What is natural, organic, and vegan&cruelty-free?

Cosmetics and personal care products are often marked with organic,  natural, cruelty-free, and vegan on the labels. These concepts have been popular for a long time and definitely will be a trend.

But can you distinguish them? What do they mean? These are the questions we seek to answer in this article.


Before understanding other products, let us first clarify the concept of conventional cosmetics.


Simply speaking, It is composed of chemical substances. Its ingredients may come from petroleum, minerals, or animals, as well as various synthetic, such as spices and preservatives. Those products without natural, organic, and vegan labels are not conventional.


Each country/region has its own specifications, here are a few standards:

Region Regulator Regulation
USA Food and Drug Administration Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act)
Canada The Cosmetic Regulations and the Food and Drugs Act Cosmetic Regulations (C.R.C., c. 869)
Australia Australian Industrial Chemicals Introduction Scheme (AICIS) Industrial Chemicals Act 2019
Europe EU Commission (EC) No. 1223/2009


  • Is it safe enough? We can only say that they do not automatically cause damage because the damage depends on the dose. Whether it is natural, organic, or synthetic, the most important thing is to produce according to specifications and use the product in an expected way.
  • However, some ingredients should be avoided as much as possible, such as Paraben, Sodium lauryl sulfate, polyethylene glycol, imidazolidinyl, mineral oil, paraffin oil. These substances contain hormones, cause allergies, and even contain potential carcinogens.
  • We believe that most cosmetics on the market are safe, but if you are not sure about the safety of a certain ingredient, you can visit Cosmetic Ingredient Review to find the science-based report.



As the name suggests, it refers to cosmetics made from ingredients extracted from natural plant extracts.

However, there is no government or law to regulate natural cosmetics. Fortunately, some certification bodies have tried to give definitions. Here, the definition of Natural Products Association(NPA) is quoted, there are four aspects:

  • “Natural Ingredients: A product labeled “natural” should be made up of only, or at least almost only, natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes to maintain ingredient purity.”
  • “Safety: A product labeled “natural” should avoid any ingredient with a suspected human health risk.”
  • “Responsibility: A product labeled “natural” should use no animal testing in its development.”
  • “Sustainability: A product labeled “natural” should use biodegradable ingredients and the most environmentally sensitive packaging. “


Standard key point logo
Ecocert Greenlife

95% ingredients are natural or derived from natural sources
50% of plant ingredients are produced by Organic Farming.
Min. 5% of entire product contents are produced by Organic Farming. view more

ecocert natural

100% natural/natural derived ingredients (except approved synthetic preservatives and petroleum chemicals).
No organic requirements. view more

cosmos natural

The minimum levels of natural substances and the maximum levels of derived natural raw
materials (referring to the whole formulation) are presented by the product group.
No organic content is required. view more

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Must originate from certified organic raw material.
Not allow Paraffin and other petroleum products.
Permitted natural and biotechnological odorants are determined by the ISO 9235 standard. view more

bdih natural

Be made with at least 95% natural ingredients-excluding water.
Contain only synthetic ingredients specifically allowed under this standard and environmentally-friendly products that are nurturing to us and as harmless as possible to the earth. view more

natural seals e1527080901584


  • It should be noted that natural ingredients mean that non-synthetic chemicals. It can come from plants, does not have to be organically grown(although it may contain). This is also the biggest difference between it and organic.
  • natural products are not regulated, so cosmetics that use a few natural ingredients can still be advertised as natural, the manufacturer (or brand owner) does not need to provide evidence.
  • Natural refer to what the product is, contrast to organic which means how the product is.



In short, it refers to cosmetics containing organic certified plant ingredients, which requires that the plant ingredients contained in their products must be derived from “organic plants”, and organic plants must grow on organically certified farms or plantations.

The definitions of organic in the world are very similar. They must meet the following conditions:

  • The organic environment, which is closest to the natural growth mode, has grown, the production base (i.e. environment) has not been damaged, and the irrigation water), soil, and air have not been polluted.
  • Organic planting, no artificial chemical fertilizer irrigation or artificial feed feeding, no antibiotics, chemical insecticides, and no genetic variants.
  • Organic processing and production projects (including washing, sorting, packaging, processing, transportation, storage, sales, and other links after harvest) are not subject to secondary pollution.
  • The organic certification of international standards needs to be reviewed by a third-party certification organization every year from planting, processing, production, manufacturing to finished product wholesale.


