Confused About What 'Organic' Really Means? Most Of Us Are... And Here's Why

It's no surprise that we're collectively becoming increasingly concerned with the ingredients in our beauty products and what they mean for our overall health; newspapers tell us every day that our shampoo or lipstick can cause cancer, or that our body washes are enriched with damaging chemicals. Although the majority of the stories are developed with the sole purpose of scaremongering, it has lead us as consumers to be more aware and start making better choices. Organic, natural and 'free from' are buzz words we hear every day, but there's a significant lack of clarity around what they really mean. Unlike organic food, there is (rather shockingly) currently no legal standard in place to protect shoppers against fake or misleading organic beauty claims; this flourishing green market is becoming increasingly confusing and hard to manoevre as marketing teams get more and more clever at giving the impression that their products are filled with organic goodness. Whether that's through product names that give the impression of organic ingredients, the addition of a few green leaves to a pack, or little nuances that subconsciously make us believe the formula will be better for us than the alternative, it's confusing noise that hides what's really going on.

The Soil Association is the UK's leading certification body that aims to make this process clearer, certifying brands and products in order to provide consumers with the tools they need to make informed purchasing decisions. Their certification stamp gives consumers the confidence to know that what they are buying is truly organic; from the beautiful plants and herbs used in the formulas, to the non-organic ingredients that are left out, everything is checked to ensure it's 100% true to its claims. In order to use the 'stamp of approval', brands have to provide detailed requirements on their ingredients and manufacturing processes, meaning the quality and values that organic embodies are preserved; you can therefore trust that what you are buying is the real deal. A product can only be called 'organic' by The Soil Association standards when 95% of the ingredients are organic; however, without this a brand could claim their product is 'organic' with as little as 1% organic ingredients. It's no wonder we're all a little confused.

To help us make better and more informed decisions, The Soil Association is today launching Organic Beauty & Wellbeing Week and rekindling their 'look for the logo' campaign - which encourages consumers to always look for their stamp of approval if they want to buy organic. To kick this off they're hosting their very first pop-up organic beauty and wellbeing shop (Protein Studios, New Yard Inn, Shoreditch) until 21st May, where you can meet brand founders, shop new product ranges, sit in on panel discussions, take part in workshops and discover some of the very best in the organic beauty and wellbeing business. If you want to know the kinds of brands that ARE certified as organic by The Soil Association, then they include: Neal’s Yard, Pai, Therpai, Skin & Tonic, Bamford, Botanicals, Terre Verdi, Voya, Odylique, Herbfarmacy, Nourish, Green People, La Eva, Lulu & Boo and Balm Balm among many others.

Personally I would like the Advertising Standards Authority to put some clear guidelines in place that stop a lot of the 'me too' marketing from happening, helping consumers from making better decisions that are right for them. Whether you choose to embrace organic or not is up to you, but it's incredibly frustrating when brands put 'Organic' in the name when they're about as organic as a bottle of Fairy Liquid; it's even more frustrating when they jump on the bandwagon of an organic movement and dupe consumers into thinking they're buying better. Personally I don't opt for organic over non-organic, but if there's an organic version that's just as good then I'll embrace the swap wholeheartedly; chemicals aren't always as scary as the media makes out, but if you have sensitive skin or are prone to irritation then shopping organic could be a wise move. There's so much more to the organic market than first meets the eye, but the important thing is to be informed and do your research if it's something that's a personal priority. Until there's a legal standard in place to protect consumers, we all need to wise up and shop smart.

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