Are Organic Face Creams Better Than Conventional? The Truth Revealed

Are Organic Face Creams Better Than Conventional? The Truth Revealed

What are organic face creams?

Organic face creams are a type of facial moisturizer marketed as using organic plant-based ingredients and avoiding synthetic chemicals. Unlike regular moisturizers, organic face creams:

  • Use plant extracts, oils, and butters as key ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter, jojoba oil, etc. These are grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers.

  • Avoid using ingredients like parabens, sodium lauryl sulfate, phthalates, polyethylene glycol, etc. which are commonly found in conventional moisturizers.

  • Use naturally-derived emulsifiers and preservatives. Many traditional emulsifiers like cetearyl alcohol or chemical preservatives like parabens are excluded.

  • Often emphasize being natural, using certified organic ingredients, and not testing on animals. Brands highlight their sustainable sourcing and ethical production processes.

The key difference is organic face creams aim to provide hydration and skin benefits through "cleaner" plant-based formulas while avoiding synthetic chemicals found in regular moisturizers. Consumers often choose them for perceived health benefits though research is limited in this area.

Potential Benefits of Organic Face Creams

Organic face creams are formulated without harsh chemicals like parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde, and triclosan. Instead, they use natural plant oils, extracts, and butters. Many people perceive organic products as healthier and safer compared to conventional skincare.

Potential benefits of organic face creams include:

  • Avoidance of certain synthetic chemicals. Organic products exclude ingredients like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, and petrochemicals. These ingredients may irritate sensitive skin or raise health concerns for some consumers.

  • More natural ingredients. Organic creams use plant-derived ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, shea butter, and essential oils. These natural extracts provide antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins, and other nutrients beneficial for skin.

  • Perception of being healthier and safer. Many people view organic products as gentler options compared to creams with lots of lab-created chemicals. While definitive research is lacking, consumers often feel "better" using organic personal care products.

Potential Drawbacks of Organic Face Creams

Although organic face creams have gained popularity in recent years, they also come with some potential downsides to consider.

Often More Expensive

One of the biggest drawbacks of organic face creams is their higher price tag. Organic ingredients tend to cost more, and organic certification also adds to the costs. This means organic face creams often retail for $15-30 for a small container, which is considerably pricier than conventional drugstore brands. While devotees believe organic is worth the premium price, the higher costs deter some consumers.

Limited Evidence for Claims

Organic brands make many claims about being "natural" and superior for skin, but there's limited scientific research to back this up. Organic doesn't always mean safer or more effective. For example, some people may experience irritation from plant oils in organic creams. More comparative studies on organic vs. conventional creams are needed.

Shorter Shelf Life

The natural extracts and oils in organic face creams can break down more quickly. This means organic face creams usually have a shorter shelf life of around 6-12 months. They need to be replaced more often than conventional creams, which can be an inconvenience factor. Proper storage and packaging help, but it's something to be aware of.

So while organic face creams have benefits, they have some disadvantages too. It's about weighing your priorities and budget to decide if they're right for your skin needs. Looking past the marketing claims at the actual ingredients can help determine their suitability.

Examining common organic ingredients

Many organic face creams highlight ingredients like aloe vera, coconut oil, and shea butter. These natural plant-derived ingredients provide potential skin benefits:

Aloe Vera

  • Contains antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals that may help moisturize, soothe irritation, and reduce inflammation.

  • Research shows aloe vera gel can increase skin elasticity and hydration.

  • The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties may help treat acne, although more studies are needed.

Coconut Oil

  • Has fatty acids and antioxidants that can moisturize and protect skin.

  • May reduce inflammation and stimulate collagen production to keep skin supple.

  • Antimicrobial properties could help prevent breakouts, but comedogenic rating is high so can clog pores for some.

Shea Butter

  • Rich in vitamins A and E to hydrate, smooth, and condition skin.

  • Contains fatty acids that help retain skin elasticity.

  • Has anti-inflammatory and emollient properties to soothe dry, irritated skin.

