Understanding the Differences: Natural, Organic, and Clean Beauty Products

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In the bustling beauty market, terms like ‘natural’, ‘organic’, and ‘clean’ can be confusing. Unravel the complexities and clear the confusion with our comprehensive guide.


In the ever-evolving landscape of the beauty industry, terms like natural and organic, or clean have become buzzwords. These terms are often used interchangeably, which leads to confusion for consumers. Understanding the distinctions between these phrases is essential if you want to choose the items you use wisely.

Natural Beauty Products

Natural beauty products are formulated with natural ingredients such as plants or minerals and other naturally occurring substances. These products prioritize using raw materials in their most unaltered state, avoiding synthetic additives. Natural beauty products aim to harness the power of nature, providing practical, gentle alternatives to conventional options.

Organic Beauty Products

Organic beauty products take the concept of natural products a step further. These products are made with ingredients grown without synthetic pesticides and herbicides and do not use genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Achieving USDA organic certification guarantees that the manufacturing procedures and components adhere to strict guidelines established by organic certifying agencies 1.

According to a study by Alison G. Power titled “Ecosystem services and agriculture: tradeoffs and synergies”, the value of ecosystem services to agriculture, including the production of organic products, is enormous and often underappreciated 2. Organic farming practices not only benefit your skin but also support environmentally friendly and sustainable farming practices, contributing to the preservation of ecosystem services.

Clean Beauty Products

Clean beauty products focus on safety and transparency in their formulations. These products prioritize using non-toxic and cruelty-free or ethically sourced ingredients. Brands like Clean Beauty Sephora emphasize avoiding potentially harmful substances like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and synthetic fragrances.

As seen in this article, “More than Cosmetic Changes: Taking Stock of Personal Care Product Safety”, Rebecca Kessler discusses the safety of personal care products and the efforts of companies to eliminate or reduce certain ingredients that have drawn safety concerns 3. By opting for clean beauty products, you can reduce exposure to potentially irritating or harmful ingredients while supporting companies committed to ethical practices and product safety.

Key Distinctions

While natural, organic, and clean beauty products share similarities, it’s essential to recognize the key distinctions:

Ingredient Sourcing and Processing:

  • Natural beauty products use minimally processed ingredients derived from nature.
  • Organic beauty products adhere to specific farming practices that avoid synthetic pesticides and GMOs.
  • Clean beauty products prioritize safe and non-toxic ingredients, often excluding certain artificial additives.


  • Natural beauty products may not require formal certification but can showcase ingredient transparency.
  • Organic beauty products obtain certification from reputable organic certification bodies like the -USDA 1.
  • Clean beauty products may or may not have specific certifications, but they often emphasize transparency and safety.

Environmental Impact:

  • Natural beauty products strive to use sustainable ingredients and eco-friendly packaging.
  • Organic beauty products support sustainable farming practices and reduce chemical exposure.
  • Clean beauty products promote ethical sourcing, cruelty-free practices, and environmentally conscious manufacturing.

In their paper, “Who should pay for tropical conservation, and how could the costs be met?”, Andrew Balmford and Tony Whitten discuss the costs and benefits of conservation 4. While not directly related to beauty products, their insights highlight the importance of supporting brands that prioritize sustainable sourcing and environmentally conscious practices. This can help drive positive change in the industry and contribute to global conservation efforts.

While natural, organic, and clean beauty products offer numerous benefits, it’s important to navigate the beauty industry with an informed perspective. Here are some considerations to keep in mind.

  • Transparency: Some companies may use vague or misleading terms to market their products. Look for companies that are transparent about their manufacturing procedures and ingredients.
  • Value for Money: While these products can be more expensive, consider the value they offer in terms of quality or safety, and also environmental impact. Sometimes, investing in better products can be more cost-effective in the long run.
  • Product Lifespan: Natural and organic products may have shorter shelf lives, but this is often a sign of minimal processing and the absence of synthetic preservatives. Just plan to use them up in a timely manner to avoid waste.
  • Individual Needs: Remember, everyone’s skin is unique. What works for one person might not work for another. Always consider your personal skin type and any allergies or sensitivities when choosing products.
  • Sustainability: Look for brands that prioritize sustainable sourcing and packaging. Supporting these brands can help drive positive change in the industry.

By keeping these considerations in mind, you can make more conscious and confident decisions about the beauty products you choose.


Understanding the differences between natural, organic, and clean beauty products empowers you to make conscious choices aligned with your values and desired outcomes. Whether you prioritize ingredient transparency, environmental impact, or ethical practices, exploring these categories will guide you toward products that suit your needs while promoting a mindful and healthy lifestyle.

In their study, “Planned, motivated and habitual hygiene behaviour: an eleven country review”, Valerie Curtis, Lisa O. Danquah, and Robert Aunger discuss the factors involved in hygiene behavior, including the use of soap 5. Their findings underscore the importance of making informed and conscious decisions about the products we use daily.

Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, why not try a new clean beauty skincare product or explore the best clean makeup brands? Share this blog post with your friends to help them navigate the world of beauty products too. Remember, knowledge is power; the more we know, the better choices we can make for our health and the environment.


1. USDA Organic. https://www.usda.gov/topics/organic

2. Ecosystem services and agriculture: tradeoffs and synergies | Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2010.0143.

3. Kessler, R. More than Cosmetic Changes: Taking Stock of Personal Care Product Safety. Environmental Health Perspectives 123, A120–A127 (2015).

4. Balmford, A. & Whitten, T. Who should pay for tropical conservation, and how could the costs be met? Oryx 37, 238–250 (2003).

5. Curtis, V. A., Danquah, L. O. & Aunger, R. V. Planned, motivated and habitual hygiene behaviour: an eleven country review. Health Education Research 24, 655–673 (2009).

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