The beauty industry has seen a major shift in recent years, moving towards more natural and organic products as consumer demand pushes for more ethical options.
It’s no surprise that people are concerned with the ingredients they’re putting on their skin on a daily basis. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and it’s also responsible for many of the detoxifying processes of the body. Many people find that their daily beauty routine gives them a calm, quiet moment for a little daily nurturing, and with a bit of tweaking, you can ensure you’re using products made with the highest quality, safety, and efficacy in mind.
But when it comes to choosing the best products for your needs, how do you know just what you’re getting? And just what exactly do all the different terms mean? Let’s take a look.
What Is Natural Beauty?
Natural beauty products are simply products that contain ingredients which have not been synthetically manufactured, instead coming from nature. Animal-based ingredients, minerals, and plant materials are all considered part of natural beauty products. One thing to note is that many beauty products contain petrochemicals, which come from petroleum -- technically a natural ingredient. However, because these ingredients are chemically produced, they do not qualify for the “natural” label and won’t be in any products labelled as such.
The term “natural” isn’t a regulated industry term, so it’s important to carefully read the ingredient label of any product before purchasing. Whenever possible, choose products with no synthetic ingredients, or those with synthetic ingredients listed at the end. The further down the list of ingredients, the less of it in the product.
Also keep in mind that some manufacturers use the scientific names of some naturally occurring ingredients. These names might sound synthetic, such as sodium chloride -- which is just sea salt, or citric acid -- a compound found in citrus fruits.
What Is Organic Beauty?
Organic beauty products are also natural, but they meet even greater standards when it comes to purity. In order for a beauty product to carry the “organic” label, it must be made of ingredients that were obtained without the use of growth hormones or antibiotics, petroleum-based or sewage sludge fertilizers, genetically modified organisms (GMO), or synthetic pesticides.
A product can still carry an “organic” label even if it’s not made with 100% organic ingredients, so continue to carefully evaluate the label. One quick “cheat” is to look for a USDA Organic seal, which means the product is made with at least 95% organic ingredients. Products with a “Made With Organic Ingredients” label must contain at least 70% organic content. “Ecocert Organic Cosmetic” is a French label that means the product is made with 100% organic content.
What Is Cruelty-Free Beauty?
Cruelty-free beauty products have not been tested on animals. While the end product might not have been tested on animals, it’s important to know that, base ingredients may have been tested on animals at some point. Ensure the brand you shop with uses ethically-sourced ingredients if cruelty-free is an important feature for you.
Products with the Leaping Bunny certification on the label ensure that none of the ingredients were tested on animals. While many smaller brands might not have Leaping Bunny certification, they will often list this info on their website or packaging.
What Is Vegan Beauty?
Vegan beauty products are free of animal ingredients as well as animal by-products. Just because a product is vegan, doesn’t mean it isn’t full of synthetic chemicals, so continue reading the ingredient list to ensure the quality of ingredients.
What Is Plant-Based or Synthetic-Free Beauty?
Much like “natural,” the terms “plant-based” and “synthetic-free” are not regulated by the beauty industry. A product can be labeled "synthetic-free" if it is made of 100% naturally occurring elements or compounds, and contains no man-made ingredients. A product might claim to be "plant-based" if it is made with botanical ingredients. Look for products that carry the “Natural Products Association Certification” as they are made with 95% natural ingredients, and are free from potentially harmful synthetics.
When it comes to choosing greener beauty options, there are a number of Canadian brands leading the way. Here are just a few:
Green Skincare Options
BKIND is a Montreal-based company that makes environmentally-friendly, plant-based skincare products made from 100% natural ingredients. Ottawa-based Demes Natural creates vegan natural skincare for all skin types. Graydon Skincare uses plant-based ingredients to “feed” skin. Harlow Skin Co. is handmade in small batches using 100% natural ingredients. Scentuals uses only 100% natural and organic ingredients in its products, which are cruelty-free. Skin Essence products are certified organic by Ecocert and made in small batches. Sudsatorium creates organic, ethically sourced plant-based skincare that is vegan and cruelty-free. Corpa Flora offers vegan and cruelty-free products with a goal of providing nutrition to the skin. Smith Farms is based in Quebec, and takes the farm-to-table approach when creating their natural, cruelty-free skincare products. Wildcraft’s formulas are handmade in small batches, using natural ingredients. Province Apothecary creates holistic skincare products using concentrated plant-based formulas.
Green Makeup Options
Elate Cosmetics offers toxin-free, cruelty-free, vegan, fair-trade products in renewable bamboo packaging. Toronto-based Bite Beauty uses food-grade ingredients in its vegan, cruelty-free products. Founded in Vancouver, Ilia uses “clean” ingredients and sustainable packaging. Plume’s lash and brow serum is made using 100% natural ingredients, and is cruelty-free.
Green Personal Care Options
Bāsd offers organic, Leaping Bunny-certified body washes and lotions. Buck Naked Soap Company creates luxury vegan bath and skin products in Cambridge, Ontario. Epic Blend uses naturally derived ingredients to make their cruelty-free products. Green Beaver products are Ecocert certified and do not harm animals or the environment. Kaia Naturals is a certified cruelty-free company and donates to veterinary outreach initiatives. Nana+Livy offers artisan bath and body products in plastic-free packaging. Routine makes natural deodorants for various body types and scent preferences, and even offers a refill program. Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s products are not only affordable; they contain 10 ingredients or less. Wyld Skincare is natural, vegan, and cruelty-free. Bathorium creates luxurious, cruelty-free bath products in Kanata, Ontario.
Keep in mind that many beauty products may be organic but not cruelty-free, or plant-based but not organic. Not all products fit neatly into different categories, which is why the most important thing you can do to ensure the quality of green beauty products is to read the label.