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Is Your Organic Makeup Really Organic? Certificates Listed.

Organic makeup industry is extremely under-regulated. Nobody is really policing the claims on the products. Thus, simply claiming “organic” or “natural” does not mean that the ingredients are indeed such. Many companies claim “organic” using the chemistry definition — meaning a compound that contains carbon. And nobody is checking those claims.

Think about this next time you are wondering how “natural” your new lipstick or foundation are:

  • “Natural” does not mean organic. Does not necessarily mean healthy either.
  • “Organic” does not mean that all ingredients are. Or even a certain percentage. You could be dealing with tricky chemistry semantics.
  • Statements such as 100% organic, or 95% organic are more trustworthy, as companies can’t legally lie outright on their products. Chances are that 95% organic makeup is more organic than the “natual” powder next to it.
  • Getting an organic certification (such as USDA seal) is voluntary. It’s absence does not necessarily mean the product is not organic.

Moral of the story: read the ingredients. Do your research. Hope for a better future…

However, when all is said and done, you are probably still better buying a certified organic makeup, then the regular “high-clout” brand contraptions you’d get at your local drug store.

So here is a list of some international certifying seals to look for:

USDA ORGANIC:

This is the official seal of the US based National Organic Program (NOP), enforced by USDA.

EcoCert:

One of the world’s largest organic certifying organisations. Founded in France, it conducts inspections in over 80 countries.

France also has another seal:

This is formed by a trade association, “Charte Cosmébio”, and follows many of the EcoCert’s principles. But note, that while EcoCert seal means the product is certified. This seal only means that at least 60% of company’s products have been certified by EcoCert.

AIAB:

This is Italian based guidelines designed in cooperation between Italian Organic Farming Association (AIAB), Institute for the Ethic Certification (ICEA) and some manufacturers. “Bio Eco cosmesi AIAB” means the products are claiming to be “AIAB Organic, environmental friendly beauty products”.

BDIH:

Based in Germany. BDIH was the first to launch natural cosmetics certification. Way back in 1986.

JAS:

Japanese Agricultural Standard is the Japanese organic regulatory body.

BFA:

And this is the Australian certified organic seal.

I think this list is enough to get you started.

Happy shopping, and pretty faces…

PS: I have recently learned about another very stringent organic certification program: The UK Soil Association Organic Certification.

I wrote about the Soil Association’s Organic Standards here.

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11 comments

1 Chanell { 05.05.08 at 3:51 pm }

I’m so happy I found your blog. My skin has been totally out of wack lately with my current products and I’m trying to figure out which organic and natural products I should try. This should help. I’m looking forward to going through your archives :)

2 julena { 05.06.08 at 8:12 am }

Welcome to the blog! And yes, it’s quite hard to find good products… That’s why I undertook this project — regular mainstream cosmetics make my face go crazy!

3 Chelsea { 06.20.08 at 10:31 pm }

I used to use Organic Wear (Physician’s Formula) b/c they are ECOCERT certified. Well, just today actually, I found this document- look: http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/ecocert-crosscomplaint.pdf
Turns out they cannot be trusted after all. I really liked that make-up too. Now I must search for a good USDA certified make-up….

4 Sarah { 07.29.08 at 7:51 am }

Hello

I am very interested in your blog as I am thinking of trying both the Santa and the Lavera ranges that I have found on http://www.spiritofnature.co.uk/acatalog/organic-cosmetics.html but if you are going to try these brands as well then I will keep looking further. Thank you

5 julena { 07.29.08 at 8:41 am }

Sarah, I just got a couple of Lavera face cream samples, so I’ll be testing them soon! I have Lavera Wild Rose and Neurodermitis face creams. I think I’ll be starting with Wild Rose… The other seems to be more allergies specific.

I heard great things about Sante. It’s hard to get around here though.

What I do like about both of these lines is that they are BDIH certified. It doesn’t necessarily mean perfection (nothing does :) ), but it’s much stricter than ECOCERT…

6 K. Halpert { 06.11.09 at 11:33 pm }

Julena is mistaken! Use of the USDA seal is not self-regulated. The only way a company’s product can bear the USDA Organic seal is by complying with the Department of Agirculture’s National Organic Program, a federally mandated standard. You must register with the USDA and your facility must pass a rigorous audit once per year by an independent third-party certifier, much like the FDA. To use the USDA seal without doing this is illegal and a federal offense.

7 julena { 06.12.09 at 6:11 pm }

K.Halpert: I stand corrected. I’ll fix he post ASAP…

Thanks :)

8 Deanna Vazquez { 07.11.09 at 5:12 pm }

Thanks for the run-down Julena. In response, I would like to say that our own organic skin care brand is not certified to any standard (yet), however:

- We grow over 80% of our herbal ingredients organically on our own farm, which has yet to be certified organic (we’ve only been here 1 year and we need at least 3 to become certified);
- We source certified organic locally whenever and wherever it is available.
- We are strict about other ingredients (preservatives, for example), ensuring they are as safe as possible (check us out our very low hazard scores on CosmeticsDatabase.com).

I also wanted to mention that organic certification bodies (of which there are quite a number, such as Eco-Cert as mentioned above), are quite varied in terms of what they will and will not allow in a product for it to be certified under their standard.

For example, under one certification program the product need only contain as little as 10% organic content, while under others it must be as much as 95%.

Obviously with such variability, the consumer really isn’t being served by the certification label, unless they are aware of the regulations behind the certifier’s standard.

Then there are manufacturers like us (often small businesses) who cannot yet, (or choose not to) seek official certification. They may be very legitimate in terms of the ‘organic-ness’ of their products, yet don’t carry a certification label. It doesn’t mean they don’t make a safe, organic product. In fact, many un-certified product lines will contain more organic ingredients and be safer than some you find on the shelf that are labelled ‘organic’ and include a certifier’s ‘seal’.

I guess it all boils down to one thing – regardless of what certification the company uses (if any), the consumer must still do their homework about a brand and their ingredient lists to be sure they fully understand what they are really buying.

Footnote: As soon as we can (and hopefully if there is a definitive standard all personal care manufacturers can adhere to and all consumers can understand) Alchemilla will be seeking certification.

9 Karalye G. { 03.20.10 at 1:31 am }

I use Dead Sea Healers, I requested an INCI disclosure of all the ingredients in their body polish and mud mask. They send it directly to my email for my review! They have fabulous products and use only green organic ingredients. Just ask and they send you the proof! Already tested and approved by me! They can be a bit more $ but I usually pick it up on ebay for under retail. Dead Sea Healers is a winner in the organic department.

10 Jules { 04.14.10 at 5:07 am }

Julena makes some important points here. Ambiguity in claims is rife, and I am continually seeing claims not matching the ingredient lists. It’s as if they think some bismuth and petrolatum here, some carmine there and a good dose of talc inbetween that no-one will notice that their natural brand isn’t so safe and natural. You would be surprised at how many global and ‘reputable’ brands do this!

Products that are mostly or soley minerals can’t get the organic certification even if they are 100% natural and safe, as minerals are inorganic. So don’t be put off by a mineral brand not having an organic certification. Just read their ingredient list webpages to check there’s no nasties, or fillers.

11 Hanna { 06.02.10 at 8:07 pm }

Your blog is awesome! I stumbled into this website while reading about Jurlique baby products. I’m expecting soon and was looking for gentle baby products, and somehow it led me to your website:) I’m a religious fan of Jurlique(I live in Sydney:) but after reading about your Dr. H post, I’ve decided to give Dr.H’s eye cream a go! Thanks for posting up the tips & info. It’s been the most useful blog I found so far.

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