Our reader Eileen asked:

Many products tout themselves to be “natural” or “botanical”. Is there a difference between a natural product and an organic product? How do I tell if a product is really “natural” or “organic”?

What’s the difference between botanical products and organic products?

Natural or botanical products are made from plants and minerals that are not synthetically-created. Organic products are also made from natural ingredients, which are grown without the use of chemicals or pesticides.

The main distinction between natural and organic beauty products is that organic ingredients must pass more rigorous standards of purity. For an ingredient to be considered organic, it must have been derived without the use of synthetic pesticides, petroleum fertilizers or sewage sludge fertilizers, and it must not be genetically-modified (GMO). Some natural ingredients such as soy have a “bad” name in the organic field as most of them are now genetically-modified.

Certified organic products must also not be tested on animals. Organic products place emphasis on ingredients sourced ethically, taking into consideration the protection and enhancement of biodiversity and environmental aspects of organic farming.

How do we know if a product is natural or organic?

An easy way to tell is if you see names of plants from nature that you recognise in the ingredient list. Many product brands in the market claim to be all natural, yet contain synthetic or man-made ingredients. Keep an eye out for parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), Sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), phthalates, propylene glycol, potassium sorbate, sodium benzoate, phthalates, coloring, fragrances/parfum, mineral oils, preservatives and words that contain “Petro”. Do your research on the origin of certain ingredient names that are complex and not easily understood.

There are brands that claim to be organic when in actual fact, only one or two of their ingredients are organic, which might only make up about 1-2% of the entire formulation. To know if a product is truly organic, look out for organic certification such as Australian Certified Organic Standards (ACO) and USDA Certified Organic. Under these authorities, all products undergo a rigorous certification process to ensure products are only made with 100% naturally-derived ingredients.

Are organic products better?

We expose our skin to various chemicals and preservatives on a daily basis. A certified organic product contain zero chemical. Much of what we place on our skin is absorbed into our bloodstream. Products such as lotion when applied, soaks into your skin all day. It would, therefore, be a better choice to use organic products to ensure no chemicals and the highest level of nourishment gets absorbed into your skin.

Winter Organics Natural and Organic Chamomile Facial Cleanser - Front

The Winter Organics Chamomile Facial Cleanser, for instance, is 100% natural, and chemical-free with 85% Certified Organic Ingredients. One more unique point about this cleanser is that it is of pH5, the acidity level that’s ideal for for all skin types, including sensitive skin and it speeds up acne healing time with its anti-inflammatory properties.

This cleanser uses natural ingredients including Seabuckthorn, which has high anti-oxidants, vitamins A,C,E, K and essential fatty acids of omega 3,6,7 and 9 to counteract the effects of premature ageing caused by sun, smoking, or a poor diet. Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juide and Chamomile Flower Extract are also in the formula, and are beneficial for sensitive and allergy-prone skin, have anti-inflammatory properties and soothe skin.

The Expert

Jessica N, founder of Winter Organics