What does organic mean?
It really depends on who you ask. If you ask a chemist, the answer is clear. Organic means any chemical compound that contains carbon. In fact, to get a college chemistry degree you take a year of Organic Chemistry where you memorize endless chemical reactions between hydrocarbons, oxygen, nitrogen and more.
In the beauty industry, there is no industry-agreed meaning for terms like 'organic' or 'natural'. Unlike the food industry, these terms are not regulated for cosmetics which means companies can use these terms pretty freely.
Are there any standard definitions in the beauty industry?
Unfortunately, not yet. This makes it hard for people to decipher what all this means and if there really are any benefits to natural or organic beauty products.
Some companies argue that if an ingredient comes from a natural source then it's natural. They conveniently overlook the fact that they chemically modify it to make it work the way they want it.
Also, products like shampoo, conditioner and body wash are mostly made of water so therefore are mostly natural (because water is natural, right?). So if a shampoo is 90% water, then a company can simply claim "90% organic or natural" and be telling the truth. Certainly, this isn't in the spirit of what people believe organic to mean, but it is within the law.
Are organic beauty products better?
Currently, natural or organic cosmetic products don't really provide any added benefit for consumers. For the few companies who strive to actually make 'organic' or 'all-natural' products, their finished products are mostly functionally inferior to more mainstream products. This is the real trade-off of natural or organic products. That and a much higher cost for an often inferior product. However, this trade-off may be worth it for some people. And, as the demand for these types of products continue to grow there should be improvements in performance and a drop in cost.