29/05/17 Organic Beauty Products Are Misleading Us

There’s some sort of relief that comes with buying a product that is organic. You feel like you’re doing good for yourself, as well as the planet. But labelling is not always so clean cut.

For food products to be labelled ‘organic’, they must be approved by an independent organic certification body, which regularly inspects everything from labelling to production methods to ensure rules about pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, animal welfare and additives are all followed. Packaged products, such as tinned beans, can be sold as organic only if at least 95% of ingredients are from organically produced plants or animals.

It’s then understandable that as standards for organic food are so tough, we believe the same is true for organic beauty products.

But unlike organic food, it might shock you to realise that there is no specific EU regulation or legal definition to regulate for authenticity in terms of toxin-free ingredients. As a result, any brand or beauty product can say it’s organic or natural even if it contains virtually no organic or natural ingredients or without having to satisfy any set standards. A brand can drop 0.01ml of organic argan oil into a cream or spray and say it’s ‘made with organic argan oil’, but that doesn’t mean ingredients derived from petrochemicals aren’t included.

And so, it has been revealed that the makers of many “organic” beauty products have been accused of confusing and meaningless labelling, according to a new survey by the Soil Association, in which 76% of consumers admitted they felt misled. Meaning that many of us are slathering our faces, bodies and hair with potentially harmful chemicals – and we don’t even know it.

There are however, expert organisations who want to lift the lid (ahem) on these products and brands and call for greater transparency within the beauty industry by creating a series of robust, independent, voluntary standards to encourage responsible use of the term “organic”. Cosmos and NaTrue are two well-known examples, as well as the NSF-ANSI standard from the US. 

Image courtesy: CHAMILLE WHITE

Launching the Campaign For Clarity, the UK’s largest organic certification body, the Soil Association is exposing the brands that use the word ‘organic’ for products which also contain ingredients that could damage health or the environment. Even some well known brands have been caught claiming to ‘nurture your skin with powerful organic ingredients’, yet feature some products that contain ingredients which are derived from petrochemicals.

Since the start of 2017, new products requesting certification must be COSMOS approved, meaning that at least 95% of all ingredients must be organic if it says ‘made with organic’ ingredients, or 20% for leave-on products and 10% for rinse-off products. This also covers the production process, which must have a minimal impact on the environment, non-organic ingredients must have natural colours and fragrances, and petrochemicals must be restricted.

Going forward, how can you be sure beauty products are organic?

Know the difference between “Organic” and “made with organic”

Look for the logos – COSMOS logo, or for the Soil Association logo on health or wellbeing products.

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and what you put on it is likely to be absorbed into your bloodstream. Treat it well. 

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