Natural, Organic, and Synthetic-Free: Your Ultimate Guide to Cosmetics and Skincare Categories

Natural, Organic, and Synthetic-Free: Your Ultimate Guide to Cosmetics and Skincare Categories

Did you know that our skin has a 60% absorption rate for anything and everything we apply on it? This is why we should make wise decisions when it comes to choosing the right products to include in our skincare regimen – and we definitely should be more discriminating with makeup items that fill up our vanities!  

But you don’t have to enroll in a cosmetic program or skincare institute just to be an expert on products that you should slab on your face (or lather on your body, for that matter).   

There are three basic rules to help you determine whether the ingredients within cosmetics, skincare items, and beauty products deserve your yay or nay:  

  • A specific ingredient’s amount will determine its rank on the list from highest to lowest percentage 
  • Choose a product that includes the natural percentage of the ingredient 
  • Choose a product with no synthetic ingredients (and if there are any, it should be at the bottom of the list) 

We’ve compiled the ultimate guide to terms and labels found in your most favorite cosmetics and skincare products to help you figure out whether you should stick with it or find yourself another brand to love.  



This is not a strictly patented term so any cosmetics manufacturer or skincare producer can abuse the term or use it to mislead consumers into buying the product and to increase profits.  

The most common natural ingredient you can find in cosmetics, skincare items, and beauty products is water which can be listed in its scientific name (H2O) or Latin equivalent (aqua).  

Things to watch out for when you come across the term NATURAL in a product: 

  • There are naturally occurring ingredients that may be listed using its common name or it may go by its scientific name or Latin equivalent – look it up so you won’t dismiss it quickly as synthetic  
  • Some cosmetics manufacturers and skincare producers use the term natural for ingredients containing even at least 1% of its natural state 
  • Products can have naturally derived ingredients but may have undergone toxic processing  
  • Products may be in its purest and most natural state but it will still require some level of preservative (usually synthetic) in order to have longer shelf life – the shorter the shelf life, the better.  
  • Natural products must not contain parabens, fragrances, dyes and colors, chemicals and GM ingredients  



Cosmetics, skincare items, and beauty products bearing the certified organic tag refers to those with ingredients harvested from farms that do not use fertilizers, pesticides, or any harmful chemicals.  

There are ingredients belonging under the ‘natural’ category such as salt, clay, herbs, and wild botanicals but unless they have been harvested from certified organic lands or forests, it would be misleading to call the product 100% organic.  

Organic products are highly dependent on the regulations set by different certifying agencies from different countriesBoth France-based ECOCERT and the Scottish certifying agency Soil Association agree that at least 95% of raw materials must be plant-based in order to earn the organic labelAn organic guarantee seal from Austria Bio Garantie, however, can only be given to products which have been proven to be 100% organically farmed  

The USDA has different labelling categories for organic products: 

  • 100 percent organic: All ingredients (with the exception of water and salt) must be organically produced; allowed to use the USDA Organic Seal on the product 
  • Organic: At least 95% of ingredients have been produced in an organic manner; allowed to use the USDA Organic Seal on the product 
  • Made with more than 70% organic ingredients: At least 70% of ingredients have been produced in an organic manner; cannot use the USDA Organic Seal anywhere on the product 
  • Made with less than 70% organic ingredients: Cannot use the USDA Organic Seal anywhere on the product 


Plant-Based or Synthetic-Free  

This refers to cosmetics, skincare items, and beauty products which only have 100% naturally occurring ingredients and absolutely free from any man-made formulas.   


Vegan and Cruelty-Free 

This refers to cosmetics, skincare items, and beauty products with ingredients that are manufactured without harming any animals (or testing it on animals) in the process. However, just because it does not contain animal products or byproducts doesn’t mean it isn’t laden with synthetic chemicals. Your best bet is when it comes with the Vegan Society Logo and the Leaping Bunny Logo. 


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