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By Gabriela, 24 october 2022

Organic, vegan, clean: what do these terms mean and what are the differences?

Green & natural?
Nowadays, the choice for an organic, vegan or clean product is not a problem. You no longer have to go to a specific “green” shop to purchase your responsible beauty products. You can also assume that the quality and effectiveness of these products can compete with other brands on the market. Still, now that 'green' products are hotter than ever, it's important to take a critical look at your beauty products. Some of these products that appear to be good for the planet are not. For example, did you know that the term "natural" is not regulated? Any cosmetic brand can put this word on the label, even if the product is loaded with synthetic ingredients. Only 1% of ingredients from natural origin is needed to put this term on the packaging. Are you surprised of the tricks of the cosmetics industry? Fortunately, there are regulated terms such as 'organic'. Certain quality marks can help you make a responsible choice. We are happy to explain to you a few commonly used terms that you may encounter on BioPlaneet.

Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. This term is regulated and legally protected in the Netherlands. You cannot just put this quality mark on a package. The organic claim must match the ingredients in the product. If the European Organic quality mark is on a product, it is guaranteed to be organic. This term must not be used without an official control organization confirming that the European requirements have been met. Compliance with these rules is strictly controlled. Please note that ingredients such as water, sea salt, clay and minerals are never organic. So, for example, if water has been added to a product, it can never be 100% of organic origin.

Clean beauty
Clean beauty refers to products that are free of 'toxic' and synthetic, man-made ingredients. It is not a legally protected term. Each brand can determine for itself which active ingredients fall under the term clean. The ingredients are usually plant-based and friendly to people, animals and the environment, but they are not always guaranteed organic. The main USP of clean beauty is that the products do not contain ingredients that are considered 'bad' or that can irritate the skin. Examples include sulphates, silicones, phthalates, parabens, pesticides, petroleum derivatives, artificial dyes and synthetic fragrances. Within the European Union, an INCI list on the packaging must include all possible allergens that may cause sensitivity (in concentrations above 0.01%). These ingredients are often shown in italics at the end of the list.

Sustainability is the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. Translated into cosmetics, this means that sustainable products use as few materials and energy as possible and do not cause any damage to people, animals and nature. The generations after us should not suffer from it.

Cruelty free
Have you ever noticed that symbol with a bunny on a package? That is a Leaping Bunny certification and this means that none of the ingredients of the product have been tested on animals. For example, all products from Suki have this quality mark. Since 2013, all animal testing has been banned in Europe for cosmetics that are produced and sold here. Products free from animal testing does not automatically mean that the product does not contain ingredients of animal origin. China, on the other hand, has different rules than Europe. This country requires that brands sold there in the retail must be tested on animals. This does not apply to products offered online. Some brands choose to boycott China because of this, but there are also brands that are free from animal testing in Europe, while their products are tested on animals in China. In the meantime, things have changed in China regarding to animal testing, so keep an eye out for news about this.

A product labelled vegan does not contain any animal products or by-products of animal origin. The term vegan is separate from organic, sustainable or clean. Not because the product is labelled vegan you should assume that the product is good. A vegan beauty product can simply contain synthetic active ingredients or chemical ingredients. So, it's important to read the ingredients list when a product is labelled as vegan! The most famous cosmetics quality mark was founded by the English Vegan Society. It certifies that products do not contain animal extracts or animal by-products in the ingredients or the production process. The advantage of this quality mark is that it also immediately guarantees that the product has not been tested on animals. Some common cosmetic ingredients that may be derived from animal sources include glycerine, collagen, hyaluronic acid, and retinol. The Vegan Society also recommends avoiding these ingredients: beeswax, honey, mother-of-pearl, silk, snail gel, milk protein, cochineal (E120, louse which provides red dye) and lanolin (wool fat).

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