Going green with your beauty routine isn’t always easy. With a plethora of different buzzwords, labels and industry terminology, it’s often hard to understand what’s really in the skin care products you’re about to purchase and whether they’re actually as green as they seem.

Natural, organic and certified organic are the most common marketing words used to describe products that contain ingredients sourced from nature, but they can still be a little misleading.  

Here’s a little know-how to help you spot the difference between organic, certified organic, and natural skin care products.

Natural Skin Care

A ‘natural’ ingredient is considered to be anything that’s a plant, mineral or animal by-product. However, because natural products - or those claiming to be natural - aren’t regulated by any governing body, brands can use the word natural on their packaging purely as a marketing ploy. This means a product that contains a handful of natural skin care ingredients can claim it’s natural, despite the addition of synthetic ingredients. 

The fail-safe way of checking this is to turn the bottle around or upside-down and read the ingredients list. Ingredients are listed in order of percentage from highest to lowest, so if you’re trying to limit synthetic ingredients, make sure they’re always listed towards the bottom. However, don’t let the scientific names of natural skin care ingredients fool you into thinking they’re actually synthetic. Ingredients like benzyl alcohol - a natural preservative - often sound synthetic, but this particular one is actually produced naturally in a number of plants. A little research will clear up any queries, though.

Organic Skin Care

The term ‘organic’ refers to how an ingredient was farmed - it must be prepared and grown without pesticides, chemical fertilisers, growth hormones or antibiotics. The use of the word organic on beauty products is highly regulated and although there is no single accrediting body that owns the certified organic rule implementation around the world, in Australia brands must comply with the rules set by the Australian Certified Organic association (ACO). 

However, it’s worth noting that just because a product uses the term organic on its packaging, it doesn’t mean it’s 100 per cent organic. The ACO states a product must contain between 70-95 per cent organic ingredients to wear the claim, and for products that contain organic ingredients that make up less than the required percentage range, the word organic is allowed to be used in front of the applicable ingredients in the ingredients list only. Look out for the ACO green bud logo to know you’re using a product that’s actually made up of a majority of organic ingredients. 

Certified Organic Skin Care

For a product to claim it’s ‘certified organic’, it must meet a number of strict specifications that go beyond the ‘organic’ requirements. The ingredients must still be grown and prepared under the same rigid conditions, but the concentration percentage of organic ingredients must be higher. The ACO states a product with 95-99 per cent organic content can claim it’s ‘certified organic’ and use its bud logo on its packaging, while one with 100 per cent certified organic ingredients can state it’s ‘100 per cent certified organic’ as well as use the bud logo. If you ever find yourself in doubt, just look for the logo and if it’s there, you know you’re good to go.