After years of eating junk food (a Filet-O-Fish may just be my biggest weakness), recently I've been obsessed with going GMO-free and organic for all my meals.
As a result, I've been avoiding those abnormally oversized strawberries at the market, and instead making a beeline for the locally grown, organic variety despite the fact that they aren't as sweet, don't look as plump, and, yes, kind of break the bank.
Certified organic bell peppers at my local farmer's market.
With so many like me fixated on organic products in recent years, the terminology and view has naturally shifted over to beauty products as well. People email me all the time, asking if the products I curate are organic, natural and chemical-free.
Unfortunately, it's not so clear-cut with skincare ingredients as it is usually with produce, which is why I don't go head-over-heels over a product just because it claims to be organic. Here are a few reasons why you shouldn't either, at least for now:
- The words "organic" and "natural" are not regulated by the FDA—the terms are only regulated by USDA when it applies to agriculture processes and not specific to cosmetics. Many times, these words are loosely used for beauty products for marketing purposes and slapped on product labels even though it's not true. Although there are global organizations out there like Ecocert and Soil Association that can give cosmetics an official seal to certify it is organic, because it is ultimately a private business and not regulated by the government it's hard to put full faith in those seals.
- "Chemical-free" is a phrase that has gained traction because it definitely sounds warm and fuzzy on paper, but, logically, makes zero sense when you're talking about beauty products. Why? Not all chemicals are bad for you! In fact, your entire body is made out of chemicals and you even produce chemicals like hyaluronic acid naturally.
- Watch out for products with absolutes, like "100% organic." If it were, it would not keep well. Think about a bowl of natural, organic peaches. In about a month (without preservatives), it'll be a pile of organic, natural peach mold. How about a bite of that microbial contamination?
- There are ingredients that are 100% man-made, and it can also be safe and effective. For example, that hyaluronic acid—my all-time favorite ingredient for dehydrated skin—can be re-created and mimicked to our hearts' content.
- And, of course, there are ingredients that are derived from plants that are not good for your skin and are actually extremely toxic (an easy one: poison ivy!).
I was inspired to write this post not only because of my organic food obsession, but because I am constantly floored by how attentive and cautious the general Korean population can be when it comes skincare. (e.g., On my last trip out to Seoul, a man in his late 50s I was sharing an elevator with very randomly schooled me on the benefits of exfoliation). You can't get anything past these skincare fanatics, and I believe their pickiness has lent itself to loads of high quality products (that actually work) and innovation in the beauty space that you now see lined on your own shelfies.
That being said, I encourage you to read up on ingredients and make informed decisions that fit your goals and views rather than blindly just trusting something on a label. Trust me: Beauty companies will take note when you become the baddest, savviest beauty consumer ever and that alone is empowering.