Organic Products, Are They Really?

June 5th, 2008

The word “organic” is widely used and can refer to almost any product on the market today. Scanning the aisles of the local supermarket, one will see everything from organic macaroni and cheese to organic toothpaste. Originally, the word referred to a specific set of farming standards that committed to not using chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides, but also cared for our fragile ecosystem as a living entity.

The pioneers of organic farming sought to change modern day farming as there has been well-documented long-term damage to plants, animals and people due to the secondary consumption of chemicals through our food. As result, a cultural change has occurred.

Organic living has seeped into the mainstream and people actively seek out organic foods, personal skincare products and even clothing. People have become eco-conscious and are striving for a healthier life and better care of the environment that our children will inherit.

The mystery surrounding the term “organic” was settled when the United States Department of Agriculture, which regulates food labeling, adopted specific standards which defined what “organic” was. It closed a loophole on Federal laws and put strict guidelines on manufactures and what they could called “organic”. An organic label now means the same from company to company.

The interesting thing is, the USDA does not have any guidelines or the authority to regulate labels on personal or skin care products Therefore the cosmetic and skin care industry have been left to their own interpretations of what constitutes an organic skincare product. This has created plenty of confusion for the consumer seeking an organic product.

Why seek organic skin care or personal care items? Since 1970 research shows that synthetic chemicals, preservatives and drugs can lodge in the fatty tissue of the body and can affect the person in the future. Drug users called this a flashback- having a moment or a flash when the chemical or drug reactivates in the body.

More recent studies made on laboratory mice by a group of researchers at Stanford University showed that they could deliver a vaccine to the mice just as effectively by rubbing it on the skin as by injecting it. What does this mean for the consumer? Skin does absorb things, good and bad.

As a mother when I put lotion on my son’s skin after his bath, I don’t want to be applying anything that contains any chemicals whatsoever. I want to know that what I am applying is organic, free of synthetic or harmful chemicals, in other words, the real thing. Therefore, if I can avoid exposing my son to any products that contain chemicals, why wouldn’t I?

I remember one incident that occurred while I was pregnant that completely changed me forever. I had purchased a very well-publicized and widely used body cream advertised to remove and prevent stretch marks. I was trying to be proactive in preventing any damage to my daily expanding tummy. I was about to apply it when I noticed the intensity of the smell.

My sense of smell during my pregnancy had become very intense, but the smell of this cream was overwhelming. I smelled kerosene. I turned over the tube to read the ingredients, and I saw it contained petrochemicals. Then, at the very bottom of the label, in fine print, was a warning label. “Do not use if pregnant or nursing.” Even the manufacturers of the product knew it was poisonous. I went through all my products and threw away anything that had chemicals at all. This was the beginning of my quest for all organic skin care products and all things green.

These days, the average person has heard by now that there are certain ingredients that should be avoided if possible in all products. Even some supposed “organic” product lines contain these ingredients. How do we as consumers tell the difference between the real organic products and the ones who just chose the name?

Until the industry has a standard set of guidelines, it is up to us, the consumers, to monitor our own purchases. Eliminate parabens, petrochemicals and sodium lauryl sulfate from your products. Read the labels. And only by continuing to demand a higher purity of standard in the organic skin care products that we use can we ensure a safer future for all of us.

I hope you found this information useful and look forward to seeing at Joanna Vargas Skin Care Sanctuary, home of the best facial in New York City. Call for your appointments NOW at 212/949.2350.