How often do you google what Vegan beauty means? Or Organic? Natural? Clean? There is so many terms out there, and the number of brands riding on such waves are increasing exponentially. Is one better than another? Which is the most suited for you? Before we jump into a conclusion, let us dissect each term individually.
Before we start, note that there is no legal requirement or standards to meet for brands to claim a product is Vegan/ Natural/ Organic/ Clean. These are entirely marketing terms inferred via the ingredient list, after all a brand is free to market its products however way they want.
Vegan products, just like its vegan food counterpart, simply means it does not contain any animal extracts or animal by-products in the ingredients or manufacturing process. This include commonly seen ingredients such as honey, beeswax, carmine (crushed-up insects), lanolin (derived from sheep) etc. It is also important to keep in mind that depending on where the source is from, popular ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and squalene does not fall under the Vegan umbrella (unless explicitly stated derived from plant-based). The term Cruelty-free also does not automatically equate to Vegan as it just means that no animal testing was carried out in developing the product or on the final product.
Unlike Vegan where one can infer directly from the ingredient list, Organic goes beyond it and into the processes. Thus, the simplest way would be to look out for credentials and one of them is by Soil Association – who defines Organic beauty as the formulation of cosmetic products using organically farmed ingredients. Brands that are certified will have NO animal testing, NO genetically modified organisms, NO controversial chemicals, NO parabens and phthalates, NO synthetic and NO nano particles. The key point is to work with nature, not against it.
The term Natural in beauty products can be a little inconsequential. Product can claim natural even if there is just a 1% naturally derived ingredient and 99% synthetic chemicals. It would be best to consider the percentage contribution that comes with it or to scrutinise the product label (ingredients are listed from the highest to lowest contribution). Fun fact: preservatives in products are needed to prolong shelf life. If you see 100% natural products, there will be a trade-off of a much shorter shelf life.
Clean beauty gained popularity in the 2000s and is still the most talked about beauty routine to date. There is no one clear definition and we do see brands defining their own terms. Often it means staying clear of questionable ingredients that do not benefit the body and to use natural ingredients as much as possible. Most brands also expand and go beyond being just safe for human health, and to include being safe for the planet i.e. sustainability. There are a few retailers out there who curate Clean brands based on the standards that they have set, which could be a good starting point should you decide to go into a clean routine.
At the end of the day, only you will know what works best with your lifestyle. If you feel strongly about animal rights, Vegan beauty will be the way to go. If you are concern about sustainability, Organic beauty will be the one for you. If you are particular about the ingredients you apply on your skin, go Clean. Vegan ≠ Natural ≠ Organic ≠ Clean and of course products that do not claim any of these four terms does not necessarily mean it is bad or less desirable. As always, it is important to read the label and understand the reason for each ingredient’s existence.