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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 6 of 7

Patterson: The guidelines for accreditation of ingredients for natural and organic cosmetic products or skin care lines are similar for all certifying bodies, with some variation on the percentage of organic content and allowed preservatives. To be used in a natural or organic cosmetic or skin care product, an ingredient often must comply with the following.

Renewable. Most plant material is renewable. Plants grown organically are preferred for environmental and safety reasons. Minerals may also be acceptable if they do not contain harmful contaminants, such as heavy metals. Petroleum, although natural, is usually changed in form when it is used in manufacturing, and it is not renewable. Animal products are allowed if no harm is done to the animal. There are some exceptions, such as carmine, red colorant that is derived from crushed insects, and chitin/chitosan that is derived from shrimp shells. It is important to note that in the European Union (EU), ingredients tested on animals are not allowed.

Safety. Safety testing is currently done on animals in some cases, but there is a huge effort in research and development to replace animal testing with alternatives. The safety testing of some materials is currently performed on animals when an alternative hasn’t been validated to find out how that material impacts an organism systemically. In many cases, these animal tests are required by the FDA because you can’t test on humans. A botanical oil or extract often has a long history of use, so it is deemed safe. If there is a chance of harmful impurities being present in an ingredient, than the ingredient is not allowed.

Synthetics. Synthetics are not allowed because most use petroleum-based starting molecules.

Biodegradability. Silicones do not biodegrade, so they are not allowed, and there are many surfactants and preservatives that are not allowed because they do not biodegrade quickly.