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Deciphering Organic, Part 1

By: Leslie Lyon and Marilyn Patterson
Posted: January 29, 2010, from the February 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

page 3 of 7

Lyon: What is greenwashing?

Patterson: Using green words, such as organic, natural, vitamins or botanicals, when they are present in concentrations too low to have any effect is a form of greenwashing. Another form is when the green ingredients are used with other questionable ingredients.

In regard to ingredients, if the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), a U.S.-based organization that reviews and assesses the safety of cosmetic ingredients, has found a material to be safe at the levels used in cosmetics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Personal Care Products Council (PCPC) consider them safe at the levels used. You can review specific ingredients and their CIR findings at

Lyon: What is the purpose of organic ingredient lists?

Patterson: Each organic- and natural-certifying organization has its own list of allowed and banned ingredients. They can be difficult to access, but you can find out more about cosmetic ingredients from the certification organizations. It is a tedious process to go through the ingredient listings on a product label and compare them to those on the positive and negative lists, but this is the only way to ensure that the products you are interested in are truly natural, if they do not feature a reputable certification logo. The other option would be to hire a consultant to help you through this process.