Natural vs. Organic | Demystifying The Clean Beauty Buzzwords


Posted on June 04 2021

Clean beauty.  It’s a term you’ve probably heard lately but you're still unsure of what it is or why it matters.  The whole concept of “clean beauty” might even seem confusing to you because in reality, it actually really is and here’s why.  There is no singular definition of this term and with so many trending buzzwords being tossed around in the beauty space, it’s no wonder people feel completely mystified by it.  When you walk down the beauty aisle at your local store, you often see buzzwords like “non-toxic”, “green”, “organic” or “natural” plastered all over product labels.  What do all of these words mean anyway? 


Shockingly enough, the U.S. cosmetic industry is woefully under-regulated.  Did you know that the law doesn’t require products and ingredients to be approved by the FDA before hitting your local store shelves?  It's quite startling, to say the least.  This means that companies pretty much have the freedom to do whatever they please and create products (i.e. face wash and shampoo) with toxic ingredients that are known to harm humans and animals.  With the lack of government regulation, companies are freely able to use buzzwords like “natural” or “pure” to market their products, when in reality, the ingredients within their products are far from being natural. 


What's the difference between these buzzwords? 

From a marketing perspective, words like "natural", "organic", and "pure" are terms that are often grouped together and used interchangeably. But in reality, they actually have very different meanings. Caught you by surprise? Don't worry, we’re here to break down confusing these clean beauty buzzwords. We’ve created a simple chart that'll guide you towards a better understanding of what clean beauty is and breaking down what these "buzzwords" actually mean.


colorful clean beauty terminology chart


Clean Beauty - Think of “clean beauty” as a blanket term that covers all of the categories that clean beauty encompasses.  The term “clean” mainly refers to non-toxic ingredients (natural and/or synthetic) that aren’t harmful to your health.

Non-Toxic - A general term that describes a product that is free from ingredients that can harm your health or the environment.


Natural - Refers to ingredients sourced from nature.  It’s important to know though, that legally, the word “natural” is a completely unregulated term that companies use to market their products.  A product can be stamped as natural but in actuality, it can contain a whole chock full of synthetic ingredients.  Also, there are many assumptions that natural is always better than synthetic.  However, of course, not all natural ingredients are good and not all synthetic ingredients are bad either.


Green Beauty - Refers to beauty brands that operate its business in a way that helps to reduce the impact on the health of their customers and the planet.  


Organic - A legally defined term used by the USDA to certify food, agricultural products, and beauty products (containing or made up of agricultural ingredients) as being produced under very specific standards and requirements from farm to market. Overall, companies must demonstrate that their products have been produced through approved methods and don’t contain ingredients that can harm people and the environment.


So what? Why is this important to know?

Understanding what these buzzwords mean is becoming more important as people are gravitating towards living a healthier and cleaner lifestyle.  Seeing a product labeled as "natural" may look like a better choice at face value, but you have to take that extra step to read the small print.  Just because a product claims itself as natural or clean, doesn't mean that it really is.  It’s really up to us as consumers to do our own research on the kind of products we’re using on ourselves and in our homes.  The more we educate ourselves, the more prepared we are to make informed product-purchase decisions.  After all, knowledge is power, right?


Are there any free resources to help me? 

It's okay to feel overwhelmed by the whole concept of clean beauty. Trust us, we've been there too.  Fortunately, there are a ton of great resources out there to help you on your quest to unearth cleaner and safer beauty products.  We’ve zeroed down on our top two beauty apps that help conscious shoppers, like ourselves, make better purchase decisions based on the safety of product ingredients.  They’re super easy to use and best of all, they’re free!


1. Think Dirty App

Think Dirty® app is a super-easy tool to help you learn about all the ingredients in your beauty, personal care, and household products.  You just scan the product barcode and the app will provide you with all the information you need to know about the product, its ingredients, and cleaner alternatives. How convenient is that?  


White I-phone with the Think Dirty App displayed on the screen

Source: ThinkDirty



2. GoodGuide App

GoodGuide’s mobile app is another great resource to help consumers decode product labels, research ingredients, interpret complex information about the potential hazards of different chemicals and make better product-purchasing decisions through science-based ratings.  All you have to do is scan the product barcode and retrieve ratings and information on your phone while you shop.


three white i-phones displaying the GoodGuide App

Source: GoodGuide


With so many trends that come and go, it's easy to think of clean beauty as another one of those passing fads.  But, it's far more than just a trend.  It’s a health issue and it’s up to us as individuals to be conscious of the products we use on a daily basis.  

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