Does Mother Nature Really Know Best?

I am researching a feature on organic beauty for Hello! and it has got me thinking long and hard about the Nature versus Science debate when it comes to looking good. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I tend to put my trust in the hands of the men and women in little white coats, and am always enamoured by a research scientists, dermatologist or formulating chemists; it’s what comes from failing A Level Chemistry, I am forever in awe of anyone who can get their heads around those chemical equations.

Then again there are a growing number of ‘organic’ beauty products being launched from Stella McCartney’s range for YSL to good old Sainsbury’s on the high street – so someone is most definitely spending their hard earned cash on the stuff.

Little wonder when tabloid newspapers are forever scaremongering about the amount of cosmetics we are all supposed to absorb each year. One camp says 60% of what we put on our faces, others 1%. Who do you believe? All I know is that I spend half my life defending beauty products, especially anti ageing creams, against the plethora of tutt tutters who say they can’t work because they can’t penetrate the skin. And now it seems I spend the rest of my time defending those same beauty products against the doom and gloomers who say my liver must be full of chemicals from cosmetics creams. ARGH! There is simply no scientific evidence of high levels of absorption or any link between additives like parabens and cancer (they are found in many foods).

So as well as interviewing the people who strive to make organic beauty products I have also interviewed some die hard chemists and some in betweeners. And this is what they think. Most chemists believe that Nature has an abundance of great anti ageing, soothing, moisturising, firming, rebalancing and circulation boosting ingredients. From coral and plants, to seaweeds and flowers even the most high tech creams will have some natural extracts, albeit it mixed into an incredibly sophisticated formulation.

Susan Harmsworth, founder of Espa, Terry De Gunzburg, Ole Henriksen, Marco Lens, founder of Zelens, Norman Leaf and Rand Rusher of Leaf and Rusher fame, and Howard Murad of Murad renown all believe that the best beauty products are a mix of science and nature. But all also think that, as hard as they try, they simply can’t do this organically; there are simply not enough organic farmers out there growing the stuff that they need. "/>

And even if they could be grown to the stringent organic standards a firming coral or seaweed extract can never be certified organic because man has no control over the growing process (who can ever guarantee the sea is pollution, toxin or fertilizer free?). A rare Alpine mountain herb or Amazonian plant extract can not be organic for the same reason (despite the fact that they probably, we hope, are pollution and contaminant free). And so organic beauty is always a compromise.

I applaud anyone who buys organic food and who really wants to use organic beauty products. But the harsh truth is that, at the moment, some beauty companies are still using the term organic as a marketing tool to jump on the green bandwagon. And those that do genuinely make organic products will have to compromise on performance because many of the most efficacious ingredients, especially anti ageing ones, are man made or extracted from plants that are not organically grown.

If you are willing to make that compromise then look for the British Soil Association’s approval on your beauty products and that way you are guaranteed that 70% of the ingredients are organic, and that doesn’t include water. Or for products from the EU look for the Ecocert certification; the French equivalent. And be demanding. If you are serious about organic beauty, don’t be afraid to call up these companies and ask what guidelines they follow. The least you should expect is for them to strive to be …

  • Where possible made from natural organically grown ingredients
  • Have no added chemicals, artificial preservatives, colours or fragrances
  • Be biodegradable, recyclable and environmentally friendly
  • Are not tested on animals or contain any animal by product
  • Are GM product and ingredient free
  • Are skin friendly, so free from irritating petrochemicals, sulphates, PEGS, TEA and DEA and propylene glycol, or contain pollution causing mineral oil, or the current (but never proved) nasty parabens?

You might be surprised how sophisticated they are. Just don’t expect them to contain the latest high tech or even natural anti ageing ingredient.

If you do find an organic range that works for you then let me know.


You have missed the boat on this research. www.sea-flora.comOrganically grown seaweed is possible when you have the right sources. West Coast of Canada off Vancouver Island - no pollution, no transportation and the waters are tested every single year for poisons. This is considered to have healthiest seaweeds on this planet with over 250 species and SHE even takes you on a WILD SEAWEED TOUR. So whomever gave you the story that you cannot get organically grown seaweed has NOT A CLUE what they are talking about and hasn't done ANY proper research. Look up "the seaweed lady" she has been in the media for years because she actually has a license to hand-harvest seaweeds for the spa industry. Here is the best part.....they are COLD-PRESSED! And ORGANICALLY grown because her area has been tested so much so that the finest chefs in Canada serve them to their guests. Seaweeds off the coast of Brittany have been exhausted because of ALL of the pollution yes, but there are other sources and you have to look in the best spas in North America but you will find organic cold-pressed seaweed made by a Canadian woman, All 100% organic ingredients from Canada. How is that for environmentally friendly.? Oh, did I mention they are food-grade?I went on a tour last summer with the seaweed lady and haven't looked at another product line. Seaweed is the oldest living plant on this planet dating back over 1 billion years. I encourage you to look into healthier alternatives. You will always find something unique coming from Canada. They are just too humble to brag about it. I found it at Gaia Day Spa in La Jolla, CA and now I am a happy woman!

nice work Sadie Lee. I found the same product line right here in Vancouver at Absolutely Fabulous Day Spa and was floored at the results I got from it for my acneic skin. the only line that has ever helped even after I've tried everything from my dr. I was so excited I went on one of those tours at the tail end of last summer. I had no idea how interesting, nutritous and good for you seaweed is. Diane Bernard says that all of the ingredients that aren't seaweed come from Organic farms in the Pacific Northwest!

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