Guide to organic beauty ingredients

G Magazine

Confused about organics and labelling in your skin care? G caught up with Michael Bronner, Vice President of Dr Bronner’s organic body care to give us the rundown.


Credit: iStockphoto

- Advertisement -

How can we tell if a health or beauty product is actually organic?

"The best way to tell if a product is organic is to make sure that it is certified as being so by a reputable agency, such as Soil Association, Australia Certified Organic, or the USDA.  Some agencies like Ecocert though allow products with only 10 per cent organic content to call themselves organic, so ensure it’s a reputable agency and look for their logo."

Why are organic ingredients important in our skin care products?

"Organic ingredients are important in our skin care products because our skin absorbs. It is not only what we swallow that is important, but what we put on our bodies. It's no secret that a nicotine patch works solely by transdermal absorption. Additionally, given enough time garlic sliced open and placed on the wrist will be smelled on the breath, and peppermint oil rubbed on the feet will be tasted on the tongue. Therefore, it is imperative that people put on their bodies what they want in their bodies. Organic materials guarantee that no pesticides or GMOs have been used in their cultivation or processing and thus won’t end up in our bodies."

Is there a law to prevent products using the word ‘organic’ if they’re not?

"Not currently, which is why consumers have to be particularly aware. Right now Soil Association in the UK and the USDA in the US do a fine job certifying bodycare products, it’s just that companies just call themselves organic without being certified and no one (except us and now Whole Foods in the States) is doing anything about it. Right now we are in a lawsuit against “organic cheaters”, suing for a grand total of $1, which you can read more about on the Organic Consumers Association website."

When it comes to health and beauty products, what does certified Fair Trade ensure?

The same thing that it ensures for food products:
· Transparency of all prices paid to the farmers
· At least a 10 per cent return on investment for even the poorest farmers in the event of extreme price fluctuations or market crashes
· Sustainable agricultural methods
· The empowerment of marginalized rural communities around the world not through charity but through market-driven dynamics.
Also, on top of the money paid to the farmer, 10 per cent goes into a fair trade fund that is managed at the ground level by a team of employees and management. This money goes to pay for development projects in the local communities. However, these funds are not simply handed out willy-nilly, but are used only after identifying specific needs, at which time the money is directly used to make the purchase that meets those needs. Fair trade is direct, local, personal, sustainable, tangible, and verifiable.

When it comes to beauty products, what are some ingredients we should be watching out for to avoid?

"I equate using organic and natural bodycare as the opposite of drinking green tea. Drinking a cup of green tea is not going to cure cancer, but drink it over your lifetime and you will have less chances of developing cancer in the first place. The inverse goes with organic and natural bodycare: you’re not going to get breast cancer by using a single mainstream conventional product with parabens once, and a pregnant mother is not going to give her unborn son problems with his reproductive system just by using a product with phthalates a single time. However, the constant exposure to these chemicals in everything from conventional shampoo to hair spray to nail polish to body lotion to face cream, every day over the course of a significant period of time, can potentially increase the possibility of the aforementioned problems occurring, just as green tea might have a cumulative positive effect."