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Organic skincare: is it worth the hype?

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Should we be ditching our non-organic beauty products and going organic? Opinion is divided. Here, we look at both sides of the argument.

In 2019, the organic and natural beauty market was worth an estimated £106.4m, and in a survey conducted by media brand Professional Beauty, 79% of respondents said that they were more likely to buy a beauty product labelled ‘organic’. But others question its effectiveness and see the touting of ‘all-natural’ claims as a mere gimmick.

A woman samples organic cosmetics on her hands
Only 1% of organic material is needed to label a beauty product as organic in the UK © Ron Lach
What makes a beauty or skincare product ‘organic’?

According to the Soil Association, organic beauty means cosmetic products formulated using organically farmed ingredients. These are grown without the use of genetically modified organisms, synthetic fertilisers and more. But while some sing the benefits of incorporating organic products into your skincare routine, others see it as more of a marketing scam.

The argument for organic skincare

Organic skincare has seen a surge in popularity in the past few years. Founder of True Skincare, Emma Thornton, believes “organic beauty is the next natural progression into leading more holistic lives’’.

One of the biggest recent changes in the beauty industry has been a closer focus on ingredients rather than a ‘quick fix’. In recent years, concerns have grown over how exposure to chemicals in beauty products could affect our health; as a result, many more consumers are educating themselves about the safety and likely effectiveness of products.

Would adopting an all-organic skincare routine be better for our skin and health? Laura Rudoe, founder of Evolve Beauty, thinks so. “Organic skincare is better for your body as it contains very few synthetic ingredients. Synthetic ingredients can put a strain on the detoxification processes of the body,” she says. “Organic ingredients contain higher levels of antioxidants, which can prevent premature ageing.”

A bottle of organic cosmetics surrounded by rose petals
Organic cosmetics
The argument against organic skincare

In the UK, just 1% of organic material is needed to label a beauty product as organic, which Dr Lauren Hamilton, co-founder of skincare clinic Victor & Garth, believes can confuse consumers. “Organic products claim to be beneficial and can be, but they tend to have a lower concentration of active ingredients compared with many non-organic products, especially those that are known as medical grade.”

Fellow Victor & Garth co-founder Dr Miriam Adebibe adds: “Just because a skincare product is labelled as organic doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better for your skin or body.”

Organic cosmetics are made using ingredients grown without chemical pesticides. And while that may be better for the environment and sounds better for your skin, it’s no guarantee of quality. “The raw ingredients may not have been grown in a rich soil or processed in an appropriate environment, resulting in a high risk of deterioration and contamination,” Dr Miriam says. “Some raw materials, such as natural vitamins, aren’t even available in organic form but can be sourced responsibly and with quality in mind.”

On top of that, even where organic material is used, synthetic ingredients can often be vital within formulations to keep ingredients stable and prevent bacterial growth, Dr Miriam adds. “Natural products containing only oils will require no preservatives, but if any water is added, bacteria can breed. Medical-grade skincare often contains high levels of active ingredients, and to keep these actives potent they’ll need to be preserved using a synthetic with an excellent safety record.”

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