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Organic Certifications for Cosmetic, Skin and Hair Care Products and how they relate to Vegetarians and Vegans

 

We thought we’d do a blog on the different types of organic certifications that can be found on haircare, skincare and make up products and especially what that means to Vegetarians and Vegans and those looking for cruelty free products.  We were going to say this was a little piece but it’s turned into a bit more than that!  Not all organic certifications are created equal and it’s useful to know how they differ and understand how that can impact how organic and Vegetarian or Vegan your product actually is.

 

We haven’t covered every single organic certification out there but hopefully we’ve captured the ones most familiar to you.

 

Please note, we’ve had to read a lot of sometimes fairly lengthy ‘standards’ to get this information and, as we’re not scientists or experts in the production of organic ingredients or products, we acknowledge that we may have interpreted something incorrectly.  Please let us know if that’s the case!

 

Ecocert

ecocert logo

 

Ecocert produce two types of certificates, a) Organic and Natural and b) Natural only.  You should be able to see which certification the product has received from the label.  It will say either Organic or Natural underneath the Ecocert logo.

 

Ecocert require that ingredients are derived from renewable resources and manufactured by environmentally friendly processes.

  • There should be no GMO, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG, synthetic perfumes or dyes, animal-derived ingredients (unless naturally produced by them: milk, honey, etc.).
  • They check for the biodegradable or recyclable nature of packaging.
  • On site audits are performed.
  • They include water when calculating the % of ingredients, they state that this means there is a higher proportion of organic ingredients in the finished product as a result.
  • For both certifications, a minimum of 95% of the total ingredients must come from natural origin.

 

Natural and Organic certification:

  • A minimum of 95% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 10% of all ingredients by weight in the finished product must come from organic farming.
  • Only products where over 95% of all the ingredients are from organic farming are allowed to include the word ‘Organic’ in the product name.

 

Natural certification:

  • A minimum of 50% of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of 5% of all ingredients by weight in the finished product must come from organic farming.

 

Animal Testing?  Of the finished product – no.   Doesn’t mention ingredients though.  Good to remember in cases like this that products to be sold in the EU cannot have their ingredients or finished product tested on animals.

 

‘China exception’ to animal testing?  Yes, there appears to be an exemption for certified products being sold in a country which requires animal testing.  See this ecocert statement, if we read it correctly they have added an exemption so that products sold in China can still carry the ecocert label.

 

Animal Ingredients?  Yes, but only ones that are naturally produced by them such as milk, honey, beeswax etc.  No other ingredients extracted from living or dead animals are allowed.

 

Our thoughts: We like that they focus on packaging when looking at certification, no PVC and no cellophane allowed.  You also can’t use packaging made from animals or that has lead to the death of animals (such as leather or silk) which gets a round of applause from us.  Though why anyone would do that in the first place is a mystery…..    They also include provisions for protecting habitats and ecosystems in relation to the extraction of natural (including marine) ingredients.   Sad that we can’t find a mention of ban on animal testing of ingredients and the China exemption is disappointing.  It would give us comfort if we knew that the Ecocert label meant that the product was cruelty free regardless of what country it was made or sold in.  We’ve found the rules for the organic certification a little confusing to understand.  Including a distinction between plant based and all ingredients seems a bit odd.

 

Source: Information taken from the Ecocert website http://www.ecocert.com/en/natural-and-organic-cosmetics  and the Ecocert standard document: http://www.ecocert.com/sites/default/files/u3/Ecocert-Standard.pdf

 

Soil Association soil association logo

 

The Soil Association also have two levels of certification but only one label.

 

Products containing between 70 & 95% organic ingredients:

  • must declare the percentage of organic ingredients used on the label.
  • NOT allowed to use the word ‘organic’ in the product name.  It can state on the label ‘made with organic ingredients’ but the product couldn’t be called, for example, ‘organic shampoo’.

 

Products containing over 95% organic ingredients:

  • Manufacturers can use the word ‘organic’ in the product name.
  • The percentage of organic ingredients does not have to be quoted on the label.

 

The Soil Association Organic Standards is an interesting read and not too technical for us laymen.  Highlights from the beauty section are:

  • Ingredients containing nanoparticles are not allowed and they specify the mean and minimum allowed particle size.
  • If an organic ingredient is available that must be used.
  • Phenoxyethanol is only allowed to be used with approval and the manufacturer must show why they need to use this instead of one from the list of approved anti microbial agents.
  • Sulphates and cocamide DEA/MEA cannot be used.
  • Genetically modified ingredients are not allowed.
  • Manufacturing facilities are inspected annually.

 

Animal Testing? No, not of ingredients, raw materials or finished product.

 

‘China exception’ to animal testing?  Yes.  The animal testing statement includes the phrase ‘except where required by law’.

