A closer look at organic skin products

07/23/2013 11:34 AM

07/23/2013 11:35 AM

Making the choice to go organic with your skincare routine is supposed to benefit your health as well as the environment, and it’s difficult to go down an aisle at the drugstore or visit a beauty counter at the department store without seeing the terms “active naturals,” “botanical,” “natural,” “green” or “organic.”

But there is much controversy surrounding the labeling guidelines for these types of skincare products.

Choosing certified “organic” products means that key cleansing and conditioning agents are derived from organically grown plant products rather than conventionally grown plants, synthetic chemicals or petroleum byproducts. Organic skincare also excludes or minimizes ingredients that can be potentially harmful to people, animals, waterways or the environment.

The rules and limitations vary, however, among the regulatory associations that oversee organic product labeling.

The U.S.D.A. “organic” seal is most commonly seen in the United States, but there are other regulatory bodies that perform their own certification. While there are no consistent worldwide standards (the use of preservatives, calculations for extracts and processing aids set different “seals” apart) the organization COSMOS oversees several European associations that have agreed upon the practices and criteria skincare manufacturers must meet to be certified.

If you’ve decided to go organic, kudos to you, but it’s important to know that these products aren’t always better for your skin. Many organic products contain essential oils (such as bergamot and balsam of Peru) that can cause dermatitis. Peppermint and rosemary can also irritate sensitive skin. Chamomile can illicit skin reactions in those allergic to ragweed. And the limited use of preservatives can promote bacteria growth shortly after a product is opened.

As with all skincare, it can take a little trial and error to find the products that work best for your skin. I’m a big fan of organic skincare, so long as it’s certified by one of the legitimate organizations that oversee these products.

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