15.5.13

How to make sure you’re buying truly organic skincare



Louise, a cruelty free blogger (looweezbx.blogspot.co.uk) asked me an interesting question – “X label themselves as organic, do you know if they are legit organic or how can you tell?” 

In Britain, laws governing the labelling on organic foods do not extend to cosmetic products. A company can describe a product as organic even if it contains small amounts of organic ingredients. Last year Boots Little Me Organics advert was banned by the ASA (Advertising Standards Agency). A complaint was made that said “claims that the product was ‘organic’ were misleading because they implied it met an independent organic standard. The product had less than 5% organic ingredients.”

If you are keen to use organic skincare then you need to look at product labels and websites for signs of organic certifications from a recognised association. You will need to keep in mind that each organisation has different guidelines as to what qualifies a product organic. 

The Soil Association, UK - A product must contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients but if it contains more than 70 per cent organic ingredients, it can still be certified by the Soil Association, so long as the exact proportions are stated. (source)

NaTrue, European Union - non-profit organization formed by natural cosmetic manufacturers in Europe. NaTrue has created 3 levels of certification (was a 3 star system) as follows: 1) Natural Cosmetics - Ingredients must be natural but they do not have to be organic (from organic cultivation). This level is the foundation of the NATRUE-Label: it defines which ingredients are permitted and how they may be processed. Products of the other two levels need to fulfil the criteria of this level first. 2) Natural Cosmetics with Organic Portion Natural cosmetics containing ingredients of organic origin:at least 70% of natural (and/or derived natural, where applicable) ingredients must stem from controlled organic production and/or controlled wild collection. 3) Organic Cosmetics - At least 95 % of natural* (*and/or derived natural, where applicable) ingredients must come from controlled organic cultivation and/or controlled wild collection.

Eco-Cert, France - Requires a minimum 95% of natural ingredients and a maximum of 5% of ingredients of synthetic origin. 10% of total product by weight (including the weight of water) must be organic.

USDA Organic, USA - a highly stringent set of organic standards for food manufacturers that requires at least 95% organic ingredients to use the "Organic" logo. Products that use 100% organic ingredients can use the "100% Organic" logo. (source)

Organic Farmers & Growers - Further information on The OF&G Certification Scheme for Cosmetics and Bodycare Products can be found here.

Now you know the certification logos to look out for you have to be aware that there are organic "fakers". Having a product certified organic is costly so I understand why smaller companies don't take the plunge. However, I see a growing number of smaller businesses not displaying logos but instead simply claiming and promoting "made with certified organic ingredients". Also using the word "Organic" in the name of your company portrays an image to the consumer which could be misleading, as with the Boots case I mentioned earlier. Some companies even going so far as to use made up logos (I shall not name & shame but I have seen this recently).

So why the fuss? Let me explain that saying a product uses certified organic ingredients is not the same as having the final product certified. One obviously way to spot an organic "faker" is to look at the non-organic ingredients. There are strict guidelines for the preservative systems which are allowed and they must meet toxicity and biodegradability standards e.g if you see parabens then you have a faker on your hands as these ingredients would not be allowed by the Soil AssociationGetting a product certified also involves a set of procedures such as auditing the factory, batch testing products and ensuring correct labelling and packaging.

If buying organic skincare is important to you then purchase from Companies who are certified by a recognised organisation. If you are happy to buy from companies not accredited then make sure you read the labels and understand the true organic content. I see no reason to pay over the odds for a product which has only two certified organic ingredients within it and a bunch of questionable ingredients.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on this topic in the comment section below.



Thank you to Abi (Essential Care) & Tamara (Rainbow Feet) for helping me with my research for this blog post



24 comments:

  1. Another interesting post Sarah. I am still learning about organic and natural skincare, so this has given me more things to look out for. Though I am not really strict with it, I have noticed my skin is better the more natural products I use.
    I do think there should be more laws on it so companies can't say something is organic when its not.
    x

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    1. Thanks Alice, people always comment on my skin & I put it down to making the switch to natural products. The company you reviewed the other day is a playing on words with their products :(

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  2. Brilliant post Sarah. I was actually thinking about a similar topic and considering a blog post on it myself. I thought that there are so many "natural" beauty brands out there - when you look at the ingredients of some of them you realise they are not that natural at all, but seem to get away with branding themselves that way. This angers me a lot and I think there should be strict guidelines on this, esp as consumers are seem more and more keen to use natural/organic products over synthetic products.

