Natural and Organic
… and God said “Let the Earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds to produce the plants and fruits they came from.” (Genesis1:11,12)
(The Organic Controversy)
WHAT IS NATURAL? – WHAT IS ORGANIC?
Because of the overwhelming number of enquiries we receive on this subject, we decided to put together some information on what can be a rather confusing subject. We hope this will enlighten you into understanding the Natural/Organic issue a little more and thus be in a better position to make an “informed decision” when you purchase your cleaning products, skin and body care & cosmetics. This applies equally to your foodstuffs. “Organic” is neither a concept, theme, nor marketing ploy. It is, first and foremost, an agricultural method.
The term “ natural ” means existing in or formed by nature without human intervention. This refers to ingredients such as naturally occurring minerals and plant extracts, not Ammonium Laureth Sulfate, Decyl Poly glucose and cyclopolymethicone. And yet some companies will tell you that natural means anything that originated somewhere on earth – no matter what has been done to it in a laboratory.
" If you're an organic consumer keen to change your lifestyle to embrace organic principles, you might be feeling somewhat confused. It appears that the internet, health shops, healthy living and "green" magazines all over the planet are blazing away with "certified organic" this and "100% natural" that for modern living. But what is organic? When it comes to skin care, body care, shampoos, lotions and other personal care products, how precisely do we define the word "organic"? Are we to understand that it means that the product or ingredient meets United States/EEC Dept of Agriculture standards, or that the product is 100% organic? Or does it mean that the product is certified organic? Sorry folks: if you're not talking about foodstuffs, the word "organic" means absolutely nothing! The all important thing is the ingredients. Let's delve further into this subject.
In skin care and cosmetic manufacture, the term “ Organic ” refers to ingredients such as herbs, flowers, plant oils, the earth's minerals, seaweed, beeswax etc., which have been grown, processed or extracted from living nature without the use of chemical pesticides, fungicides, growth regulators or stimulants and without having undergone any processing, e.g. an ingredient remaining in its unrefined state. In the Victorian Garden of the 21 st century, all plants, flowers & trees are grown in a natural/organic way as they were hundreds of years ago – in our case, in the Victorian Era (1837-1901).
We feel strongly that beauty care products are notoriously under-regulated. Any number of dangerous chemical and synthetic additives are used in their processing. The National Organic Program in America and in the U. K. remain vague about when and whether organic personal care products will be held to the same standards as organic foods. In the meantime, many beauty care manufactures have seized on the label "organic" as a clever marketing scheme, heralding their products as natural and organic when their bottles are filled with synthetic, often dangerous, chemicals.
"Nowhere do the terms 'natural' and 'organic' take more of a bruising than in the beauty industry," according to New Vegetarian and Natural Health publications. "Most cosmetic companies utilising the term 'organic' on their label are using the chemistry definition of organic - meaning a compound which contains carbon... By using this definition they can say that a toxic petrochemical preservative such as Methyl Paraben is 'organic' because it was formed by leaves that rotted over thousands of years to become oil."
Unwittingly, consumers are paying high prices for "organic" products under the misconception that they are materially different to the non-organic products on the shelf. Beauty care manufacturers have set out to develop their own standards for organic processing. Many insist that their products simply cannot be made in a manner compliant with existing organic standards and want to list hundreds of synthetic processing ingredients as allowable for organic personal care. For now, organic personal care products using toxic ingredients and, at the very least, misleadingly labeled will continue to crowd the shelves of health shops, spas and beauty salons.
The growth of the natural beauty care industry has not slowed the market for chemical additives for such products. In fact, the chemical companies expect to profit hugely from the trend. "The incorporation of active ingredients, such as plant acids and enzymes, into toiletries and cosmetics has become a major force behind growth in an otherwise mature industry," according to a chemical industry analyst from the Freedonia Group in the U.S.A. chemicals in our foodstuffs, in our kitchens, our bedrooms, our bathrooms and most definitely in our beauty and skin care products.
WHAT ARE YOU PUTTING ONTO YOUR SKIN?
It is very important to understand the importance of what you put onto your skin, into your bath or onto your hair because around 60% is absorbed through your skin into your bloodstream. Blood capillaries just under the skin's surface circulate the contents of your cosmetic products throughout your body. Some compounds are more active when absorbed through the skin than when taken orally (by mouth) which is why some drugs are administered via skin patches e.g. nicotine patches, HRT and certain slow release medications. A group of researchers in 1999 at Stanford University found they were able to deliver a DNA vaccine to laboratory mice as effectively by rubbing it onto their skin as injecting it into muscle. The skin is the largest organ of the body and as much as 1.5 – 2kg of chemical ingredients from creams, toiletries and other dangerous ingredients used in sunscreens may be absorbed into our bloodstream through our skins each year.
Our bodies store these chemical deposits in our cells and it is a hard task, sometimes impossible for the human body to excrete these contaminants. Not a very healthy thought! There are many reasons why we should discontinue the use of chemicals in our kitchens, our bedrooms, our bathrooms, our foodstuffs and most definitely in our beauty and skin care products. Each day worldwide more than 170,000 synthetic chemical substances are in daily use and around 80,000 of these substances may come into contact with your skin. Replacing chemically made products with Natural/Organic products will preserve and protect your family's health & you will all feel much better and healthier, have stronger immune systems and get sick far less often. Surely we all aspire to this?
