'Green' Standard Launched to Certify Cosmetic Product Life Cycle

Green Seal Logo
Green Seal Logo

Nonprofit organization Green Seal Inc. has created GS-50, reportedly the first U.S. certification standard for cosmetic and personal care products that covers the whole product life cycle. The standard establishes environmental, health and performance requirements for products intended to be left on the body and hair, including: lotions, moisturizers, oils, powders, creams, sunscreen,  hair spray, styling products, nail polish, insect repellent, makeup,antiperspirants and deodorants.

To achieve the standard, manufacturers must satisfy performance, health and environmental requirements as well as social responsibility, packaging and labeling requirements—in addition to providing definitions for common claims such as naturalorganic and bio-based. Once these standards are met, manufacturers can feature the Green Seal label, as shown above.

For example, regarding safety, the standard:

  • prohibits components that are carcinogens, reproductive toxins, mutagens and neurotoxins/systemic toxins, endocrine disruptors and asthmagens as well as a host of other chemicals of concern;
  • prohibits components that are acutely toxic, cause skin or eye corrosion or irritation, or cause skin sensitization;
  • prohibits animal testing of the product or its components;
  • establishes limits to volatile organic compounds (VOCs), aquatic toxicity and biodegradability, bioaccumulation, eutrophication, and lead contamination;
  • establishes allergen labeling;
  • limits nanoscale components and establishes labeling requirements for these components; and
  • sets formulation limits for colors and photosensitizers.

In addition, manufacturing under this standard requires compliance with quality assurance and control practices and procedures for the building and facility, equipment, personnel, raw materials, production, laboratory, labeling, records and complaints. Furthermore, the use of energy and water during manufacturing must be reported, along with waste and emissions. And the manufacturer must submit documentation showing that production meets social responsibility requirements; freedom of association and collective bargaining; freedom of labor; freedom from discrimination; occupational health and safety; and conditions of employment.

Regarding packaging, the primary and secondary packaging must reduce the use of new materials either by being source reduced, recyclable and contain 25% postconsumer content, contain 50% postconsumer content; or be accepted through a take-back program. Heavy metals, phthalates, bisphenol A and chlorinated packaging and applicators are prohibited.

Finally, labeling requirements for the standard mandate that: 

  • the product packaging list the product ingredients;
  • the general term fragrance may be used for fragrance components but a list of fragrance components must be easily accessible to users (i.e., through the company website or customer service);
  • the label states if fragrance has been added and must indicate any allergen components;
  • packaging includes instructions for proper use to maximize product performance and minimize waste;
  • organic claims follow the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Organic Program or the NSF/ANSI 305 standard;
  • natural and bio-based claims must be supported with documentation for verification and meet Green Seal’s specific definition;
  • products containing components known to enhance skin’s sensitivity to UV rays must include a statement about the increased risk of sun exposure; and
  • the label must include proper disposal instructions including clear package recycling instructions.

According to the organization, the upcoming release of the Federal Trade Commission's Green Guides for Environmental Marketing Claims will likely result in more scrutiny of claims made on products and how the claims are substantiated.

This standard joins the organization's Green Seal standard for Soaps and Shower Products (GS-44). The new standards can be downloaded and applications for certification can be made at www.greenseal.org. The evaluation process includes a review of data; the assessment of labeling, marketing and promotional materials; and an on-site audit of manufacturing facilities. Annual monitoring is also conducted for those awarded the Green Seal, to ensure continued compliance.

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