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  • Writer's pictureNicole Salter

Naturally derived vs. Non-Toxic vs. Cruelty-Free vs. Organic: A Simple Breakdown

Updated: Oct 10, 2022

Perhaps I should have said 'a nervous breakdown' for anyone who can relate to standing in a drug store or health food store aisle with a toddler kicking in the stroller, trying to read product labels and choose what is best for your family to use - or at least won't give your son fish gills or mess with your daughter's reproductive system, as many artificial ingredients are suspected of doing.

Woman shopping in drugstore

With every skin care product manufacturer, big and micro, throwing out buzzwords across all advertising platforms from social media to subway ads to in-store campaigns, it can be difficult to make good, healthy choices for your family, especially taking the cost factor into account. Here is a simple comparison of terminologies next time you are wondering what all this stuff really means!

Naturally derived doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot, since a lot of harmful things started out coming from natural sources. Heroin, for example, is naturally derived, and so is motor oil since it comes from the earth. A product can be labeled natural or naturally derived even if it only contains one or two natural things in tiny amounts, so look carefully at labels. This can be tricky because manufacturers are technically required to use Latin names (hence the fact that sodium cocoate, which leads the ingredient list in all our soaps and sounds like some death chemical, is just saponified coconut oil and is actually, truly natural!)

Non-toxic means an ingredient hasn't been scientifically linked to serious disease or death, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's good for you, either. A good example is petroleum, which is the only ingredient in Vaseline. I used to consume about a pound a year by using it as lip gloss, and I'm still standing, and I have great lips, but it's a byproduct of the manufacture of oil and gas. There's nothing especially good about it, and it could easily one day be proven harmful, the way products like talcum powder (once used to diaper a jillion bums) is now considered harmful.

Butterfly and flowers

Cruelty-free generally means a product hasn't been tested on animals, but with animal testing for cosmetics banned in most countries and every imaginable type of research having already been done, it's a bit of a misnomer. For example, a product like an expensive designer perfume that contains phthalates - still legal, but very questionable in terms of their effect on the human body - may not have been tested on animals, but the environmental effects of pthalates ending up in our waterways definitely means cruelty for the aquatic life they contact. We do not use phthalates in any of our bath and body care products, which is why the fragrances fade, depending on the product, within 3-18 months -whereas you could open a bottle of perfume 5 years from now and even if it's gone bad, it still smells very strongly.

Organic skin care products come at a price premium that is well-deserved due to the rigorous standards involved, but they cannot be legally labeled organic unless they are the real deal. You should see a seal or logo confirming the legitimacy of the product, that it truly is organic and does not contain any GMO, pesticides, fertilizers etc. If you don't see the logo but you're buying from a trusted small vendor, it may simply be that they haven't gone through the extremely expensive and time-consuming process of obtaining organic certification from the government. For example, our body washes have an organic castile soap base that comprises more than 80 percent of the product, with the other main ingredients being avocado oil, vegetable glycerin and essential oils; it definitely qualifies as organic, it's just not government certified. Any major brand occupying store shelf space should bear the certification.

Organic coconut oil

Clear as mud? Don't give up! Our next post will give you 10 very good reasons to clean up your bath and body routine. Keep calm and wash on!

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