Natural and Organic Certifications
Unlike the food industry, terms “natural” and “organic” are not legally regulated for cosmetics which means beauty product manufacturers can use these terms pretty freely. For example, “natural” will generally mean that at least some natural ingredients have been used in the formula, but a product can be labeled as natural and contain up to 30 percent synthetic ingredients!
The best thing to do is to check the certification logos on the product packaging and look for the brands that have had their products officially certified as natural or organic by an independent organisation (Ecocert, Natrue, Bdih, etc).
In the context of beauty products:
- natural ingredients are those that come from Nature, i.e. from the land or sea;
- botanical ingredients means they are derived from plants;
- organic ingredients are herbicide-, pesticide- and fertiliser-free, natural ingredients.
The only guarantee that a product is natural or organic is a certification logo. That means it has been through an independent evaluation of its ingredients and manufacturing method.
Since there is not a globally recognised standard, various independent groups and associations offer their guidelines for what these terms should stand for when applied to cosmetics.
The below information shall help you better understand what different labels stand for and the standards behind them.
Main Organic Certification bodies
USDA National Organic Program (NOP)
In the United States, organic farming is regulated by government under the USDA National Organic Program. It sets the toughest of all standards and it is not surprising most cosmetic companies are not able to meet them. For example, USDA allows for only surfactants derived from organic sources (no petrochemicals) to be used. Alike, it prohibits ingredients that are processed via hydrogenation, as well as synthetic preservatives.
Only certified products may bear “100 percent organic” or “Organic” claims and the USDA Organic Seal.
The Organic Food Chain is the Australian analogue of the USDA NOP program.
The Soil Association is a United Kingdom based organisation. All products with the Soil Association logo guarantee:
no animal testing, Genetically modified, toxic chemicals, parabens, synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances and no nano particles.
The BDIH is a German organisation, which endeavours to set standards for cosmetics throughout the EU. Their criteria is same to that of the Soil Association.
Ecocert is a set of organic standards established by a French company that was originally designed to apply to organic farming but has been also adopted by some in the cosmetic industry. Their standards are fairly easy to meet for most cosmetic companies, which is why they are so popular with many cosmetic ingredient makers.
The Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute (ICEA) is an organisation in Italy that provides certification of organic products.
NaTrue is attempting to set the International standard for natural and organic products. This group is based in Brussels and has its focus on only allowing plant-based ingredients.
Demeter cosmetics are aligned with the holistic approach to biodynamic agriculture. The cosmetic Guidelines are part of the Demeter principles for cultivation, processing, packaging and labeling. These are known worldwide as the most consistent quality regulations for high-quality organic products.
The advantages of Demeter natural cosmetics are:
- Demeter raw material content of 90 percent plant substances
- high biodegradability
- best quality of raw materials through the use of biodynamic preparations to produce the most fertile soil and best possible quality of maturity
- careful processing methods without synthetic or chemical additives
In order to introduce unity and consistency into organic certification in view of various independent groups emerging, BDIH, Ecocert, Soil Association and ICEA established joint Cosmetic organic and natural standards - Cosmos. Not all of them have made the change to the common standard but they have each committed to do so.
If you are questioning a label, contact us - our customer care team will be happy to help you.