When you visit the store, the chances are you’ll see a lot of lotions and potions claiming to be ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. If, like many women, you welcome a move towards more natural products, there are a few facts which may help you decide whether the organic approach is for you.

Many manufacturers imply that organic products are weak in comparison to those produced from synthetic chemicals, but this is not true. Most hair stylists know that organic hair dyes (henna for example) are very powerful. Henna is mentioned in medical texts which go back to the 16th century BC. The flowers make perfume and the leaves can be smashed to make a very effective hair dye which even modern chemicals have difficulty stripping out. While synthetic chemicals are often designed to simulate chemicals found in plants, the manufactured version is usually simpler, and lacks all the properties of the more complex natural form.

The downside of organic lotion and other natural skincare products is that there are no nationally agreed standards for natural or organic skincare. The FDA do not regulate the sale of skin care products or cosmetics. Each company has its own definition, so it’s important to read the label on anything you buy. A company can obtain the USDA seal from the National Organic program if it can prove that 95% of the product’s ingredients have been made from animals or crops grown without additional hormones, pesticides or fertilizers. But this is a food standard, and applies to the ingredients for the product and not to how it is made. Anyone can label a product ‘organic’ or ‘natural’; the most conscientious of ‘green’ manufacturers cannot obtain a ‘guaranteed organic’ seal of approval because no such thing exists.

Some manufacturers like to imply that organic lotions and other beauty products may not have been adequately tested. Some of the first organic skin care products rose to fame because they were not tested on animals; a feature which appealed to many women. Others claimed that if the products were not tested on animals they could not be considered safe. In 2004, the European Union banned cosmetic testing on animals. In the USA, the FDA is working with other agencies to find an alternative testing method. With regard to testing, organic lotion and skin care products are subject to exactly the same rules and regulations as other beauty products.

Most organic skin care products do not contain harmful parabens. The jury is still out on these particular substances which are often found in shampoos, creams, lotions and lubricants. Some studies have shown them to be harmless, while others disagreed. If you’d prefer to avoid parabens remember that as there is no standard of organic certification, there is no guarantee that a product labeled ‘natural’ will not contain them. The only way to be sure is to check the label.

In the future, it seems likely that there will be a standard which products must meet in order to be considered ‘natural’. For the moment, if you want to be sure of buying a truly organic lotion, the best thing to do is go to a trusted source.