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What is Organic Makeup?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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Organic makeup has several possible definitions. It can be made from plant materials only, or from substances derived from plant materials. Makeup labeled as organic may also mean that it is made from organic or naturally occurring compounds, including minerals. The term implies that all materials in the makeup are certified organic, meaning they have not been exposed to pesticides. Unless a makeup actually claims to be "certified organic" makeup, it may contain pesticides.

Organic cosmetics derived from plants and minerals can work very well. For instance, the principle ingredient in the popular makeup Bare Minerals or Bare Esscentuals is cornstarch. It would be a mistake to assume that organic makeup is necessarily better for one than chemically produced makeup. Plants can contain powerful toxins and carcinogens that are just as detrimental to the skin and body as lab produced chemicals. Minerals can also have a high degree of toxicity, and organic cosmetics of the past, like the white powder used by geishas which caused lead poisoning, can be harmful.

Even if when organic makeup is certified, then plant materials or minerals may still be unsafe. The best idea is to make sure that makeup does not contain known toxins or carcinogens. This can often be hard to decipher on labels because they use so many long, complicated words in listing ingredients.

A few chemicals to look for and avoid in organic makeup include the following:

  • Sodium laurel sulfate, which can cause mild to moderate skin irritation and allergy,
  • Paraben, which is often used as a makeup preserver and contains estrogen
  • Hydrosols, which contain water that is often not purified and may have high levels of chemicals.

    It may be hard to always avoid such chemicals: virtually every shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste contains sodium laurel sulfate. But people often pay top dollar for organic makeup and should know upfront whether the product is really different or safer than lab produced chemicals. They should also be aware that this cosmetic is not necessarily free of contaminants or pesticides, and to look for makeup labeled "certified organic."

  • BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
    Tricia Christensen
    By Tricia Christensen
    With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
    Discussion Comments
    By seafoam — On Jun 02, 2011

    Yes, sodium laurel sulfate can lead to dry, irritated skin, and can cause allergies. More importantly, it is also considered a carcinogen.

    I've definitely started to protect myself and my family by using organic products in the past few years. Yes, they are more expensive but I try and save money in other areas.

    By SarahG — On Jun 01, 2011

    That's a good tip to look for the word, "certified" when buying organic makeup. I always feel as though I'm being tricked when trying to decipher what's actually in the product.

    By anon151840 — On Feb 11, 2011

    I was very concerned when I heard of an episode of Dr. Phil that discussed paraben being found in cancerous breast tumors. I have been reading labels and it a lot of ingredients are not all listed or it has paraben in it. I really recommend using Arbonne products. They have shampoos, makeup, lotions,soaps and so much more, and a wonderful baby care line that includes shampoo, lotion, sunscreen, diaper cream, and body oil. I have a friend who sells it and I have been using it for years! -Christy in Wisconsin

    Tricia Christensen
    Tricia Christensen
    With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
    Learn more
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