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Deciphering Organic, Part 1

By: Leslie Lyon and Marilyn Patterson
Posted: January 29, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Editor’s note: This article is part 1 of a two-part series. Part 2 will appear in the March 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

People desire a healthy environment rather than one that they need to be protected from, and because of this, there is a belief that beauty products featuring the words “natural” or “organic” are the best choices. Because of this, companies use these words as powerful, persuasive marketing tools to help sell their products. Until now, this marketing has been effective due to the lack of guidelines and enforcements—but things are changing.

The governments of the United States and Canada have defined the term organic as plant material that has been grown and harvested according to strict agricultural standards. Organic featured on a cosmetic or skin care label implies that a certain level of organic plant content is present in that product. However, the word natural has no strict regulatory definition, so it is widely used in a variety of industries, misleading consumers and making them think the products are safer than those without the natural reference. As the public becomes more attuned to the facts, a tremendous amount of pressure is placed on ingredient manufacturers and skin care formulators, because the more clearly defined organic status is very difficult—and expensive—to achieve.

Clearing up confusion

The big question is: Do spa professionals truly get what they want and expect when they purchase a skin care line that has been marketed as natural or organic?

Leslie Lyon, a spa consultant, has interviewed Marilyn Patterson, a cosmetic chemist and consultant for the development of natural and organic cosmetics, to help explain the safety and effectiveness of natural and organic ingredients.