  • Clinical studies show reduced dermatitis symptoms and improved skin barrier function.

So ingredients like aloe, coconut oil, and shea butter contain beneficial properties that can help hydrate, nourish, and protect skin based on scientific evidence. However, individuals may react differently depending on skin type.

Examining claims about synthetic ingredients

Some conventional face creams contain synthetic ingredients like parabens, sulfates, and phthalates that have raised health concerns. However, the risks associated with these chemicals are still being debated.


Parabens are preservatives commonly added to personal care products and cosmetics. Some people claim parabens can disrupt hormones and cause issues like breast cancer or reproductive problems. However, these claims are controversial. Parabens are considered safe by most regulatory agencies when used at low levels. While a few small studies have detected parabens in breast cancer tumors, larger studies have found no conclusive link between parabens and breast cancer risk. More research is still needed.


Sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are surfactants that create lather in soaps and cleansers. There are concerns that sulfates may irritate skin. However, cosmetic-grade sulfates are generally considered non-toxic at the low levels used in face creams. People with very sensitive skin may wish to avoid sulfates.


Phthalates are added to cosmetics to help retain scent. Some types of phthalates have shown endocrine disrupting effects in animal studies. However, more research is needed to determine if phthalates in cosmetics pose a significant risk to human health. One phthalate called diethyl phthalate (DEP) used in fragrances has garnered particular concern. The FDA has currently banned other phthalates like DBP from cosmetics.

Overall, while certain synthetic ingredients have raised concerns, most regulatory agencies consider them safe at the low levels used in cosmetics when properly formulated. People can decide whether to avoid these ingredients based on their personal risk tolerance. More long-term research on synthetic ingredients would help clarify the true risks.

Studies comparing organic and conventional face creams

Several studies have directly compared the effects of organic and conventional face creams. Here is an overview of the major comparative studies and their key findings:

One 2007 study published in the International Journal of Cosmetic Science looked at 44 women over 4 weeks. The women were randomly assigned to use either an organic or conventional moisturizer twice daily. The study found no statistically significant difference in skin hydration, elasticity, skin surface pH, lipid levels, sebum production, or skin smoothness between the two creams. However, the organic cream performed slightly better for skin roughness and scaling. Limitations include the small sample size and short study duration.

A 2008 double-blind study followed 36 women over 12 weeks. One group used an organic face cream while the other used a conventional cream with identical texture and scent. The study, published in Skin Research and Technology, found the organic cream was significantly better than the conventional cream for improving skin hydration and elasticity. The organic cream also performed better for some measures of skin surface lipids. The conventional cream performed slightly better for skin smoothness.

A more recent 2019 study published in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology followed 40 women over 3 months. The women were randomly assigned to use either an organic or conventional anti-aging face cream. The study found no significant differences between the creams in terms of hydration, elasticity, fine lines, skin brightness, or collagen support. However, the organic cream performed significantly better for skin firmness and smoothness.

Overall, while some comparative studies find small advantages for organic face creams, the differences tend to be minor. More research is still needed to determine if organic face creams provide substantial and meaningful benefits over conventional creams. Many experts argue that the formula and individual ingredients matter more than simply being organic or conventional.

Dermatologist Recommendations

Dermatologists generally agree that there is little evidence that organic face creams are necessarily better than conventional creams. However, they do recommend being aware of certain ingredients that may cause irritation, especially for people with sensitive skin.

When choosing a face cream, dermatologists advise looking at the specific ingredients rather than just the "organic" label. Some plant-derived ingredients like essential oils can still be irritating for sensitive skin types. On the other hand, some synthetic ingredients are perfectly safe and non-irritating.

For sensitive skin, dermatologists recommend avoiding fragrances, dyes, and common irritants like alcohol, menthol, peppermint, eucalyptus oil, citrus oils, and witch hazel. Those with very dry skin should use a thicker, more emollient cream and avoid ingredients that dry the skin like sulfates and salicylic acid.

