Monday, 8 February 2016

The campaign for clarity: navigating the organic beauty market

This year for Organic September the Soil Association, the UK's leading organic certification body launched it's campaign for clarity, in a bid to educate consumers around some of the confusing issues in the organic personal care market and promote genuinely organic products.

They are continuing this campaign in to the new year, and in my opinion rightly so, as there is a lot of information for consumers to process but also a lot of gorgeous brands to explore that are certified and deserve to be highlighted. There isn't currently a legal organic standard that brands have to abide by, so when shopping for organic you will find a big variation of what "organic" means on the shelves. Several brands including market leaders in cosmetics such as Boots have been urged to reword advertising or in some cases rebrand a range entirely due to it being misleading for the consumer, see for example the ASA Ruling on the Boots "Little me organics" range which used organic in the title yet had less than 5% organic content in the actual bottle. As consumers become more savvy and the organic market expands there is a need to keep reiterating the true meaning of organic.

A few years ago I was approached by a brand marketing luxury organic face creams, at first the products sounded lovely but when I asked the company for more information including a full ingredients list and details of their organic certification I was surprised to find they included silicones, PEG's and mineral oil as well as a small percentage of certified organic rosehip oil. Had I not investigated further I may well of parted with my hard earned cash and the brand in question have since dropped the "organic" from the marketing. I tell this story because it shows that even as a well informed consumer brand marketing can be very persuasive, had I not had a really good idea of what is and isn't allowed in a certified organic product I would have assumed that the whole product, not just one ingredient was certified.

So whilst things can certainly be confusing some simple tips can make organic beauty shopping easier:

Not all organic certifications are created equal, although there is a move towards greater harmony in the industry with the COSMOS standard which is a positive. For more information, see my comprehensive guide to Organic Certifications for a guide as to what each symbol means.

Look for an organic percentage - many brands that are serious about their organic status will be completely transparent as to how much of that product is produced organically as not all ingredients can be classed as organic. I generally like to see upwards of 70% organic content but this will depend on the type of product.

Organic doesn't always mean more expensive, whilst there are organic brands that are more premium in their prices, this doesn't always have to be the case. Often organic brands produce products that are extremely concentrated in their actives meaning that you can use less. When comparing prices, always do so ml per ml.

There are some true beauty gems to be explored. Whereas once organic was considered to be crunchy and inferior, these days there are some absolutely beautiful brands to explore that are loved by mainstream beauty editors and publications such as vogue. Organic is now becoming mainstream and it is a joy to see.

Look for an organic certification symbol, the Soil Association symbol as pictured above is one of the more stringent, they also happen to certify some of my favourite brands which are illustrated above.

Some organic brands to explore that have products certified by the Soil Association are:

Nourish Skincare A beautiful range covering skincare and bodycare that won't break the bank. Created by Dr Pauline Hili, I always go back to Nourish products for their value for money and effectiveness.

Herbfarmacy One of my all time favourite ranges and one of my first organic beauty discoveries, made with herbs grown on their very own farm in the Herefordshire hills this is a brand that embodies for me what organic should be.

Spiezia Organics A beautiful handmade range from Cornwall which not only creates stunning organic products but also supports people with Cancer on their journey through their charity Made for Life.

Pai Skincare Easily my most repurchased and most recommended range for sensitive skin, Pai's thoughtful formulations and high quality make them stand out from the crowd and have ensured themselves a permanent place in my beauty cabinet.

Pinks Boutique A stunning range that is also used in Spa's around the country, if you are in need of a treatment with the best organic products I suggest you take a look at their website to find a location near you. Their hand balm is one of my all time favourite products!

Skin and Tonic London Are the cool new arrival on the organic block, this brand worked fast to get their certification and have been unstoppable ever since. If you love a less is more philosophy with the best ingredients their products will be for you.

Therapi honey skincare The founder of Therapi Tanya Hawkes is passionate about bees, the range is founded around the healing abilities of bee based ingredients such as beeswax and propoplis and the Ultra Radiance cream is an absolute saviour for anyone with very dry skin.

