Organic Cosmetics

lilieks (

An “organic” label on cosmetics can mean different things, or nothing at all, since the term is not regulated for cosmetics or other personal care products, such as lip balms, soaps, and lotions. Much, of course, is pure marketing hype. As shown in independent testing, “organic” cosmetics may contain the same synthetic ingredients present in conventional ones.

The USDA’s National Organic Program was not developed for personal care products, but cosmetics containing agricultural ingredients (herbs, for example) that meet its standards may be eligible to make certain organic claims and carry the green USDA seal. Few cosmetics actually meet the standards, however, because some key ingredients, such as preservatives, are not approved by the USDA for use in organic processing—and no cosmetic is likely to be 100% USDA organic.

Cosmetics may, as well, be certified organic under new standards from the nonprofit NSF International, which also sets standards for food and drinking water. Products must contain at least 70% organic content by weight, as determined by independent organic certifiers. In contrast to the USDA program, NSF allows for some chemical processing.

But more often companies simply label or describe a product as “organic” as a way to boost sales. Anything containing carbon—including petroleum-based methyl paraben found in conventional cosmetics—is, after all, technically “organic.”

Bottom line: Unless accompanied by the USDA or NSF seal, organic claims on cosmetics are likely to be misleading or even bogus. Besides costing more, these products may not be any safer or more effective than other products.


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