When you think of organic food, you probably have a good idea about what that word means, but organic, natural beauty? That’s a whole different ball game. When we have brands that proudly state the ingredients they don’t contain; no Parabens, no Sulfates, no Phthalates, and with other brands claiming they’re all natural, or ‘pure’….. the beauty world can be a bit of a minefield. The problems is, do any of us really know what these ingredients are, why they’re added to our cosmetics, and why we should avoid them anyway? Do we know what’s natural, or what’s organic?
Most US consumers believe that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate the cosmetic industry, but the truth is they have no authority to require pre-market safety assessment. The campaign for safe cosmetics states that 89 percent of all ingredients in cosmetics have not been evaluated for safety by any publicly accountable institution. Unbelievably, cosmetics are the least regulated products on the US market.
Things are a little brighter in the UK, where the Cosmetic Products (Safety) Regulations, soon to be over taken by the European Regulations on July 13th 2013, state that finished cosmetic products must undergo a safety assessment by a suitably qualified person, before they can go on the market.
As I’ve been buying a lot more products that make these “no nasty ingredient” claims, I thought that it was worth creating a ‘beauty dictionary’ to look more closely at what all these words mean. I am by no means preaching to y’all, goodness know my bathroom is packed full of products with unsavory ingredients, I’m simply a girl sitting in front of a computer asking you to love me. Kidding! I’m just a girl, trying to make us all informed consumers! I’ve split The Beauty Dictionary into sections so that it’s not too overwhelming. Still, you might wanna find a comfy seat, and get some snacks for this one. Here goes…
So what is Natural Beauty? Well besides from being Miranda Kerr, it doesn’t really mean a whole lot, because the word ‘natural,’ ‘herbal’ or even ‘organic’ aren’t legally defined, meaning anyone can create a 100% synthetic lipstick, and stick the label “all natural” on it. Nice. A lot of the claims from the cosmetic industry are just marketing hype, and because companies know that we want products that are less toxic for us and the environment, they’ve jumped on the ‘natural, organic’ band wagon, and there ain’t no sheriff in town coming to stop them.
What does Organic mean on beauty labels? Again, not a whole lot. The USDA only regulates food products as organic, meaning other ingredients in beauty products aren’t regulated by this program, which makes things a trifle confusing. Whilst the USDA can regulate the food based ingredients in beauty products, they can’t regulate plant derived ingredients and essential oils, which means they may have been grown with harsh chemicals, toxic pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. There are private commercial standards for organic and natural cosmetics, and a couple of legal standards outside the EU, but they are all different, which makes things particularly difficult for consumers. If you want to go organic, make sure you know your labels, your ingredients, and don’t be fooled by marketing blurb.
Here are some labels to look out for;
Soil Association: Products must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. If the product contains 70% organic ingredients it can still be certified by the Soil Association as long as the exact proportions are stated.
Ecocert: At least 95%
of the plant ingredients and total content must be certified organic and of
USDA: Products must contain 95%
organically produced ingredients, while ‘Made with organic ingredients’
products must contain at least 70% organic ingredients.
CosmeBio: 95% of the
vegetable ingredients result from organic agriculture and the ingredients must
be of natural origin. Ten per cent minimum of the ingredients of the finished
product must be certified organic.
The Natural Association: Products have to at least 95% natural, but this has no reflection on whether the product is organic ie. farmed without pesticides. It will however tell you that a product is largely plant or mineral based.
So… I hope I haven’t bored you to tears, and if you reached the end of this post you deserve a medal! Peace out my lovely (more) informed consumer!