage of the non-organic, unethical soy, or even petroleum-based ingredients in order for that label to be allowed. They’ll stamp ‘paraben-free!’ all over the bottle, but that’s only half the story. Even high-end niche brands whose ingredients are generally honest will slip artificial preservatives and perfumes in more often than feels ok. Perfume ingredients don’t even need to be listed.
Cutting corners like this saves money, but it also extends the shelf life. Which might sound sensible. But again, it’s not so simple. An unnaturally-long shelf life and a glossy whipped white appearance in skin creams usually means artificial preservatives and other synthetic ingredients. They can be “hypo-allergenic”, and permitted by natural standards, but although they will survive for years at the back of your cupboard, they will also block your pores, create an artificial dependency rather than enhance your skin’s own capacity for maintaining a healthy balance, and some would argue that these are in part responsible for the ever-increasing rate of allergies and skin sensitivities.
It’s rather like comparing heavily-processed vacuum-packed foods to fresh, vitamin-rich ingredients from the garden. Just for on your skin, instead of in your stomach.
Taking up Latin to decipher ingredients labels on your skincare products isn’t a bad plan, but I’d suggest starting with something easier. And more fun: Learning to trust your sense of smell. Just as your tastebuds can grow more attuned to the subtle variations in, say, wines or single-estate coffee and chocolates, your nose can learn to immediately pick out the difference between alleged-eco and the real deal. There’s a sharp smell that hits me at the back of my throat if anything unnatural lurks within a bottle. More importantly, I’ve learned the costly way that within a few weeks I’ll be sick of the slightly cloying smell, and my skin will feel sluggish, prickly; like it can’t breathe. I have even had companies interested in working with us insisting that their products are natural even though I can smell something is wrong. Close analysis of the ingredients will always reveal the artificial ingredients, but trusting my senses only takes seconds.
And brands with 100% integrity do exist – we’ve spent a lot of time finding them. You’ll be able to pick them out by their authentically fresh, natural scents. They’re even affordable. These brands might not have a marketing budget to churn out the most persuasive branding; they might not have a marketing budget at all. Instead, their money has gone into sourcing the freshest, most ethically grown ingredients – precious oils and herbal extracts that your skin can actually use. Did you know that water makes up the bulk of most skin creams? Very economical, because water is cheap, but the extraordinary thing is, skin is waterproof. It needs high-quality oils to hydrate it. Not water.
Pure, natural brands might have a homegrown feel to them because, well, they often are home-grown. They might not even find the time to tell you all about it on Instagram. But their products will speak for themselves, and you will be able to smell the difference. And most importantly, they’ll allow your skin to heal, breathe, glow and rebalance.