Currently, The Victorian Garden products are not Organically Certified although our ingredients comprise a high percentage of Certified organic and non Certified organic raw materials, and some natural ingredients which other organic skincare companies use and which are not available organically. We have considered applying for Organic Certification but having researched this subject, we are persuaded that this new and burgeoning industry needs careful scrutinisation. As an Organic Skin care Company recreating traditional Victorian recipes, we have been using organic ingredients for many years. However, many of our raw ingredients which are not Certified Organic are still derived from plants which are grown organically. These raw ingredients are no different to our Organically Certified ingredients, so why should we discontinue their use simply because they are not Certified Organic? Many of these long standing loyal suppliers share our strictly organic philosophy, and have supplied us with organic raw materials for our products for many years, but themselves have no intention of becoming Organically Certified for various understandable reasons.
Why should they become certified when they have been growing & cultivating their crops organically for many years and already struggle to supply their fast growing customer base? For many small producers the huge costs of certification render it unattainable financially. To give you a clearer example of this, we could change our South African organic Jojoba Oil supplier who adheres to organic growing criteria & supplies the most beautiful organic Jojoba Oil, and instead import Jojoba Oil from an overseas supplier who offers “Organically Certified” Jojoba Oil at three times the price – but of what benefit would this be to either our current South African supplier (who loses our custom), our product prices (which will increase dramatically) or our customers (who won't notice any difference in our products because there will be none except an “Organically Certified” stamp. We understand and appreciate the concerns over products being Certified Organic, but let us be realistic and understand precisely what this means to you, the customer, who after all, represent our most important consideration. In fairness, we have to consider the views of all our customers all of whom constantly tell us they are thrilled with our products and are extremely happy with our affordable prices - which, remember, would increase by around 3 times as much as current prices should we switch to imported “Certified Organic” ingredients. You may rest assured that our vision is very much focused on remaining as near 95% organic as we can and Organic Certification will remain on our agenda. Bear in mind too, that there is really no such thing as 100% organic - 95% is the maximum certification recognised in South Africa and even that is questionable . Our view is that it is not realistic in this polluted world in which we live to claim to be even 95% organic; even if every ingredient is certified organic we still have to consider pollution fallout, Genetically Modified, chemically fertilized & sprayed plants being grown next to (and contaminating) fields of organically grown crops; contaminated underground water, “acid rain” and a host of other nasties in our soil, air and water which is reality in the 21 st century. Essential oils distilled from organically grown and organically certified plants in Europe have shown residues of chemical pesticides under testing. Our own organic herb gardens which certainly meet Organic Certification criteria, are close to a road and if tested would probably show residues of chemical contamination from airborne pollution not to mention the chemicals in tap water with which we water them.
Organic Certification has become a multi million dollar industry worldwide and yes, at first this sounds like exciting news for those of us whose philosophy in every aspect of our lives, is to “get rid of the chemicals and embrace an organic lifestyle.” However, having researched the subject very thoroughly over the past two years, we conclude that one can obtain Organic Certification in different overseas countries very easily if prepared to pay the high costs, but that a Certified Organic ingredient within a product does not necessarily mean that it is safe to be used on the human skin, just that it was derived from organic source and grown/processed without chemicals. Certain Certified Organic ingredients will never appear on our own ingredients listing because we strongly believe they are simply not safe to be used in skin care products. Yet we constantly come across "Organically Certified" skin care and cosmetic companies around the world listing these ingredients on their labels and the consumer purchasing these products under the mistaken assumption that they are safe – because they are Certified Organic. The disillusioning conclusion we have arrived at is that within the Organic Certification industry there is a considerable amount of "green washing" going on - which put bluntly, is the art of deceiving the consumer into thinking that because the ingredient is Certified Organic, it is safe to use. Yes, it is true that it may be grown or produced without the use of chemicals in an “organic” way but does that render it safe to put onto the human skin? We don't believe so. The Victorian Garden products are free of petrochemicals and are 100% biodegradable & environmentally friendly - we are extremely fussy about our ingredients. We are also passionate about animals and environmental issues and do not use any animal ingredients or test our products on animals. Our traditional Victorian herbs are grown in the same way as they were during The Victorian Era without the use of any chemicals or pesticides. Our African Indigenous plants are also cultivated on our own properties using traditional organic methods. Our products are made in the old fashioned way and everything is bottled and labeled by hand in our own lab. Yes we could use machinery for this laborious task but by keeping to the “Victorian traditional hand made” philosophy we are providing work for our employees and not contributing to the enormous unemployment problem in South Africa . Our plastic bottles are chosen especially as they do not leach industrial chemicals into the products, and are recycled or returned to the factory for recycling where possible. Packaging and labeling is purposefully kept simple but attractive in order to keep costs down as we are anxious that our products should remain affordable to all. Highly priced Organic products mean that many of our population in Africa cannot consider “going Organic” and therefore are forced to stay with using potentially dangerous chemical products detrimental to their health. We choose to keep our prices lower and because of this we sell more of our products.
Finally, may I reiterate that we believe absolutely in the integrity of our suppliers in supplying us with raw materials which are 100% chemical free and which, most importantly to us are naturally grown/processed and are free of any chemicals or animal ingredients and most critically, are not tested on animals in any way whatsoever. Our White List Membership of “Beauty Without Cruelty International” is of utmost importance to us and we support this truly commendable organisation 100%. (Click on Holistic Health Topics for more info)