In search of true beauty

Understanding natural and organic beauty this Organic Beauty Week (6-12 September 2021)

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 8 September 2021

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod

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With the market for natural and organic cosmetics growing every year and the shelves stacked with fragrant lotions and potions, how can we tell if a product is genuinely organic or even all natural?

The honest truth is that it is often very hard, with no UK-specific standard nor international legislation currently in place to guide shoppers through the minefield of lookalike naturals out there, which are generously referred to as ‘nature-inspired’.

Many products claim to be organic but are far from it. The market is flooded with greenwash because there are no regulated criteria for natural and organic cosmetics.

The best guarantee consumers have when buying natural and organic cosmetics is to look for a trusted certification seal on pack that meets verifiable criteria defining ‘naturalness’.

Defining organic

There is no official definition of the term ‘organic’ for cosmetic products; existing regulations for food produced through organic agriculture do not extend to non-food products like cosmetics.

Unlike food legislation, current cosmetic regulation does not specify the percentage of the product that must be organic quality in order for a producer to use the claim ‘organic’.

Because existing cosmetic legislation does not ban or restrict the use of synthetic substances in organic cosmetics, products advertised as organic might not always meet all consumer expectations. 

Authentically organic beauty

NATRUE is a highly respected international non-profit association, and its logo guarantees a rigorous standard for natural and organic cosmetics. The NATRUE seal has appeared on beauty products since 2008, right across Europe and worldwide from Japan to the USA.

COSMOS Natural and COSMOS Organic are the logos on products that have been certified by the Soil Association.

For NATRUE, organic raw materials are those proven to have been produced according to an organic standard or regulation approved by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements).

A cosmetic product can only claim the ‘organic’ level of certification under the NATRUE Label if at least 95% of its natural and derived natural substances come from controlled organic farming and/or wild collection. The remaining 5% must still meet NATRUE’s strict criteria of naturalness.

The requirements of the NATRUE Label mean that certified products cannot contain mineral or paraffin oils, silicones, synthetic preservatives such as phenoxyethanol, genetically modified ingredients, solid microbeads or liquid plastic polymers, or synthetic fragrances. Ingredients that are part natural and part synthetic are not permitted. 

Ethical beauty

In order to better represent the percentage of natural or organic ingredients in a cosmetic, the NATRUE Label criteria exclude added water from the calculation of the natural or organic content in a product, unless it is derived from a plant. This prevents artificially inflating the percentage of ‘naturalness’ of a cosmetic product by simply adding water.

COSMOS and NATRUE logos
NATRUE and COSMOS Organic logos

No animal testing for cosmetics is a prime expectation of consumers.

It has recently been reported that the UK may reconsider its position regarding animal testing of cosmetic ingredients. Any reconsideration would be a decisive step backwards.

NATRUE fully supports the ban on animal testing of cosmetic products and ingredients currently protected under UK law, in line with NATRUE’s ultimate goal: no animal testing at a global level.

To reassure consumers and guarantee their expectations of ethical beauty worldwide, NATRUE respects animal welfare by refusing its label to products supplied to markets globally where animal testing on products is required.

Sustainable palm oil

Sustainable sourcing of natural and organic raw materials is essential to reduce the environmental impact of their cultivation.

Robust supply chain management, transparency and traceability are key to validate the raw materials used in cosmetic formulation.

As a member of the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), NATRUE requires that, wherever possible, natural or derived natural substances from palm oil and palm kernel oil must come from RSPO or other certified sustainable supply chains, with ‘Mass Balance’ (MB) quality as a minimum requirement, and ideally ‘Segregated’ and ‘Identity Preserved’ (IP) qualities.

Only certified organic palm oil is an exception to the RSPO certification requirement under the NATRUE criteria.

Wider ethical criteria

Through its rigorous criteria, which include requirements linked to animal welfare, environmental protection, sustainability and packaging as well as product formulations, the NATRUE Label helps to combat greenwashing and misleading claims, and helps shoppers to identify cosmetics that align with their expectations of ‘natural’ and ‘organic’.

Moreover, the NATRUE seal is not granted on a product-by-product basis; it is only granted to a brand committed to the production of natural and organic cosmetics (at least 75% of its range – or eight out of 10 products – must be NATRUE certified).

A database for natural beauty

The NATRUE Label can be found on a huge range of cosmetic products – from skincare, haircare, oralcare, nailcare, babycare, fragrances, makeup, deodorants and depilatory products to bath and body, suncare and self-tanning.

Over 800 approved and certified raw materials listed in the NATRUE database enable the formulation of top-quality products.

Close to 7,000 NATRUE-certified finished products are available around the world, from over 300 brands. For the UK this includes green beauty pioneers Weleda, Dr Hauschka and Dr Bronner’s Soaps, and established brands such as Lavera and Trilogy, as well as relatively new brands Ben & Anna, Scienciarum and Aeos.

Around 1,000 NATRUE-certified products are available in the UK, so we’re not short of choice if we are looking to upgrade our beauty basics to authentically organic this September.

NATRUE-certified products are listed on a publicly accessible database, which can be used as a checklist for anyone wishing to upgrade their beauty products to truly natural or organic quality.

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