It shouldn’t be so confusing. The natural hair care industry has reached over $10 billion in value. Yet not all of these supposedly natural products are organic. Very few of them are.
What exactly is the difference between organic and natural dreadlock products? That’s a bit of a trick question. There are many differences between the two. Here is your guide on those differences.
The term “natural” is not regulated. The FDA does not adopt an official definition, so companies can define natural products however they want. Most companies define natural products as items that contain ingredients produced in nature. For example, a product made of 95% water can count as natural.
The USDA regulates organic labeling for food and agricultural products. Companies must make organic products using practices that improve and maintain soil and water quality and minimize artificial chemicals. A company needs USDA approval to label a product as “organic.”
However, the USDA does not formally regulate the term “organic” for cosmetics and body care products. If a dreadlock product meets the requirements for organic labeling for food, the USDA can certify the product as organic.
There are no formal categories for “natural” products. The term “all-natural” implies that a product has 100% natural ingredients. But “all-natural” is just a marketing term with no requirements. An all-natural product may have trace amounts of harmful chemicals.
The USDA assigns three formal categories for organic products. “100 percent organic” means a product has 100% organic ingredients excluding salt and water. “Organic” means a product has at least 95% organic ingredients. “Made with organic” means a product has at least 70% organic ingredients with non-organic items named on the ingredient label.
A product with less than 70% organic ingredients can list those items on its ingredient label, but it cannot label itself as organic. The product can mention the percentage of organic ingredients as well.
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All skincare companies must test their products for safety, regardless of whether they are “natural” or “organic”. However, no one needs to test natural products to determine if they actually contain all-natural ingredients. Therefore, a company can say its product is “all-natural” without needing to provide proof.
The USDA must certify a company’s operations to permit them to label their products as organic. A company must provide a history of the substances applied to their farmland over the last three years, verifying that they have used no pesticides. They then must permit an on-site inspection and residue testing.
The USDA does not regulate the terms “clean” and “safe.” A product may be clean and safe if the manufacturer makes it in a generally clean or safe facility. But it can create side effects and may not be suitable for all styles of locs and dreadlocks. To determine if a product is safe, you need to read customer reviews from people with similar hairstyles.
When you hear the term “natural products,” you may assume it contains no pesticides. In reality, a product can contain pesticides in small amounts. Pesticides can harm soil and water supplies and interfere with hormone production in the body.
An organic product cannot contain pesticides or have ingredients grown with pesticides. Farmers can use substances like neem oil to grow plants, but these substances are unprocessed and pose no threats to human health. Organic products cannot contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) as well.
A natural product may be better for the environment than an artificial product. However, it may not be entirely environmentally friendly. Palm oil is a trendy ingredient in natural hair care products; palm oil production totaled 71 million tons in 2018. Yet most supplies of oil come from deforested areas. Natural products can also have preservatives that promote their shelf life but prevent them from decomposing.
The USDA requires companies to show that their organic products do not harm the environment directly. All products must promote ecological balance and not threaten biodiversity. Most organic products are made with biodegradable ingredients like aloe vera that will dissolve in soil or water without damaging them.
Organic products can still have detrimental effects on the environment. You must research the company and its ingredients to determine if the product is environmentally friendly. You also need to avoid wasting the item you buy. Recycle the container after you finish it, and give it to a friend if you don’t like it.
The USDA does not regulate the term “green.” It is a marketing term that any company can apply to its products, regardless of how environmentally friendly they are. a
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“Vegan” and “cruelty-free” are not synonymous with “natural” and “organic.” Most vegan and cruelty-free products are organic, but not all. Vegan hair care products contain no animal-based ingredients, but they may contain artificial chemicals. A cruelty-free product has not been tested on animals, yet many cruelty-free products have artificial ingredients.
Many natural products contain ingredients that harm animals in some way. Hyaluronic acid is a common ingredient in “natural” hair care products, as it can help skin and hair cells retain their moisture. However, it comes from the umbilical cords of animals.
Organic products can also have ingredients that are harmful to animals. But they often overlap with vegan and cruelty-free production methods more than “natural” products. The USDA requires companies to prove that their farming methods do not directly harm animals. However, you must research the product to see if it is cruelty-free.
Related: What Ingredients Are Bad for Locs?