Holistic, Organic, or Natural: What's the Difference? | Groomer to Groomer

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Holistic, Organic, or Natural: What's the Difference?

Holistic, Organic, or Natural: What’s the Difference?

By Michelle Knowles

There are many keywords and catch phrases being thrown around in the industry these days. In our quest to find the healthiest cleansers and conditioners for regular and therapeutic care, we are constantly bombarded with the keywords “Organic”, “Natural”, “Botanical”, and the ever present “Holistic”. 

Here is a simplified guide to help you define these terms in order to choose the products and additives that are best for you, wherever you groom.


According to the Organic Growers School located in North Carolina, “Organic refers to a regulated labeling term indicating that the food or fiber product has been produced using methods approved by a third–party inspector that integrate cultural, biological and mechanical farming practices. These practices are meant to encourage cycling of resources, foster ecological balance and conserve biodiversity. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of genetic engineering and chemical pest controls (some exceptions include naturally derived substances).”

These labeling terms are regulated by the USDA and are put on packages of food and fiber as follows:


• 100% Organic: Foods bearing this label are made with 100% organic ingredients and may display the USDA Organic seal.

• Organic: These products contain at least 95–99% organic ingredients (by weight). The remaining ingredients are not available organically but have been approved by the NOP. These products may display the USDA Organic seal.

• Made with Organic Ingredients: Food packaging that reads “Made with Organic Ingredients” must contain 70–94% organic ingredients. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal; instead, they may list up to three ingredients on the front of the packaging.

• Other: Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may only list organic ingredients on the information panel of the packaging. These products will not bear the USDA Organic seal.

This still is not regulated within the pet product industry but at least it gives the buyer of these products some basic information to use when confronted with the Organic claim.


Natural is truly anything that is found on Earth. Poison is natural, Plastic could even be considered natural as it is a petroleum product. Generally speaking, “Natural” could mean ingredients that have not been synthesized in the lab and are not a substance that’s been subjected to genetic manipulation. For further clarification, questioning the manufacturer on what they consider “Natural” could yield the best answer.

It is important to remember that everything is chemical by nature. Chemicals are nothing to fear and cover the spectrum of ineffective to gentle to harsh, to downright dangerous. It is in the correct formulation and application of these chemicals that some of the best products are born.


Botanical gives the feeling of green plants and lush gardens full of beautiful flowers and sweetly scented dew. In reality, 1 to 2 drops per gallon of concentrated shampoo gives the manufacturer the right to say “Botanical” on the label. Sometimes, 1 or 2 drops per gallon is actually the correct “dosage”.

These essences or oils that are derived from plants and flowers are all the rage these days and have as many benefits as side effects depending on what they are and how much is used, and even what species they are used on. There are programs that are being developed in the industry that are very informative about the uses of essential oils, hydrosols and other types of botanicals. This buzzword could even mean an herb that has been ground to a powder to be used as an additive or mask.


Yes, I said it. Holistic is a term that is thrown around so much it has lost its beautiful meaning. Webster’s dictionary defines holistic as:

adjective: holistic

Philosophically, characterized by comprehension of the parts of something as intimately interconnected and explicable only by reference to the whole.

In Medicine: Characterized by the treatment of the whole person, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease.

In essence, working as a Holistic groomer and pet aesthetician, I take into account the mental state of the animal, the condition of its coat and skin, and also form a bond with the owner so that I can get a clearer picture of the home life and nutrition of the pet before I begin my groom or therapeutic work. All therapeutic work begins with a diagnosis from the veterinarian if there is an underlying issue.

Hopefully this will shed some light on these confusing and over– used words that we hear so many times when looking for new products to try. Don’t be afraid of ingredients you can’t pronounce, all things chemical are given scientific names to classify them properly as they all belong to certain groups. That is a discussion for a different day. Happy shopping! ✂

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