What Do the Terms Natural and Organic Really Mean?

Everything seems to be marketed as natural and organic these days, but are natural and organic products really any better or safer? Although most consumers believe that natural, organic products are pure, healthy and safe and that all chemicals are harmful, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the terms natural and organic have no meaning at all when applied to cosmetics.

All substances that contain the element carbon are organic. Since all living things contain carbon, the term organic has long been associated with life and has been misused to imply healthful, pure and natural. Natural gas is a natural, organic gas that is colorless, odorless and deadly. The pungent odor of natural gas is added to alert you of the danger. Many natural and organic compounds are toxic.

The oxygen in the air we breathe and the water we drink are inorganic, yet are essential to life. How long could any of us live without oxygen or water? Inorganic ingredients are often preferred over organics because it’s impossible to have an allergic reaction to an inorganic substance.

Inorganic sunscreens (zinc oxide and titanium dioxide) not only perform better, but are also safer than organic sunscreens because they don’t react chemically. Organic sunscreens react on the skin to produce free radicals that contribute to premature ageing and skin cancer. Mineral makeup is popular for the same reason. The inorganic pigments used in mineral makeup eliminate the possibility of an unwanted allergic reaction that could be caused by organic pigments.

Although botanical extracts may conjure up visions of a meadow of flowers, all plants aren’t beneficial and some are poisonous. Poison Ivy, hemlock and arsenic are all natural and organic plants but I wouldn’t want them in my shampoo.

Processing purifies raw materials, removes unwanted contaminants and makes the finished product cleaner and safer. Natural, unprocessed ingredients may contain a variety of unwanted chemicals that require more preservatives and are far more likely to cause an allergic reaction.

We all want the products we use to be safe. Natural or organic products aren’t bad, but they may not be any better or safer and if those products cost more, you may not be getting what you’re paying for. Everything is processed in some way. The questions we need to ask are how are they processed and why?

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