    Your post is very informative and I will share on Twitter and FB. Thank you lovely. xx

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    1. Thanks for sharing Grace & glad you have found this informative. It's a complicated issue because on one hand you have to look at those claiming to be natural & then you have judge whether organic claims are justified. There are some good brands out there who use 100% organic ingredients but are not certified but consumers need aware that some are not using a large quantity of organic ingredients but their marketing is based around being organic.

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  3. Great post, very helpful! And thanks for the mention haha :) xx

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    1. You're welcome, after all you were the inspiration :)

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  4. Fantastic post Sarah! Very informative.

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  5. What a great post, thank you very much!

    I have just started my own blog about natural and organic products and I looking forward to share opinions with all the bloggers and readers so to learn more about this subject.

    Please pass by and let me know what you think :) http://cleanserblog.blogspot.co.uk/

    Ila x

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    1. I look forward to chatting with you on and reading your blog :)

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  6. Great post! So important for people to know what they are getting :) x

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    1. Thank you & I do agree with you it is important :)

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  7. Great post! I really think there should be rules on how a company can label themselves - it can be very confusing and I think can dupe a lot of people. I've been using more natural products recently and my skin seems to be thanking me for it! xx

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    1. I'm pleased to hear you see a difference with using natural products because its the reason I started my blog, the change in my skin has been dramatic and now everyone says nice things about it :)

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  8. Love this post. Thanks for sharing. It is an interesting discussion.. I am training in skincare formulation at Neals Yard and also run the Liberate Your Skin blog. I recently heard that Eco Cert and The Soil Association are about to merge to create an association or new set of standards called Cosmos. This will ensure all products (wherever in Europe) with a Cosmos label are 95% organic, hopefully eliminating this 'grey' area a bit and all the different labelling. Here's more on it if you are interested; http://www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organicbeauty
    Thanks again for the fab post x :-)

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    1. Thanks for the link & glad you enjoyed the post, I had the impression that Cosmos was a group of organisation agreeing over some standard rules not that they were merging but perhaps I have miss re-read

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  9. Great post! I hear this a lot also--many people seem to think that if a label says "natural" there must be no harsh chemicals, or if it says "organic" it must be 100% pure. Educating yourself is important, because the companies certainly will not do it for you!!

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    1. I've written a few times about particular companies that greenwash consumers. I totally agree we need to education and protest with our money and shop with brands that are honest :)

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  10. Lots of good information here :) I wasn't aware of the differences between the various European certifications

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    1. Thanks Caitie, glad you found this post informative :)

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  11. This is a great post Sarah, and I'm glad that you mentioned about crediting being a costly affair. It's a shame that it costs so much because I feel it stops a lot of small, independent companies from really branching out and developing. But from a consumer point of view, it's very difficult to find out what's really organic and what's just jumping on the bandwagon if a brand or product isn't properly accredited x

    Evelyn @ We Were Raised By Wolves

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    1. Thanks Evelyn & I agree with you about maybe stopping companies branching out. It can be very confusing for the customer and understanding the different association standards for qualifying as organic products.

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  12. It's an interesting topic Sarah, and hard for the consumer to know which company to pick but I think you need to sometimes read between the lines - if the company is a big one, and claims to be organic but isn't certified (when they obviously COULD afford the time/fees involved) then I'd say steer clear. BUT if the company is a small one, very open to inspection, happy to answer any questions about their organic credentials (to the point of happily forwarding their ingredient invoices/emailing photos of their raw ingredients in their certified containers) then I'd say don't dismiss them. Small companies often have better ethics and are true to their organic principles in a way that bigger companies aren't. We are one of those small companies, we started with high ideals, and were initially certified with the Soil Association - but as a small company you are sometimes made to feel very much at the bottom of their priority list which is a real shame. Also the fees and the time involved for complying with their paperwork requests are a bit crazy - and difficult when you are a small team. We use a 'fake' (your words not ours!) logo to tell customers that our ingredients are certified - but it's not there to mislead, just there to inform. I LOVE organic ingredients, ideals, principles and will never waver from them. Whether we are certified or not :)

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    1. I understand that smaller companies struggle with certification costs etc. Getting ingredients out of people is hard enough getting them to prove organic ingredients can be impossible. If you are doing this for customers then I salute you. When I wrote this it was inspired by a company who call themselves Organic in their company name but products contain 1 declared organic ingredient which I feel is rather misleading.

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