 

Animal Ingredients? Yes.  We could not find anything in the Soil Association organic standards which restricts the type of animal ingredients that can be included.  From that we take it animal ingredients extracted from living or dead animals (as opposed to naturally produced by them) could be used as long as they are organic.

 

Our thoughts: Much clearer statement regarding animal testing on products and ingredients though disappointed at the ‘china exclusion’ and lack of clarity regarding exactly what animal ingredients can be used.

 

Source: Information taken from the Soil Association website: http://www.soilassociation.org/whatisorganic/organicbeauty . The Soil Association standards for health and beauty products are here: http://www.soilassociation.org/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Os9v5O1YZUs%3d&tabid=353

 

USDA

USDA organic Logo

 

This is an organic labeling system from the USA by the United States Department of Agriculture.

 

Interestingly, their first statement is that they don’t regulate the term Organic as it applies to cosmetics/body care/personal care products only as it applies to agricultural products.  We’ve tended to think of them as one and the same but they make the distinction, they’re only interested in the organic ingredients within a ‘personal care’ product.  The producer of the organic ingredients, the handlers of the organic ingredients and the manufacturer of the final product must all be USDA certified for the product to be able to bear the USDA label.

 

Similar to the others, they have grades of ‘organic-ness’ depending upon the level of organic ingredients in the product.  There are 4 levels:

 

100% Organic

  • All ingredients (excluding water and salt) must be certified organic.

 

‘Organic’

  • The product must contain at least 95% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt).
  • Remaining ingredients must be either non-agricultural but from the approved list or non-organic agricultural ingredients for which there are no organic alternatives commercially available (these must be on the ‘National List’)
  • Products cannot be produced using synthetic preservatives, petrochemicals, ionizing radiation or any other excluded methods (we’re not sure what the other excluded methods are though!).

 

‘Made with Organic Ingredients’

  • Must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt).
  • CANNOT display the USDA organic seal but must display the certifying agents details on the label.
  • The product label can only state that it is ‘made with organic…’ and list up to three of the organic ingredients.

 

Less than 70% Organic ingredients

  • Product contains less than 70% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt).
  • The principle display panel on the product cannot use the word organic
  • USDA certified ingredients used in the product can be identified on the ingredients label
  • CANNOT display the USDA organic seal or the certifying agents details on the label.

 

Because this organic labeling system relates to organically grown agricultural ingredients rather than the finished skincare product, it’s been difficult to find out what the stance is on animal testing, animal ingredients, preservatives etc. If anyone has any more information on this, please let us know!

 

Our thoughts: Anyone who has read the book No More Dirty Looks will be fully aware that the personal care market in the USA is a bit of a mine field and does not enjoy the strictly regulated environment we have in the EU (for a change we’re glad we’re on this side of the pond!).  If we were presented with a USDA certified product we’d only be interested in those with the 100% Organic or Organic label and we’d been looking closely at what else is in there and the animal testing policy of the manufacturer.

 

Source: We got the above information from the following USDA websites:http://www.ams.usda.gov/AMSv1.0/getfile?dDocName=STELPRDC5068442&acct=nopgeninfo and  http://usdaorganicskincare.com/.  The national list of allowed and prohibited substances seems to form part of the guidelines, if you want to read more check here – http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&SID=9874504b6f1025eb0e6b67cadf9d3b40&rgn=div6&view=text&node=7:3.1.1.9.32.7&idno=7#7:3.1.1.9.32.7.354.6

 

 

Natrue

 

Natrue was founded in 2007 by a group of natural and organic cosmetics manufacturers.  Similar to the other labeling systems, they have different levels:

 

Natural Cosmetics

  • Ingredients must be natural but they do not have to be organic (from organic cultivation).
  • natural ingredients may only be processed with a limited number of production processes. Per product type, there is guarantee of a minimum threshold for natural ingredients and a maximum threshold for derived natural substances must be respected.

 

Natural Cosmetics with organic portion

  • at least 70% of natural (and/or derived natural, where applicable) ingredients must stem from controlled organic production and/or controlled wild collection.
  • Manufacturers must fulfill the criteria of the first level also.

 

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.
  • Manufacturers must fulfill the previous two levels also.

 

Requirements and notes for all levels of certification:

  • Water is not counted when calculating the level of natural ingredients.
  • Nature identical substances are only allowed for preservatives and minerals and only when the natural substance cannot be recovered from nature in the desired quality and/or quantity.
  • Packaging must be kept to a minimum, where possible it should be recyclable and made of renewable raw materials.  Should not be made of halogenated plastics (for example PVC).
  • Synthetic nature identical fragrances are not permitted.
  • Chemically modified natural ingredients (derived natural substances) have restrictions over what processes are allowed and they are only allowed where the function cannot be achieved with the natural product alone.  An example is creating a surfactant for a shampoo.  Any surfactant must be fully biodegradable.

