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Deciphering Organic, Part 2

By: Leslie Lyon and Marilyn Patterson
Posted: February 24, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

page 2 of 5

This category is where the debate begins. Many certifying bodies are stating that products are organic according to their regulations, but the percentage of organic botanicals required is below the 95% organic content line. These should be considered natural rather than organic. If a product is certified natural or organic, it will have a logo denoting this. A certified natural or organic cosmetic or skin care line must use ingredients that follow strict rules for safety and environmental protection. The main difference between Degree #3and Degree #4 is that a certified natural product must use certified organic botanicals when possible, and nonorganic botanicals must be 5% or less of the botanical content to qualify at Degree #4. The problem with noncertified organic botanicals is that pesticides or other harmful impurities may be present because the plants may not have been grown organically. Many efficacious botanical actives are excluded because they are not certified organic, and there are few organic actives available at this time. There is no way to tell if the botanical listed on the label has been grown without pesticides or herbicides unless the cosmetic has undergone a certification process.

In Europe, the Cosmetic Organic Standard (COSMOS) was one of the first European harmonized standards for organic personal care products. Many countries in Europe have individually developed standards for natural or organic cosmetic products, and in an effort to standardize these regulations, six of the European organic personal care regulatory bodies have formed COSMOS.

COSMOS requires 95% of agricultural ingredients to be organic and 20% of total product by weight, including water, to be organic. It does allow a maximum of 5% synthetic content. But this organization is still under development and will not have products certified under it for another year or two. The six founding member companies—BDIH from Germany, BIOFORUM from Belgium, COSMEBIO and ECOCERT from France, ICEA from Italy, and the Soil Association from the United Kingdom—still certify under their own logos and standards.

These certifying bodies have been classified as natural or organic rather than certified organic because the percentage of organic ingredients required is not as high as the food organic standard.

This statement should be qualified because the calculations for Degree #4 certifying bodies include water, while the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP) calculations exclude water. This difference means that the organic percentage of a product that has been certified by Degree #4 cannot be directly compared by a certifying body to a USDA-certified product. It is possible to make an efficacious cosmetic product in this category without the added expense of certification. This degree is a good choice for spa professionals because the work of verifying organic ingredients has already been completed. However, it is still important to contact the certifying body to ensure that this product is using the logo legally.

Degree #5: Certified organic