Organic’ and ‘natural’ are the new buzzwords of the 21st century. From food to cosmetics to skincare, it’s the trend everywhere. The minute  products are labelled as such, they are generally perceived to be relatively safe with results guaranteed. But hold on, don’t reach for the product. Know your skin type, the ingredients that you may be allergic to, and read up more on the latest findings before you take home an expensive, natural or organic product that may not suit you at all. Mumbai-based dermatologist and beauty expert, Dr Jaishree Sharad helps us understand the basics before you make up your mind.

What Is Organic? Organic beauty products are made of plant-based ingredients that are grown without the use of fertilisers and pesticides. Instead, organic farmers develop a healthy fertile soil by growing and rotating a mix of crops (to replace nutrients taken from the soil by previous crops), adding organic materials such as compost or manure to the soil.

Organic products don’t have ingredients that are genetically modified. They are free of petrochemicals, not tested on animals. They are subjected  to minimal processing so that the raw materials do not lose their natural properties after extraction and processing.

What to look out for: Guidelines by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) lists the following:

“100 percent organic”: Excluding salt and water + the product must contain ingredients that have been only organically produced.
“Organic”: Excluding salt and water + the product must contain at least 95 per cent of organically produced ingredients.
“Made with organic ingredients”: Excluding salt and water + the product must contain at least 70 per cent organically produced ingredients.

What Is Natural: There are no legal regulations or guidelines for natural products. The products are made of anything that grows naturally or is  found in nature such as a plants and minerals. Natural products are not produced in a laboratory.

They are free of common chemicals such as artificial fragrances, preservatives, colourants and other synthetic additives. But this does not necessarily mean that they have organic ingredients.

For  example, green tea  extract is natural but the green tea leaves may have been sprayed with insecticides which makes it natural but not organic. Natural products may not always be safe.

For  example, you can’t preserve apple pulp in a jar and use it on your skin for days, because a million microbes will grow over the pulp. A certain  level and type of preservative may be required to protect such ‘natural’ ingredients from becoming rancid.

What to look out for: A quality natural product should not include ingredients such as parabens, petrochemicals, sodium lauryl and laureth  sulfates, phthalates, synthetic colours and synthetic dyes.

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