Whats the difference between regular, natural and organic makeup?

Q: What's the difference between regular, natural and organic makeup? [rssbreak] A: Women already have enough to deal with trying to figure.

Q: What’s the difference between regular, natural and organic makeup?


A: Women already have enough to deal with trying to figure out what makeup looks natural forget tracking down brands that actually are.

Natural Lash, Natural Match, Beyond Natural… with all the nature-invoking product names on shelves, you’d think you’d died and woken up in a field of unsprayed daisies.

Alas, beauty purveyors are mostly talking about how well their products will complement your inherent beauty without making you look like an orange face-paint victim.

Fair enough, but a growing number of products made by the same companies are claiming to be natural in the “made from natural ingredients” sense. You have to look closely at ingredients listed to see the difference.

In the nearly seven years I’ve been writing this column, the labelling waters have remained nearly as murky for makeup as when I started.

Using an ingredient on Health Canada’s restricted Hotlist is still not illegal, and cosmetics chemicals still don’t have to undergo pre-market testing to prove they’re safe.

And of the 12,500 products the Suzuki Foundation just surveyed, a whopping 80 per cent contained at least one dirty-dozen ingredient tied to cancer, reproductive toxicity, endocrine disruption or fish-harming (including some with the words “natural,” “bio” or “organic” in their name).

So how do you distinguish true naturals from pseudo-ganics? First educate yourself on the sea of seals out there. You’ll spot the German-based BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics seal on quality European brands like Lavera, Sante and prized Dr. Hauschka.

BDIH does a good job of ensuring that ingredients come from natural, GMO-free plants and minerals, with no synthetic dyes or fragrances. (Essential oil fragrance blends confuse the toxicity scorers at cosmeticsdatabase.org, since BDIH lists those blends as “parfum,” usually a catchall for dodgy substances.)

No silicones or carcinogenic ethoxylated ingredients (those with “eth” in their names) are allowed, and many BDIH brands have certified organic and biodynamic ingredients.

Ecocert certifies natural and organic ingredients using similar guidelines to BDIH’s, and it’s a decent tool as long as you don’t take the seal at face value. Case in point, Organic Wear by Physicians Formula makes okay drugstore eyeshadows, but the “Ecocert certified organic” label on them is deceptive. The fine print tells you that as little as 10 per cent of Organic Wear’s loose powder is certified organic, though 100 per cent is “certified natural” (or more aptly “naturally derived,” since an ingredient from nature can still be lab-altered).

So, yes, info about organic content is annoyingly misleading, but the details are at least there when you look, and the standard is solid otherwise.

Still more cosmetic brands are Natural Products Association-certified (like Gabriel/Zuzu, PeaceKeeper Cause-Metics, Hemp Organics, Burt’s Bees, Ecco Bella, Suncoat, even Bonne Bell). NPA does a looser check and doesn’t call for, say, sustainable manufacturing as the first two standards do. Plus, only 60 per cent of a brand’s line needs to qualify, so never assume that a specific product passes without checking.

You should always scan ingredient lists, since something might slip into certain certified, uncertified and quasi-certified brands when you’re not looking. Of the non-certified naturals, I love 100% Pure out of the U.S. the most. Canadian-made Pure Anada and U.S.-made Honeybee Gardens are more affordable and still very natural. I’m also diggin’ Ontario-made LUVU Beauty’s mineral products, and conscious makeup pros love Jane Iredale and Nvey.

For top organic purity, look for the USDA Organic seal (which signifies 95 per cent organic content or more). Zuii Organic makes excellent USDA-certified eyeshadow, foundation, mascara, lipstick and blush.

But don’t just coast on your natural makeup purchases. Send a clear message to the feds about the need for tougher cosmetics regs by signing a petition at environmentaldefence.ca or davidsuzuki.org).

Send your green queries to ecoholic@nowtoronto.com

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