ByLiz Greene

Jul 13, 2017

If you’ve ever considered making the switch to natural or organic beauty products, you’ve no doubt experienced a bit of confusion as to what these terms truly mean. Though “eco-friendly” cosmetics have been increasing in popularity over the past few years, the jargon surrounding them can be misleading. Despite their differences, natural and organic are frequently used interchangeably — and ambiguous packaging often fools consumers into buying something that wasn’t what they’d hoped for.

As with many things, being an informed consumer is key when buying cosmetics. Let’s take a closer look at the terminology surrounding the multiple “all-natural makeup brands” flooding the market.

Natural, Organic & Everything In Between

For cosmetics to be considered “natural,” their ingredients must be sourced from nature rather than created synthetically. Unfortunately, the term natural isn’t currently regulated by either the USDA or FDA. As such, products with low concentrations of natural ingredients can still be advertised as being “natural.” When buying products with this label, you’ll want to study the ingredient list. Since ingredients are listed from highest percentage to lowest, set your sights on products that have synthetic ingredients at the bottom of the list (if they’re included at all).

Organic cosmetics are another beast entirely. To advertise as organic, companies must first have their products certified by the USDA. Products featuring a USDA Organic Seal denote an organic content of 95 percent or higher. Products containing 70 percent or greater organic composition can be labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients.”

It’s important to be aware that cosmetics made with “organic” ingredients aren’t necessarily any safer for consumers than those made with ingredients from other sources. There are many naturally occurring substances that are toxic and synthetic substances that can save lives. As it currently stands, every single ingredient in all cosmetic products is subject to the same safety requirements under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).

During your hunt for consumer-friendly cosmetics, you may also encounter the terms cruelty-free or vegan. Though these are not synonymous with “natural” or “organic,” there can definitely be some overlap. Cruelty-free cosmetics are those that have not been tested on animals. “Vegan” cosmetics are free of animal products and byproducts. Though all vegan cosmetics are cruelty-free, not all cruelty-free cosmetics are vegan. It is possible for both vegan and cruelty-free products to be composed of synthetic ingredients, and therefore not be considered “natural.”

All-Natural Makeup Brands to Try Out

Now that we have that all ironed out, let’s look at a few all-natural makeup brands that fit into the aforementioned categories. I’ll attach their appropriate labels and include a little blurb from their site so you can get to know them better!

(N) = Natural or Synthetic-Free
(O) = Organic
(V) = Vegan
(CF) = Cruelty-Free
(E) = Eco-Friendly

  • 100% Pure (N)(CF)(E)
    “Completely free of all harmful toxins, 100% PURE is a healthy and pure line of nourishing personal care items made only with the highest quality ingredients. Natural and 100% cruelty-free, 100% free of artificial colors, artificial fragrances, synthetic chemical preservatives and all other toxins.”

  • Afterglow Cosmetics (N)(O)(CF)(E)
    “Not only do we avoid commonly used irritating synthetic and natural ingredients, we love to have intelligent, open dialogue about your natural beauty and lifestyle goals.”

  • Alima Pure (N)(CF)(E)
    “Minimal ingredients for maximum impact. All our products are formulated with this in mind. We use only the highest quality, purest ingredients, never synthetic dyes. Without compromise, our products are never tested on animals.”

  • Au Naturale (N)(O)(V)(CF)(E)
    “Au Naturale cosmetics is both a brand and a cause, the line serving as physical evidence to the consumer that cleaner beauty is possible.”

  • Elate Cosmetics (N)(O)(V)(CF)(E)
    “At Elate Cosmetics, our mission is to care for each other, our communities, and our world. Through healthy ingredients, sustainable practices, and wellness-minded goals, we strive to build confidence through kindness, and allow you to create your own standard of beauty.”

  • Gabriel Cosmetics (N)(O)(V)(CF)(E)
    “Gabriel Cosmetics Inc. started with a vision of natural beauty and has evolved with the philosophy of sustainable individual natural beauty while continuing to advocate healthy living.”

  • Herbivore Botanicals (N)(O)(V)(CF)(E)
    “Created with natural ingredients, plant-based food-grade cold-pressed oils, steam-distilled therapeutic-grade essential oils, GMO-free soy wax, recyclable and reusable packaging, many certified organic ingredients.”

  • ILIA Beauty (N)(O)(V)(CF)(E)
    “ILIA was founded on the ideology of simplicity and transparency. We strive to provide the highest quality of ingredients, which can vary in their origin due to availability. The ingredients are sourced from organic farmers around the world and manufactured in an organic certified lab.”

  • RMS Beauty (N)(O)(CF)(E)
    “Our concern for health and beauty extends far beyond us, to the very planet that supplied us with these healing ingredients. Packaging for RMS Beauty products is minimal, and all of it is biodegradable, recyclable or reusable.”

  • Vapour Organic Beauty (N)(O)(CF)(E)
    “Vapour’s bold approach to crafting high-performance cosmetics includes only the purest active ingredients from the earth — and nothing else. With the highest purity standards and an unwavering commitment to both sustainability and luxury, Vapour has reinvented organic beauty.”

The skyrocketing popularity of natural and organic cosmetics is yet another sign that consumers are changing the way they think. Sustainability is paramount, with millennials more than any other generation preferring to engage with socially responsible companies. As an informed consumer, it’s important to not take advertising claims at face value when shopping for natural and organic beauty products. Research the safety of cosmetics ingredients (look for peer-reviewed studies) and the companies you do business with. If you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, reach out to the brand and ask!

By Liz Greene

Liz Greene is an animal-loving, makeup-obsessing pop culture geek from the beautiful City of Trees, Boise, Idaho. You can catch her latest makeup misadventures on her blog, Three Broke Bunnies.