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What’s the difference between natural, organic, vegan and Fairtrade products?

Picture above: Calendula oil, derived from marigold flowers, offers anti-inflammatory properties. It can help speed up wound healing, cuts, acne sores, and other skin ailments.

By Hoiisa’s editor

Before we delve into finding out the differences between natural, organic, vegan and Fairtrade, it’s worth noting that there’s no legal definition or requirement to label a beauty product as natural, organic or vegan. The only legal requirement is to list ingredients according to the global standard of INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). When you look at the ingredients in each product they are listed from the highest to lowest percentage. And if ingredients are under 1 per cent they can be listed in any order at all.

What does a natural product mean?

Beware because a lot of beauty companies can use the word “natural” even if it has just 1 per cent of naturally-sourced, mineral or plant-based ingredients. In order for a product to be “natural” it must not contain anything artificial or synthetic. Natural products contain ingredients from plants that are minimally processed, but most products require some level of preservatives that are often synthetic because if you use a product which is 100 per cent natural it will have a very short shelf life. Avoiding heavily processed ingredients allows the plants natural healing properties – enzymes, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – to remain fully active. By carefully checking the ingredients listing, you should notice the botanicals on the top and any synthetic ingredients nearer the bottom. Natural extracts are likely to also be named according to their scientific or Latin name so, if in doubt, check a cosmetic dictionary to make things a bit clearer.

Picture above: Clean beauty brand Salt by Hendrix uses the finest organic, plant-based products from around the world.

What does organic beauty actually mean?

To most, “organic beauty” means that the products are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, or GMOs. It’s taking the word natural to another level. They are made with non-GMO ingredients that have been grown, raised, harvested, manufactured and preserved without chemical herbicides, pesticides, fungicides or antibiotics – giving you products with fewer contaminants. But all this means the products are more expensive because organic farming and processing costs more. Similar to products that are termed “natural”, organic products only need to contain a very small per cent of organic ingredients to be labelled an organic product. It’s worth noting that some ingredients such as water, salt or clay cannot be organic.

To be really sure what you’re putting on your skin, always check the label and watch out for the Soil Association Organic logo, which certifies that the products are sourced and manufactured using sustainable, organically-farmed ingredients and are not tested on animals, free from harsh chemicals, nanoparticles, parabens, synthetic dyes and artificial fragrances.

Picture above: A selection of organic fruits that can be used for making clean beauty products.

What makes a vegan beauty product?

If a product is truly vegan, it’s not produced from an animal by-product and is not tested on animals. This means no vegan product should include honey, collagen, albumen, carmine, cholesterol and gelatin. The fastest way to ensure products are vegan is to look for The Vegan Society logo. Another logo to look out for to make sure your products are cruelty-free is the Leaping Bunny logo; it’s the only internationally recognised symbol guaranteeing no animal testing was carried out in developing the product. EU law has strict regulations around animal testing, whereas China requires it by law, so any products sold there will automatically have been tested on animals.

Picture above: Hoiisa works with brands that make it their mission to help local communities with fairtrade.

What is the meaning of Fairtrade?

If a beauty product is Fairtrade, it means the ingredients to make them (which is usually botanical extracts, such as coconut, shea butter and natural oils) help benefit small-scale farmers and workers through trade – enabling them to maintain their livelihoods and reach their potential. It focuses on trading between companies in developed countries and producers in developing countries. This means they are bought at a fair price, ensuring sustainable wages, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. What makes Fairtrade products ethically good is that it supports community projects by improving local healthcare. The best way to know if a product is Fairtrade is to search for the Fairtrade mark to indicate if ingredients are sourced fairly.

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