What is Organic Cosmetics ?

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Since I’ve switched to cruelty free beauty in late August 2017, my interest in beauty products got further, or may I say deeper. I started to look at different labels and check the ingredient lists (that some days got me feeling terrified). Surely, I do not want any animals to be tortured in the creation process of beauty products, but, man, I also do not want these lotions and potions to harm me. 

I created this little summary (for me and for you) that explains what do terms natural & organic mean in cosmetics and how these products differ form conventionally made.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORGANIC / NATURAL AND TRADITIONAL COSMETICS ?

Traditional cosmetics usually contain mineral oil, (poly) silicone, polypropylene glycol, preservatives, that come from the petrochemical industry and are not biodegradable. Also, many ingredients of traditional cosmetics are dangerous for our skin and environment.

Natural and organic cosmetics contain vegetable oils, essential oils, mild natural emulsifiers, precious organic oils, natural fragrances and dyes. Organic cosmetics do not contaminate the environment and are safe and healthy for humans (except individual allergies).

NATURAL BEAUTY PRODUCTS

A natural ingredient is derived from a plant, mineral or is an animal by-product and should have had minimal or no processing. Natural products aren’t regulated by any governing body, therefore brands can use label natural as a pure marketing ploy, putting it on products that contain a few naturaly-derived ingredients but are still full with synthetic substances.

ORGANIC BEAUTY PRODUCTS

Organic ingredients are derived from non-genetically modified plants, grown in an ecological way, with respect for the environment without the use of artificial pesticides, fertilisers or any other toxic synthetic matter, and extracted and processed naturally. 

The term organic may be used for a product even if it contains just 1% organic ingredients. In this case a product cannot be certified organic in its complete form but the ingredients within it can be. The use of the word organic on beauty products is highly regulated, although there is no single accrediting body that owns the certified organic rule implementation around the world.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC BEAUTY PRODUCTS

For a product to claim it’s certified organic, it must meet a number of strict specifications that go beyond the organic requirements. To qualify, a product’s ingredients must contain absolutely no toxic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical NPK fertilizers and, in the case of animal products, no antibiotics or growth hormones. The concentration percentage of organic ingredients must be higher - usually starting from 70%, depending on different organizations’ requirements. 

ORGANIC CERTIFICATIONS

 
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ECOCERT

Ingredients derived from renewable resources and manufactured by environmentally friendly processes. A minimum of 95% of the total ingredients must come from natural origin (includes water when calculating the % of ingredients).
NO GMO, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes or dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them : milk, honey, etc.).
Animal ingredients allowed only ones that are naturally produced, such as milk, honey, beeswax etc. No other ingredients extracted from living or dead animals are allowed.
Animal testing of the finished product – no. Doesn’t mention ingredients. Exeption for certified products being sold in a country which requires animal testing (products sold in China can still carry the Ecocert label).
Packaging. Checking for the biodegradable or recyclable nature of packaging.
Control. On site audits are performed.

ECOCERT Natural and Organic certification

A minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 10% of all ingredients by weight in the finished product must come from organic farming. Only products where over 95% of all the ingredients are from organic farming are allowed to include the word organic in the product name.

ECOCERT Natural certification

A minimum of 50% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 5% of all ingredients by weight in the finished product must come from organic farming.

 
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SOIL ASSOCIATION

NO sulphates, cocamide DEA/MEA, genetically modified ingredients, ingredients containing nanoparticles (they specify the mean and minimum allowed particle size). Phenoxyethanol is only allowed to be used with approval and the manufacturer must show why they need to use this instead of one from the list of approved anti microbial agents.
Animal ingredients only if they are organic.
Animal testing - no. Not of ingredients, raw materials or finished product. The animal testing statement includes the phrase except where required by law.
Control. Manufacturing facilities are inspected annually. 

The Soil Association also have two levels of certification but only one label.

SOIL ASSOCIATION Products containing 70-95% organic ingredients

Must declare the percentage of organic ingredients used on the label. NOT allowed to use the word organic in the product name. It can state on the label made with organic ingredients but the product couldn’t be called, for example, organic shampoo.

SOIL ASSOCIATION Products containing over 95% organic ingredients

Manufacturers can use the word organic in the product name. The percentage of organic ingredients does not have to be quoted on the label.

