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Are Organic and Natural Cosmetics Really As Good As They Claim?

Apr 19, 2008
Organic and natural cosmetics usage is on the rise. As these products become big business, it is important for consumers to protect themselves against false product labeling. That is why it is essential to have a third-party certify that a product is indeed an organic or natural cosmetic product.

Natural or Organic?
In the United States, a product that claims to be a natural cosmetics product does not have to go through any government testing to put the word "natural" on their packaging. Even most chemicals can be traced back to their natural roots, so technically the term "natural" can apply to just about anything! This term has become a marketing tool to sell more seemingly natural cosmetics to unsuspecting consumers.

In order to use the term "organic" on labeling in the US, however, there are strict government regulations that must be followed. Most importantly, an organic cosmetic company must prove that the majority of its ingredients have been grown and processed according to strict, government-controlled, organic agricultural standards. Depending on whether they claim to have 100% organic, organic or "made with organic ingredients" an organic cosmetics company's products can contain varying degrees of organic ingredients.

There are multiple regulatory agencies that can determine if a cosmetic company can call themselves "organic." The most stringent organic cosmetics regulations actually come from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA.) Organic cosmetics that feature the USDA label on their products meet the strict ingredients and processing criteria in accordance with the USDA's National Organic Program.

Unfortunately, it costs money to become certified organic, so many small organic cosmetic and soap companies choose to forego the pricey government certification and opt for the term "natural" to sell their products. In the end, this only serves to hurt their reputation and confuse the consumer.

Higher Standards in Europe

It is extremely important to note that European countries such as France and Germany as well as other countries like Australia already hold their natural and organic cosmetics to an even higher standard than the United States.

In Germany, for instance, only natural cosmetics companies who have proven to adhere to the strict BDIH guidelines are able to put their seal on their packaging. These guidelines ban petroleum-based, synthetic or genetically modified ingredients. They also require packaging to be ecologically conscious and prohibit any animal testing among other rules. These guidelines only apply to natural cosmetics companies, not organic ones.

The Future Of Certification

Recently, some strides have been made to hold companies responsible for mislabeling their organic and natural cosmetics when they contained non-organic and petrochemical materials. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) publicly attacked popular companies such as Jason's Pure Natural, Kiss My Face and Nature's Gate Organics for using known carcinogens in their products.

Unfortunately, the landscape of certified and natural cosmetics in the United States is only going to get more uncertain in the months to come as certification agencies, industry groups and retailers implement their own regulations.

However, with the Natural Products Association launching its bid to tighten regulations in the US on natural products with what amounts to a near reflection of BDIH guidelines, there is hope for the future provided these tougher rules are adopted and supported broadly by the natural personal care products industry and its leaders such as Lavera, Dr. Bronner's and Dr Hauschka.

At least for now though there is USDA and BDIH for the European-produced brands. No products certified by either body earned any black marks from the OCA.
About the Author
Author is a freelance copywriter. For more information on Natural
, visit http://www.lavera.com.
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