The natural and organic skin care market is the fastest growing segment in the global personal care industry. A report by Transparency Market Research forecasts $13.2 billion in sales by 2018 for organic skin care products. In Australia, the annual growth in organic cosmetics is about 18 per cent, with revenue now at $236 million, according to IBIS World. (Source: Australian Financial Review).
Naturally, skincare companies are jumping on the organic bandwagon with many personal care products including ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ on their labels to cater to growing consumer demands.
The highest level of organic assurance is when a product has a certified organic seal. The 3 main three certifiers of cosmetic products in Australia are ACO, NASAA and OFC.
For a product to be ‘certified organic’ by ACO, NASAA and OFC; it must contain at least 95% certified organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and 5% other approved ingredients.
“Organic” by definition means containing only plant sourced ingredients that are cultivated without the use of synthetic chemicals, irradiation or pesticides.
An organic certification provides an assurance that there has been no animal testing and the ingredients have not been harvested from plants that are genetically modified or sprayed with pesticides.
Certified ‘organic’ prohibits the use of ingredients extracted by toxic solvents. Furthermore, formulations have to be free from nanoparticles as these particles pose a risk of passing through the blood stream and into cell membranes.
The next level of organic standard is ‘made with organic ingredients’. This can be certified or noncertified. ACO’s guideline for ‘made with organic ingredients’ indicates that the product contains 70-95% certified organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) with the remainder from approved nonorganic sources.
An organic certificate certainly provides amazing quality assurance but there are also many great products without an organic seal. It’s important to look beyond the main label and read the detailed ingredients listing. This can reveal surprising results.
‘Made using organic ingredients’ can mean anything from 1 or 2 ingredients to 70-90% organic ingredients. It’s not uncommon to find products using the word ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ and yet devoid of any natural ingredients.
Misleading images and advertising are rife in the industry so it’s best to approach any product claims with healthy cynicism. Always check the ingredients and when in doubt, do some homework on the company. A brand with a culture of cultivating clean living, good farming practices and sustainability is as good as any organic certification.
Does organic mean good for your skin? Ingredients in skincare are highly variable and can trigger different reactions in each individual. What works for some people can trigger allergies in others. There are reported allergies for every skincare ingredient on the market, whether it’s natural or petroleum based; organic or chemically synthesized.
A patch test is recommended when using any product for the first time as organic does not guarantee hypoallergenic. Bear in mind that reactions to chemicals and cheap fillers in skincare are far more common than reactions to pure organic products.
Products ‘made with organic’ ingredients can also contain ingredients that have been extracted using toxic solvents. ‘Certified organic’ prohibits the use of toxic solvents and high temperatures.
Let’s use shea butter as an example. Refined shea butter involves a process of removing the original scent and color; using high temperatures and harsh solvents to produce an aesthetically pleasing end product.
Unrefined shea butter is often gritty with a tinge of brown. The refined version is white and creamy. Unfortunately the refinement process also removes much of the vitamins, proteins and nutritional content. Organic skincare ingredients; as is the case with organic food contain more natural nutrition per drop relative to their conventional counterparts.
There will always be cynics who argue that an organic certification simply isn’t necessary; based on the claim that any part of a plant can be sterilized and refined for cosmetic use thus eliminating any risk of pesticide residue. This point of view is microscopic and ceases to take into account the repercussions of spraying pesticides on our soil, water ways, marine and wild life; not to mention the potentially toxic refinement process that we covered earlier.
Supporting organic skincare goes beyond individual skin health. Consumers should consider the lifecycle of the product; where and how it was sourced and how it impacted the environment before it landed in the bathroom cabinet. ‘Organic’ will always be open to contention but it’s at least a step in the direction of reducing pesticides, toxic chemicals, nanoparticles and animal testing.
Ultimately ‘organic’,’ natural’ and ‘made with organic’ are just terms that help guide us in some way but they can’t replace conscious consumerism. It’s still critical to pay attention to ingredient listings and the fine print without getting distracted by enticing labels. Organic or not, choosing toxin free products made by ethical companies is the best way of saying that it’s NOT ok for beauty to take a toll on our planet.
This is an article submitted by Orli for @holistchic at holistchic.com.au