What is organic?

Organic refers to produce (food and grown things) that are produced without additives such as chemicals and pesticides.

What is certified organic?

Organic certification is a certification process for producers of organic food and other organic agricultural products. In general, any business directly involved in food production can be certified, including seed suppliers, farmers, food processors, retailers and restaurants. Requirements vary from country to country, and generally involve a set of production standards for growing, storage, processing, packaging and shipping that include:

  • avoidance of most synthetic chemical inputs (e.g. fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics, food additives, etc), genetically modified organisms, irradiation, and the use of sewage sludge

  • use of farmland that has been free from synthetic chemicals for a number of years (often, three or more)

  • keeping detailed written production and sales records (audit trail)

  • maintaining strict physical separation of organic products from non-certified products

  • undergoing periodic on-site inspections

In some countries, certification is overseen by the government, and commercial use of the term organic is legally restricted. Certified organic producers are also subject to the same agricultural, food safety and other government regulations that apply to non-certified producers.


Not everything ‘organic’ is actually certified organic.

What things can be organic?

Things like produce (fruits and vegetables), meats, dairy,  and grains (for example). Things derived from these items can be organic as well, such as cheese from milk, extracts and oils from the production of the original items, as long as no extra chemicals are added to them as they are made. Waxes like beeswax can be organic if the bees are farmed a certain way.

What things are not organic?

Things that are not grown. Like some rocks, chemicals, and anything processed.

Can makeup be organic?

Yes, but here is where it gets tricky. There is a lot of confusion about the use of the word ‘organic’. As it’s most often (commonly) used organic means without (chemical) additives. So organic makeup is made with natural ingredients, but at some point the makeup will have to be processed, unless it’s handmade. MANY small Indie companies make a wide variety of ‘organic’ soaps, lotions, makeup, and glosses that are at least partly organic.

Again, things are not truly organic unless they are made from certified organic materials.

Products with 100% natural origin ingredients are also not automatically organic.  Things labeled free of ‘harsh’ chemicals usually also contain at least SOME chemicals.

Mineral makeup is not this sort of organic. Mineral makeup is made, basically, from rocks. Rocks themselves are organic which means that they are from the earth. But they are not ‘organic’ as in the way that food is, that is grown or made without the use of chemicals or additives.

MANY companies are misleadingly implying that their products are ‘organic‘ when they simply mean to imply that they are organic, or from the earth.

Organic, when applied to rocks themselves, means any accumulation of sedimentary debris caused by a natural processes. Many animals use calcium for shells, bones, and teeth. These bits of calcium can pile up on the seafloor and accumulate into a thick enough layer to form an “organic” sedimentary rock.  Rocks can be igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic.

Mica, the primary component is mineral makeup, which gives it it’s sheen and color, is a metamorphic silicate mineral rock. So it’s possible that SOME mica is organic rock, but not all of it is. So the sweeping generalization that all mineral makeup is organic is inherently false.  Even if it’s a pure mica shadow, it’s likely not ‘organic’.

Other ingredients like titanium dioxide and magnesium stearate are refined via a chemical process (as are many micas anyway) thus rendering them not ‘organic’.


10 Responses to “Organic?”

  1. Very informative, thanks!

  2. wow! Istudied in this and I say, this is very well written. I’ve said it before and say it again : I’m fan. Thanks a lot for all your efforts.

  3. Everyone who has any question as to what’s organic and what’s not needs to read this very informative post. Thanks for writing this up!

  4. Actually, chemically speaking, organic is a very well defined term, and I think people should be educated based on that. Organic rocks are sediments of once living organisms, and the fact that they come from Earth (unlike from where exactly? Mars?) shouldn’t have anything to do with the classification. So do uranium and cyanide.

    What some companies do is lying to their customers, and that is very, very sad.

  5. Thank you for writing this. It’s well thought out and very true. There are definitely some companies out there that are misleading their customers about organic.

  6. Thanks for writing this. It’s very thorough and informative. I wish some companies would be more honest to their customers.

  7. Interesting timing of this post…I posted a long write-up about what mineral makeup is, and isn’t. Posting date? September 22 2010 😀 Some overlap in coverage, but you obviously go much further into what is and is not organic.

    And is my memory faulty, or was there a series of articles some time last year about a lot of “organic” beauty-product sellers (like J/S/O/N, I think) who were mis-using the term “organic”?

    • Really? I’ll have to go and take a look. Great minds think alike, no doubt. I’d been ruminating on it for a while and recently wanted to actually sit and post it, even though I know it’s going to make a few people angry. But oh well.

      There might have been, but I’m not sure where. I am notoriously bad about following and catching up with my blogreader.

      • The advertisers definitely play on peoples’ ignorance: “organic things are good for you!! and chemicals are all toxins and are all bad for you!!” It’s not quite Orwellian doublespeak, but it’s a cousin.

        I don’t know if I’d be shocked merely resigned if I see a press release end in “!!1eleventy”