Clean Beauty: What’s the difference between natural, vegan and certified organic beauty?

Clean Beauty: What’s the difference between natural, vegan and certified organic beauty?

Clean Beauty: What’s the difference between natural, vegan and certified organic beauty?

So, what started as a clean beauty ‘movement’ is now a fully-fledged, established section of the beauty industry. More and more people have started moving away from traditional hair care, skincare and makeup to clean or ethical beauty. We’ve even got a whole dedicated Ethical Beauty section now.

Whether you’ve made the switch to clean beauty or not, you’ve probably noticed four terms that consistently pop up: natural, vegan, cruelty free and organic. As a starting point, it’s important to understand that they all mean different things. A natural beauty product isn’t always vegan or organic, and just because it’s ‘natural’ it doesn’t mean it’s free from toxic ingredients either.

There are no strict rules and regulations when it comes to labelling beauty products in Australia (or most other places in the world) so some brands can make claims that aren’t always accurate. Your best bet is to look at the ingredients list to see for yourself whether it contains anything that goes against your clean beauty goals.

Yes, there's a lot to think about when it comes to clean beauty but don't let it overwhelm you. Pick what is most important to you on this clean beauty journey and start there.

To help with this - and also to introduce the newbies to what clean beauty is all about - we thought we’d put together a starter guide on what you’ll start seeing in this part of the beauty world.

Let’s break it down.

Natural

‘Natural’ is possibly the most common term you’ll hear when it comes to ethical or clean beauty, and in our opinion it’s overused. Just because a product calls itself natural, doesn’t mean that it contains all natural ingredients. A beauty product can be described as natural even if it has just 1% of naturally sourced, plant-based or mineral ingredients - think mineral oil, leaf extract or herbs.

Each brand will differ when it comes to natural ingredients, and at the end of the day, it’s about looking into the brand and trusting their philosophy. To you, this might mean clean beauty products made without parabens, sulfates, or synthetic fragrances.

To check on whether a natural beauty products aligns with what you’re looking for, we’d recommend looking at the ingredients list. Like food, the ingredients that appear at the top of the list appear in higher percentages in the formula. So you want to look for beauty products that have the botanicals near the top and anything synthetic ingredients near the bottom.

Note: It should also be said that just because something is ‘synthetic’ doesn’t mean that it is automatically bad for you. A good example of this are added peptides in skincare products or hair care.

Our favourite Natural beauty picks
  • Salt By Hendrix Mermaid Facial Oil
  • Not Your Mother’s Matcha Green Tea and Wild Apple Blossom Natural Nutrient Rich Butter Masque
  • Black Chicken Remedies Love Your Face Serum
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    Vegan

    While natural is the most common term you’ll hear in the clean beauty world, vegan might just be the one that consumers are actively asking for the most - at least that’s what we’ve seen with our customers.

    This label means that the beauty product is completely free of any animal-derived products - so think ingredients like glycerin, collagen, lanolin and beeswax. Even keratin, a protein we absolutely love for repairing hair and restoring strength to our hair, is derived from animal skin and bones.

    Many brands who choose not to go down the animal-derived path are instead going with plant based products - like vegetable proteins, butters and oils. So look out for products that have ingredients such as wheat and rice proteins, algaes, shea butter, moringa oil and argan oil, which are all just as restorative and nourishing as their non-vegan counterparts.

    It should also be noted that the label ‘vegan’ doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t toxic ingredients in the product, nor does it mean that botanical replacements are automatically used in place of the animal by-products. 

    If it’s important to you, we’d recommend looking for PETA, The Vegan Society and/or the Leaping Bunny logos to ensure that the beauty product you’re buying is absolutely vegan.

    Our favourite Vegan beauty picks
  • Alya Skin Australian Pink Clay Mask
  • Eye of Horus Bio Lash Lift Mascara (98% of ingredients are also from natural origins)
  • Davroe Moisture Senses Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Nak Ultimate Treatment
  • ModelCo Instant Tan Self-Tan Lotion - Dark
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    Cruelty-Free

    A popular subcategory of ‘vegan’ is ‘cruelty-free’. This means that the product is not tested on animals. Unfortunately, the beauty industry has been notorious for animal testing, but we are starting to see massive shifts towards ending this practice overall.

    Similar to the vegan label, we’d be looking for the Leaping Bunny logo to guarantee that your new clean beauty product hasn’t been tested on animals. Otherwise Choose Cruelty Free - an independent non-profit Australian organisation - has a handy list of accredited cruelty-free companies, which also identifies vegan, vegetarian and Certified Palm Oil Free products.

    Our favourite Cruelty-Free beauty picks
  • Pixi Glow Tonic
  • Black Chicken Remedies Axilla Natural Deodorant Paste (Note: this product also contains mostly certified organic ingredients, all natural ingredients and is palm oil free)
  • MCoBeauty XtendLash Mascara
  • Evo Icon Welder Heat Protection Spray (Note: also vegan)
  • Bite Beauty MultiStick
  • Paul Mitchell Shampoo One (Note: also vegan)
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    Certified Organic

    Another big one of the clean beauty world is the ‘certified organic’ label. The term ‘organic’ by itself isn’t regulated under Australian law. This means anyone making a beauty product can claim it is organic as long as they include some organic ingredients - similar to what we were talking about earlier about the term ‘natural’.

    So definitely look for ‘Certified Organic’ labels if your ultimate goal is to move completely into a truly organic routine. This means the ingredients are grown without GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms), synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. It’s important to keep in mind that like food, every country has different regulations for organic certification. So a product that is created and certified overseas might not be certified under our rules here in Australia.

    Look for a Certified Organic symbol on the packaging to ensure that the product is truly free from those ingredients. An official logo also means that they are registered under a program that is approved by the Australian government, and are subject to random audits and tests on their products to make sure that it remains certified organic.

    That being said, there are a lot of products that feature mostly organic ingredients in their lineup apart from the few that aren’t certified but are still mostly naturally derived. This can still work well for those with sensitive skin who are looking to reduce any skin irritation that can come from non-organic ingredients.

    Our favourite Certified Organic beauty picks
  • Lashfood Phyto-Medic Eyelash Enhancer
  • Wotnot Sensitive Facial Wipes
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    Making the switch to clean beauty?

    So now you know about clean beauty and some of the common terms that might pop up. No one product will be the right fit for everyone, so it’s about picking what is important to you when it comes to being more ethical in your shopping. You’ll start seeing the long term effects of choosing clean beauty brands in no time!

    If you need any more help or want to know more about a product we’ve mentioned or have on the website, just send our friendly customer service team a message.

    Shop Oz Hair & Beauty’s range of natural, vegan and certified organic products in the Ethical Beauty section with Afterpay today.