The term “organic” can only be used when the product has been authorized and certified. Please refer to the statement on the FDA official website.

Compared with natural, the definition of organic will be more standardized and strict, and more diverse.

Standard Key Point logo
USDA 100% organic: 100% of the products are produced with organic ingredients
Organic: at least 95% of products are produced with organic ingredients
Made with organic ingredients: at least 70% of the products are made with organic ingredients
Specific Organic Ingredient Listings: may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70% organic content. view more
ladpdhjzxnetktvnasznasw 300 300
Soil Association 95% organic ingredients.
Water is excluded from the calculation of organic matter.
Products containing 70-95% organic ingredients can be labeled “with x% organic”. view more
ladpdg7mr9lmquhnasznasw 300 300
ECOCERT At least 95% of the ingredients are natural or from natural sources.
At least 95% of plant ingredients are produced by organic.
At least 10% of product ingredients (including water) must be produced organic. view more
ladpdg7mr9lmpw7nasznasw 300 300
ACO must contain more than 70%-95% certified organic ingredients.
The remaining non-organic ingredients (up to 5%-25%) must be naturally grown or come from natural, non-toxic preservatives/additives. view more
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COSMOS The minimum organic level is 20%.
Only permitted Chemically Processed Agro Ingredients (CPAI). view more
cosmos organic


  • The US Food and Drug Administration stated that they did not regulate the term “organic” in the cosmetics industry.
  • Unlike natural products, organic products focus on the growth environment. meanwhile, it has strict guidelines and a monitoring system. In theory, organic products are more trustworthy than natural products.
  • Organic does not mean vegan. According to different standards, it allows certain chemical and artificial compounds.
  • If you want to get the organic certification label, the entire production chain from raw material suppliers, manufacturers, brand owners/distributors, etc. must be audited and verified, which means, it is a system certification, from upstream to downstream.


Strictly speaking, vegan and animal-free testing are separate, but some third-party certification agencies often merge them. Here for convenience, we also put them together.


These product does not contain animal-derived ingredients or animal by-products and has not been tested on animals. 

It is concerned with whether there are animal ingredients, therefore, it may contain chemical substances or artificial ingredients. It describes the ingredients, not the production process.


There is no government or law to regulate this definition, but some third-party agencies verify this claim.

Standard Key Point Logo
Vegan Action Provide ingredient list. 
Do not conduct or audit. view more
vegan org
PETA Not conduct routine audits.
Not require documentation.
Assurance signed by the CEO. view more
Leaping Bunny Program Implementing Supplier Monitoring System.
Recommit annually. view more
cruelty free
The Vegetarian Society Provide ingredient lists.
Production processes document. view more


  • As you can see above, every certification has its requirements and standards, and there is no one better than others.
  • There is no restriction on the use of animal ingredients, so some people think it’s not vegetarian enough.
  • According to a survey by Grand View Research, the world’s “vegan” cosmetics market is growing at an average annual rate of 6.3%. It is estimated that by 2025, the market size will reach 20.8 billion U.S. dollars.

Some Thoughts

  • For normal consumers, it seems difficult to identify whether a product is natural and organic, the only reliable way is to check the ingredient list, but INCI is too professional. So reliable certification labels will play a big role.
  • More and more people are interested in organic/nature, but due to the high prices and strict standards, consumers and brand owners are not very happy to accept them. And, are they safe? For example, some natural essential oil is more corrosive.
    But we believe that with the development of technology, there will be more and more natural&organic ingredients for options.
  • Sustainability is easier to achieve and more driving than natural organic. For example, with green chemistry and degradable packaging, PCR bottles have become popular.

About The Author

2 thoughts on “What is natural, organic, and vegan&cruelty-free?”

  1. Avatar

    This article delves into the distinctions between natural, organic, and vegan/cruelty-free products, offering clarity for consumers seeking ethical and sustainable options. Understanding these labels is essential for making informed choices and supporting brands aligned with personal values. It serves as a valuable resource for those prioritizing eco-conscious purchases in the beauty industry.

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