 

Animal Testing?  No, not on ingredients or the finished products.

 

‘China exception’ to animal testing?  Yes.  The animal testing statement includes the phrase ‘except where required by law’.

 

Animal Ingredients? Yes.  We cannot find anything in the Nature Label requirements which restricts the type of animal ingredients that can be included.  From that we take it that animal ingredients extracted from live or dead animals (as opposed to naturally produced by them) could be used.

 

Our thoughts: That the minimum level requires that the product be wholly natural and there are restrictions on what processing takes place on those ingredients makes us comfortable buying products with even that level of certification.  It is good to remember that natural doesn’t necessarily mean Vegetarian or Vegan though so the products could contain animal ingredients, we would always check the ingredients list.  Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (derived from coconuts) is also on the approved list of derived natural substances, so for those wishing to avoid this ingredient, should still check the label!

 

Source: We got the above information from the Natrue website: http://www.natrue.org/home/

 

COSMOS

cosmos

Cosmos is the latest organic cosmetic labeling standard that we’re aware of, having been founded in 2010.  The founders of COSMOS at this time were BDIH (Germany), COSMEBIO & ECOCERT (France), ICEA (Italy) and SOIL ASSOCIATION (UK).  Currently the COSMOS signifier (natural or organic) is displayed beneath the founders label as shown in the examples above.

 

As with Ecocert, Cosmos has two levels of labelling, Organic or Natural.

 

Organic certification:

  • At least 95% of all agro ingredients (plant, animal or microbial ingredients) must be organically produced and at least 20% of the total product must be organic.
  • There is an exception for rinse off, non-emulsified aqueous products and products with at least 80% minerals or ingredients of mineral origin, then at least 10% of the total product must be organic.
  • The product must not be called “organic”, for example, “organic shampoo”, unless it is at least 95% organic, measured as a percent of the total product.

 

Natural certification:

  • There is no minimum level of organic ingredients required.
  • Organic products can be identified in the ingredients list.
  • There can be no organic claims on the front of the packaging.

 

Some of the requirements of interest for both levels of certification:

  • Nanomaterials, Genetically Modified Organisms and Irradiation are not allowed.
  • There are controls over the packaging allowed for the finished product.  It should be kept to a minimum, maximise the amount of reusable or recyclable materials and use materials with recycled content.
  • Companies should have a recycling process in place for waste creating during manufacturing.
  • All the differing certifying bodies that have signed up to Cosmos can continue to follow their own certification standards until 31 December 2014, after that date they must all follow the Cosmos standard.

 

Animal Testing?  No, not on ingredients or the finished products.

 

‘China exception’ to animal testing?  Yes.  The animal testing statement includes the phrase ‘except where required by law’.

 

Animal Ingredients? Yes, but only ones that are naturally produced by them such as milk, honey, beeswax etc.  No ingredients extracted from living or dead animals are allowed.  THOUGH, Appendix VI of the standard states that Carmine, silk, chitosan and shellac are allowed to be used for up to 60 months after the Cosmos standard came into force (April 2011?) so we’re a tad confused by these two seemingly conflicting rules.

 

Our thoughts:   We’d like to say this certification takes the best bits from all it’s founder member standards but it doesn’t seem to be the case.  We’re disappointed that ‘natural’ doesn’t have to contain any organic ingredients.  In all it feels a bit diluted compared to the standards of the founder members we’ve covered above.  In less than two years it will be the standard for most of the certificating bodies in the EU which, we accept as a plus, will make it easier to know exactly what that certification means.

 

Source: We got the above information from the Cosmos website:  http://www.cosmos-standard.org/ and the Cosmos standards document is here: http://www.cosmos-standard.org/docs/COSMOS-standard_v1.1_310111.pdf

 

 

Organic Certifications – conclusion:

For us to pick up a product and not feel we had to read the ingredients label on the back we’d want it certified to the highest Organic level possible (95% + organic ingredients) and, as there are so many differences in what animal ingredients are allowed, we’d want to see Vegetarian or Vegan society certification alongside it.  As we’re also a bit saddened by the get out clause for companies selling products in China, we’d want the BUAV leaping bunny logo on the label, that way we’d know that get out clause hole had been plugged.  That for us, would be the perfect product.

 

 

So what do you think of Organic certifications?  Were you aware of how much they could differ?  Has it made you think differently about them in respect of your Vegetarian or Vegan beliefs? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

 

We are I Choose What I Use, the 100% vegan (as of 1 May 2015), cruelty free, natural and organic beauty and skin care online store.

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