People prone to acne may want to look for oil-free, non-comedogenic formulas with ingredients like benzoyl peroxide. Those with conditions like eczema or rosacea need to be especially careful about using gentle, fragrance-free creams formulated for sensitive skin.

The most important thing is to choose a moisturizer that feels comfortable on your own skin. Test any new products on a small patch first. And as always, consult your dermatologist if you have any concerns or need help finding the right face cream for your skin type and needs.

Making an informed decision

When deciding between organic or conventional face creams, it's important to make an informed decision based on your individual skin needs and priorities. There are several factors to consider:

  • Assess your skin type and concerns. Consider your skin type - dry, oily, sensitive, acne-prone, etc. Organic creams may be better for sensitive skin, while conventional creams offer targeted solutions for issues like acne. Think about which skin concerns are most important for you to address.

  • Evaluate ingredients. Look at the active ingredients in both organic and conventional options. Organic creams focus on natural ingredients while conventional have more synthetic options. Compare ingredients to find ones best suited to your skin.

  • Consider costs. Organic face creams often come with a higher price tag. Make sure you can comfortably afford the product you choose. Conventional drugstore creams can be just as effective for some.

  • Look into product claims. Organic brands emphasize their natural ingredients while conventional creams rely more on clinical tests and trials. Look into claims from both critically. Studies directly comparing organic and conventional creams are limited.

  • Ask your dermatologist. Get input from your dermatologist, especially if you have sensitive skin or medical conditions like eczema or rosacea. They can help assess ingredients and provide guidance.

The key is finding the face cream that works best for your unique skin. Weigh the pros and cons of organic vs conventional based on research and expert input. But also realize your individual experience may vary. Pay attention to how your skin looks and feels when trying a new product. Make sure you are truly seeing real benefits.

Best practices for using face creams

When using any new face cream, whether organic or conventional, it's important to take steps to use it safely and effectively. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Patch test for sensitivities. Before applying a new face cream all over your face, do a patch test first. Apply a small amount to your inner arm and wait 24-48 hours to see if any irritation develops. This can identify possible allergic reactions or sensitivities before they affect your whole face.

  • Follow usage guidelines. Read the usage instructions and only use the recommended amount. Using more cream won't necessarily make it more effective. Stick to the frequency of application suggested as well.

  • Store properly. Keep your face cream sealed and stored in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. The bathroom medicine cabinet is not ideal since temperature changes and humidity can affect stability. Don't store face creams in the refrigerator unless specifically instructed.

Following these simple tips can help you safely test and use any new face cream. Monitor your skin over time and discontinue use if you notice any reactions. With proper usage and care, you can get the most benefits from your chosen face cream.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to picking an organic face cream, there are some key takeaways to keep in mind:

  • Organic face creams emphasize natural, plant-based ingredients while avoiding synthetic chemicals. This appeals to many consumers seeking to minimize exposure to potentially harmful ingredients. However, "organic" and "natural" are not automatically safer or more effective.

  • Organic creams often exclude ingredients like parabens and sulfates. While some studies raise concerns about these chemicals, more research is still needed on their long-term effects. Avoiding them may provide peace of mind for some.

  • There is limited evidence that organic creams provide significant benefits over conventional creams. Any differences tend to be small. More research comparing organic and conventional creams is needed.

  • Ultimately there is no definitive proof that organic creams are universally better. Benefits linked to organic ingredients may depend on the individual and their skin type.

  • When choosing a face cream, examine the specific ingredients for potential sensitivities. Look for creams with effective moisturizing, antioxidant and anti-aging properties, regardless of organic status.

  • Using a high quality face cream consistently is more important than whether it's organic or not. Focus on finding one that works well for your individual skin.

The debate over organic face creams versus conventional ones remains unsettled. While organic options appeal to many, their actual benefits have not been conclusively proven. More research on the safety and efficacy of ingredients in both types of creams is needed. For now, it is largely a personal choice which route you want to take for your face cream based on your priorities and skin needs. But quality moisturizers and sun protection should be the top considerations for healthy skin, whether you go organic or not.