Organic beauty products: everything you need to know about natural skincare and make-up

Posted by
Joanna McGarry

Organics have spread from the grocery aisle to our beauty cabinets, finds Joanna McGarry

When an 8am barre class followed by smashed avocado on chia toast has more appeal than a hungover fry-up, you know you’ve got the healthy-eating bug. And that’s no bad thing. Minus the oft-maligned terminology (wellness warriors, clean eating), all that’s left is a commitment to eating and living well. Now we’re so clued up about what we eat, it’s a natural extension that we’re subjecting our beauty products to the same forensic examination.

The beauty industry has responded to this demand. “The obsession with detoxification and wellness is fuelling demand for stripped-back, ‘clean’ ingredients,” says Victoria Buchanan, beauty trends analyst at The Future Laboratory. “Consumers are more knowledgeable about possible irritations caused by synthetics and preservatives. They’re reading labels more carefully, a habit picked up from the grocery aisle.” Global demand for organic and natural personal care products is expected to reach $13.2billion by next year, and a recent report noted that ‘natural’ brands now represent the largest combined share of prestige skincare sales – but navigating this world remains a complicated matter.

Just like our edited food shop (label reading ahoy), we’re going chemical-free. The most commonly found are parabens (preservatives) and phthalates (emulsifiers), which scientists have labelled ‘endocrine disrupting chemicals’, or EDCs. They interfere with hormonal balance and, according to the World Health Organization, could lead to impaired reproductive function and increased rates of breast cancer. A recent University of California study revealed that women who avoided certain formulations saw a significant drop in EDC levels in the body. Still, for every piece of research that points to the dangers of EDCs, there’s a study purporting to their relative safety. And when you consider that lavender and citrus oils can cause skin inflammation, it’s clear natural isn’t the answer for everyone.

The other concern is how far a beauty product can penetrate the skin – a hugely contested aspect of skincare science. “We know now that the absorption rate of the skin is far higher than people thought,” explains Johannes Stellmann, CEO of Dr Hauschka. But absorption rates do vary. Studies have shown the face to be up to seven times more penetrable than other body surfaces due to its thinner, more porous skin. So going ‘mono-ganic’ (using organic formulas on a particular ‘zone’, ie face or hair) is becoming popular. “Haircare is the first thing to look at,” says Alexia Inge, founder of Cult Beauty. “It’s much easier for ingredients to absorb through your scalp than the rest of your body.”

So how do we know if a product is truly organic? Technically, we don’t (sorry). Last year, the European Commission launched the world’s first system for classifying and banning EDCs to widespread criticism due to insufficient research. So, sadly, the burden rests on consumers: “There are no legal standards for organic beauty, unlike food or drink, where strict rules are in place,” explains Lauren Bartley, from the Soil Association. “So a brand can call itself ‘organic’, even if it uses a small percentage of certified organic ingredients.” Instead, she says, look for an official logo. Products with a Soil Association or Ecocert badge will have undergone rigorous testing. “For a beauty product to be labelled ‘organic’ in the product name, according to Soil Association guidelines, 95% of its ingredients must be certified organic – grown without chemicals or harmful pesticides.” Thanks to improved formulas, contemporary organics really deliver. Over the page, you’ll find our ultimate organics edit, the products that truly work. They’re too good to miss

Your organic beauty shopping list

The ultimate in certified-organic skincare heroes that perfectly fuse science with nature

The cleanser: Evolve Gentle Cleansing Melt

An acorn-sized amount of this gel dissolves grime in record time while vitamin A and baobab extract soothe any irritated, inflamed patches.


The body lotion: LA-EVA Roseum Lotion

Due to the large area that body lotion is applied to, it’s worth spending money on a natural formula. This one softens dry limbs with a lingering scent of citrus.


The face mask: Antipodes Aura Manuka Honey Mask

This Kiwi brand has built up a global following. The mask’s carrot seed, avocado oil and manuka honey soothe inflamed skin and decongest pores.


The face cream: Weleda Skin Food

Victoria Beckham swears by it and one cream is sold every 30 seconds. Chamomile, calendula and rosemary extract nourish and hydrate skin. A superb make-up primer, too.


The conditioner: John Masters Organics Citrus & Neroli Detangler

This cream conditions as it detangles. Essential oils and soy proteins soften even coarse hair for mirror-like shine.


The shampoo: Odylique Gentle Herb Shampoo

The first shampoo to be Soil Association-approved, this formula is packed with organic and herbal ingredients to clean and nourish the scalp.


The hand soap: L:A Bruket Hand & Body Wash

Carrying the international organic certification, NaTrue, this Swedish brand’s handwash is non-sticky, with the scent of freshly cut flowers.


The exfoliator: Eminence Stone Crop Oxygenating Fizzofoliant

Organic, biodynamic and cruelty-free – with micro-greens, rice flour and adzuki powder.


Main Image: Savs/Unsplash


Share this article


Joanna McGarry

Recommended by Joanna McGarry

  • Speak Up

    The 10 cruelty-free beauty products every vegan needs in her make-up bag

    Celebrity make-up artist Justine Jenkins swears by these vegan beauty brands

    Posted by
    Kayleigh Dray
  • Beauty

    All the natural, organic and vegan bath products you need to switch to

    The perfect way to warm yourself up.

    Posted by
    Georgia Drew
  • Beauty

    11 of the best vegan and cruelty-free lipsticks

    Long-lasting and ethical options for your make-up bag.

    Posted by
    Hanna Ibraheem
  • Beauty

    This natural alternative to retinol is the new wonder ingredient to use for all skin types

    Our cheat sheet has everything you need to know about the much gentler retinol alternative

    Posted by
    Amber Ascroft
  • Beauty

    Borage seed oil: why this new wonder oil could be your dry skin saviour

    Move over Argan and coconut, borage oil is set to become nature's 'It' ingredient for 2019

    Posted by
    Amber Ascroft
  • Beauty

    The benefits of adding mandelic acid to your skincare routine

    Meet your new favourite acid

    Posted by
    Perdita Nouril

Other people read

More from Beauty

More from Joanna McGarry