The Body Shop's Rainforest Shampoos. Courtesy Photo

As the transparency behind the making of beauty products grows ever clearer with the rise of socially-conscious shoppers, fair trade ingredients are increasing in popularity. The Avon-owned mark brand's new entry into the market even suggests the concept is about to go mainstream.

But what does it mean if ingredients are "fair trade?"

Under regular conditions, rural farmers often have no choice but to accept paltry pay that is lower than their cost of goods because of competitive international market pricing. Fair trade means farmers around the world receive fair pay for their work that allows them to make a living wage.

Fair trade also requires safe and humane working conditions, direct trade that is free of a costly middleman, and care that the community and environment are not harmed, but instead enriched by the business.

The Body Shop
's founder -- Anita Roddick -- is credited with starting the fair trade for beauty products concept in 1987, when her international travels led her to discover destitute conditions that many small villages faced while farming natural ingredients. Roddick decided to work directly with the farmers and pay a fair price for goods, so that their families and communities could grow along with their businesses.

Some critics argue that fair trade raises the prices of goods, but The Body Shop says that today's customer isn't just focused on getting the cheapest price possible.

"Many consumers want more than to just buy the latest new product, they want to know that their purchase is making a positive difference to someone somewhere else in the world, or to the environment," says Shelley Simmons, director of brand communications and values for The Body Shop.



Fair trade could even be good for business since investors don't have to worry about sweatshop-like risks in the supply chain, which could be the death of a brand, says Karen Sinclair, the founder of the organic Sophyto skincare line.

"You only have to look at what happened to Nike; they were denounced for the poor pay and conditions of workers making their products. Nike's shares fell considerably after repeat media exposure," Sinclair tells StyleList.

Fair Trade USA - an organization that offers industry certification so shoppers know that stickered products are the real deal -- says that the other common complaint that fair trade partnerships take away from American jobs isn't a credible criticism.

"Almost all of the products that are Fair Trade Certified can't be grown locally. Cocoa butter, vanilla, tea and coffee are grown in the global south, in farming communities that need our help the most. We strongly support the buy local movement, and Fair Trade Certification goes hand-in-hand with this train of thought," public relations manager Katie Barrow tells StyleList.

While looking for Fair Trade USA's certification is a great way to make sure products meet stringent standards, not having certification doesn't necessarily mean that a brand is not legit.

Giants like The Body Shop say that they don't pursue certification because having products meet custom standards in each of the 65 countries their products are sold in isn't feasible.

Instead, rely on your own internet research and hop onto a brand's website to see if specifics are listed anywhere on what the fair trade ingredients are, and where they come from. Be suspicious of any one touting the fair trade phrase without any details to back it up.

For an international journey of inspiration that we've done the homework on, check out our gallery, above, of the best new fair trade products on the market.