 
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USDA

An organic labeling system from the USA by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Don’t regulate the term organic as it applies to cosmetics/body care/personal care products but only as it applies to agricultural products. This organic labeling system relates to organically grown agricultural ingredients rather than the finished skincare product. For the product to be able to bear the USDA label the producer of the organic ingredients, the handlers of the organic ingredients and the manufacturer of the final product must all be USDA certified. No information provdided on using animal ingredients or animal testing.

USDA 100% Organic

All ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be certified organic.

USDA Organic

The product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt).
Remaining ingredients must be either non-agricultural but from the approved list or non-organic agricultural ingredients for which there are no organic alternatives commercially available 
NO synthetic preservatives, petrochemicals, ionizing radiation or any other excluded methods.

USDA Made with Organic Ingredients

Must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). CANNOT display the USDA organic seal but must display the certifying agents details on the label. The product label can only state that it is made with organic… and list up to three of the organic ingredients.

USDA Less than 70% Organic ingredients

Product contains less than 70% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt). CANNOT display the USDA organic seal, the certifying agents details or use word organic on the front label. USDA certified ingredients used in the product can be identified on the ingredients label.

 
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NATRUE

NATRUE was founded in 2007 by a group of natural and organic cosmetics manufacturers. 

Ingredients. Water is not counted when calculating the level of natural ingredients. Identical to natural substances are only allowed for preservatives and minerals and only when the natural substance cannot be recovered from nature in the desired quality and/or quantity.
Packaging must be kept to a minimum, where possible it should be recyclable and made of renewable raw materials. Should not be made of halogenated plastics (for example PVC).
NO synthetic nature identical fragrances.
Restrictions. Chemically modified natural ingredients (derived natural substances) have restrictions over what processes are allowed and they are only allowed where the function cannot be achieved with the natural product alone. For example, a surfactant for a shampoo must be fully biodegradable.
Animal ingredients - no restrictions of the type of animal ingredients that can be included.
Animal testing - no. Not on ingredients or the finished products. The animal testing statement includes the phrase except where required by law.

NATRUE Natural Cosmetics

Ingredients must be natural but they do not have to be organic (from organic cultivation). Natural ingredients may only be processed with a limited number of production processes. Per product type, there is guarantee of a minimum threshold for natural ingredients and a maximum threshold for derived natural substances that must be respected.

NATRUE Natural Cosmetics with organic portion

At least 70% of natural (and/or derived natural, where applicable) ingredients must stem from controlled organic production and/or controlled wild collection. Manufacturers must fulfill the criteria of the first level also.

NATRUE Organic Cosmetics

At least 95 % of natural (and/or derived natural, where applicable) ingredients must come from controlled organic cultivation and/or controlled wild collection. Manufacturers must fulfill the previous two levels also.

 
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COSMOS

COSMOS is the latest organic cosmetic labeling standart, founded in 2010. The founders of COSMOS at this time were BDIH (Germany), COSMEBIO & ECOCERT (France), ICEA (Italy) and SOIL ASSOCIATION (UK). Currently the COSMOS signifier (natural or organic) is displayed beneath the founders label.

NO nanomaterials, GMO and irradiation.
Packaging should be kept to a minimum, maximise the amount of reusable or recyclable materials and use materials with recycled content. Companies should have a recycling process in place for waste created during manufacturing.
Animal ingredients allowed but only ones that are naturally produced by them, such as milk, honey, beeswax etc. No ingredients extracted from living or dead animals are allowed. 
Animal testing - no. Not on ingredients or the finished products. The animal testing statement includes the phrase except where required by law.

 COSMOS Organic certification

At least 95% of all agro ingredients (plant, animal or microbial ingredients) must be organically produced and at least 20% of the total product must be organic. There is an exception for rinse off, non-emulsified aqueous products and products with at least 80% minerals or ingredients of mineral origin, then at least 10% of the total product must be organic. The product must not be called organic, for example, organic shampoo, unless it is at least 95% organic, measured as a percent of the total product.

COSMOS Natural certification

There is no minimum level of organic ingredients required. Organic products can be identified in the ingredients list. No organic claims on the front of the packaging.


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