The beauty product market has never been as complex as it is today. “Natural” and “organic” products have become more popular in recent years, and some of us are also hearing of vegan and cruelty-free beauty products. So, in addition to all of the choices, one has to make concerning “what will make me look my best”, we can no longer avoid considering what ingredients are in the products or even whether or not animals were used in the testing or creation of the products. To put it bluntly: how will I feel about wearing a particular brand of lipstick if I know that it might give me cancer, was tested on animals or contains animal tissues such as cow brains?
Let’s start with a description of the various categories of beauty products.
Natural beauty products
- Natural beauty products are defined as simply those products containing ingredients which have not been synthetically manufactured but instead come from nature. Thus, plant, mineral, and animal-based ingredients all qualify as natural.
- Petrochemical-based ingredients which are quite common ultimately come from nature; however, they must be chemically produced from petroleum which means they do not qualify for the label “natural”.
- Note that many skin cleansing products contain plastic microbeads which make it into our water supplies. Unfortunately, these microbeads bind with harmful chemicals and then are consumed by fish, which puts toxins into our food supplies. Definitely not natural and not good for our environment!
Organic beauty products
Organic beauty products are, by definition, natural but are subject to greater standards of purity. To be properly labeled “organic” means that the ingredients were obtained without the use of synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based or sewage sludge fertilizers, and are not from a genetically modified organism (GMO) or cultivated with growth hormones or antibiotics.
Vegan beauty products
Vegan beauty products are those which are free of animal by-products and animal ingredients. It may surprise you to know that the FDA had to ban the use of cow brains and spinal cord tissue from older cattle in lipsticks and hairsprays in 2004—over concerns of mad cow disease. It continued to allow such animal ingredients if they came from younger cattle! Cruelty-free beauty products
Cruelty-free beauty products
Cruelty-free beauty products are those which have not been tested on animals. Even with such products, it is certainly possible that the ingredients have, at some point, been tested on animals.
“Buyer beware” is definitely important when purchasing beauty products. Organic products sound good but they may contain animal ingredients. Cruelty-free products may not have been tested on animals, but they could contain synthetic or animal ingredients. Unfortunately, the labeling of products can be quite misleading. While there are no regulations or requirements for the term “natural”, there are several Seals of Approval available to manufacturers of organic and natural products:
USDA Organic – the product contains at least 95% organic content
Made with Organic Ingredients – the product contains at least 70% organic content
Natural Products Association Certification – means the product is 95% natural and free from potentially harmful synthetics
Ecocert Organic Cosmetic – a French label signifying at least 100% organic content
With all of the complexity in the beauty market, what is one to do? The key is to make sure you read the labels carefully and the ingredients. Research the companies you are doing business with to see if they use organic ingredients are vegan, and cruelty-free.
Go green, love your beauty, your body, and the planet by choosing natural and organic beauty products which are vegan and cruelty-free.