Botanicals skincare One of the organic pioneers, founded by Wendy Stirling this range is full of hidden gems to explore. A high quality line that outperforms it's price point the entire range is certified and suitable for vegans.

Pukka Herbs Are a brand that bring you a wide range of teas and wellness supplements to enhance wellbeing, they also make a very budget friendly rosewater that I used for years and loved.

Balm Balm If you are looking for affordable and organic, look no further than balm balm. They have products to cater for the whole family including a fantastic baby balm, a really fantastic range.

Neals Yard Remedies Has been the one of the brands to bring organic to the mainstream, with the companies growth it now has it's own stores around the country as well as a strong presence in retailers such as Waitrose. With a huge selection for all the family it is a great starting point.

Odylique by Essential care This family owned business is another pioneer of organics and have over the years developed a substantial collection of high quality products to choose from. Especially worth a mention is the fact that they are one of the few brands to also have a certified organic and fair trade make up collection that is well worth diving in to.

Lulu and boo Organics A gorgeous selection of skincare, bath and body and baby care with lot's of products certified organic and approved by the vegan society. I have been consistently impressed with every product I have tried, it is a beautiful range to explore.

Nom nom Skincare Because pregnancy is a special time in a woman's life only the gentlest skincare products should be used on mum and baby. Enter Nom Nom skincare a gorgeous range formulated to be safe for pregnancy and babies that I just adore. This range has awards to back up it's effectiveness and is beautifully styled.

Green People Have a really extensive range of products, well worth exploring. They were one of the first ranges to have products certified by the Soil association and they now use a variety of certifications including Ecocert and Vegan Society.

There are of course many more and I will be exploring some new to me products and brands over the next couple of weeks and letting you know my thoughts! For more information about the campaign for clarity and to find a full list of certified brands/products take a look at the Soil Associations website.

Do you shop organic beauty? Which brands do you love?

Ana x



  1. Great post, this has helped me one step further to help clarify my way to changing to organic products. Thank you very much.
    I have been researching heavily into organic skincare. It hasn't been an easy ride, and I have come across some interesting information about organic and large beauty companies. Finding that the words organic and natural sometimes does not really clearly state what you think it is. especially after reading the ingredients and where it comes from or how it was made.
    I have just ordered from Green People as my first organic product to try, due to good reviews, labelling %, locality, Soil association certified and no animal testing.
    Pai and Neals Yard are on my list to experience. But your mention of Herbfarmacy sound like what I am trying to find.

    I would be really interested to hear your thoughts about choosing Origins organic skincare. I think they use renewable energy to make their products, and I think their partner company is Estee Lauder?

    1. Hi Gemini, Green People is another great choice and I brand I talk about often. As for Origins, they do not have any organic certifications and as you rightly pointed out they are under the Estee Lauder umbrella. I have never tried any of their products, my understanding is that they do use some natural ingredients and lot's of people do like their formulas but for me they are not quite natural enough and I think you can find higher percentages of actives from some of the brands listed in this post. I hope that helps :) Xx

    2. Hi Ana, great to read your reply. I think I feel the same about Origins/Estee Lauder. Which is a shame, as I got really excited reading about the way they try and reduce their packaging and use renewable energy to make their products. Which I think is a bonus towards being an organic based company. But yes your right, there are other brands that you have suggested which have great percentages, and probaly good to support. I look forward to trying them and hopefully finding one that ticks all the boxes. Thanks Ana! I look forward to reading more of your posts, glad to have found you on the Soil Association website :)

  2. Hi Ana, it was great reading your post and hearing my own thoughts in your words! Organic can be very misleading, which is why the Soil Association is great. I have my own range of organic products which launched late last year, one thing we made as a priority was to have them certified by Soil Association, as I believe it ensures their authenticity in this confusing world of organic! Thanks again, sian,


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