Organic Personal Care
Just how important is organic personal care? Approximately 60-70% of the products we put on our skin are absorbed by the skin. This includes all synthetic or toxic chemicals that these products may contain. Many of these chemicals have the potential to interfere with our body’s biological functions; many others create allergic reactions – sometimes severe. Cosmetics pose a special threat to women – the primary consumers of cosmetics – and many cosmetic products are known to contain harmful ingredients. Examples include hydroquinone, parabens (preservatives), phthalates (used in fragrances), nitrosamines, formadehyde, and acrylamide.
The terms “natural” and “organic” have been added to labels on personal care products, and it can be difficult to understand what they mean. The USDA oversees the National Organic Program (NOP) which certifies and determines criteria for organic agriculture. A few skincare manufacturers have gone through the rigorous oversight required for their facility to be labeled “Certified Organic.” It’s important for consumers to carefully examine products that are labeled “organic” and “certified organic”. We should keep in mind that if we are looking for products that are free of animal testing, animal ingredients, synthetic additives, and toxic chemicals, there are many out there, with and without the “organic” label.
Organic Personal Care is Big Business
What does this mean for consumers? The organic personal care industry is big business. Cosmetics alone account for more than $22 billion worldwide by the year 2024, according to Global Cosmetic Industry magazine. Since personal care ingredients are not tested for safety by the Food and Drug Administration, the best thing that consumers can do is to read product labels and visit informative websites for more information. At the Environmental Working Group’s cosmetics database, consumers can search for specific personal care products and their ingredients. You may visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website to view a list of companies that have pledged not to use toxic chemicals in their cosmetics, as well as to read the latest news and cosmetics legislation. It is important to note that the effects of toxic substances are cumulative and long-term; that is, the toxic substances that accumulate in our bodies are stored in adipose tissue and can remain for decades.
In October, 2004, California became the first state in the U.S. to sign into law the “Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005”. It will require cosmetics companies to disclose to the state’s Department of Health Services ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects or reproductive harm. The Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 will give the FDA the authority to oversee the cosmetic industry and make decisions that will protect consumers.
Recently, organizations have been looking to create alternate labels for organic personal care products. The Organic and Sustainability Industry Standards certification was developed in the U.S. in 2008 to provide a measure that consumer can use to measure personal care products. For a product to be OASIS-certified as “organic”, it must contain at least 90% certified organic ingredients. “Made with organic” certification requires at least 70% certified organic ingredients. Visit the website for more information and a list of members and permitted ingredients.
French organization Ecocert was the first certification body to develop standards for organic cosmetics. As more and more companies bring organic personal care products to market, it’s’ important for consumers to learn the facts in order to make informed decisions about their personal care choices.