“Certified Organic” or ‘Organic’ what is the difference?

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, and much of what you put on to it will be absorbed into it.

Unlike organic food, which must adhere to strict regulations, there are no legal standards for the use of the term ‘Organic’ on cosmetic products.

In practice, any cosmetic product can be labelled as ‘Organic’ even if it contains virtually no or little organic ingredients, if the product only has 1% of an organically produced ingredient, it can still legally label the product ‘Organic’.

In the USA, the Federal Department of Agriculture (FDA) regulates all cosmetics, and a cosmetic company must abide by it when creating or selling cosmetics, however, they have no power over the term ‘Organic’, nor do they regulate the use of the term ‘Organic’ on cosmetic products.

It is the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that certifies the term ‘Organic’ but it does not regulate it.  It does not crack down on falsely labelled organic cosmetic products, so therefore many manufactures take advantage and exploit this false labelling to their advantage,  as long as they do not use the term ‘USDA Organic’.

In Europe cosmetic labelling is governed under the European Council Directive, which does not  have a legal definition of ‘Organic’ in cosmetic products manufactured or sold in the EU.

In the UAE it is Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA)  which regulates the sale of cosmetics, again it does not have a legal definition of the use of ‘Organic’ in cosmetics.

To give an example:

One brand of ‘Organic’ oil is priced at £5,  whilst another is priced at £20.  The average consumer will very gladly purchase the former thinking quite happily that they are an informed, astute shopper bagging a bargain, without giving any thought or concern about the actual contents, because understandably,  they bought a superior product by their  understanding of the term organic at a rock bottom price.    In their mind, ‘Organic’ oil is ‘Organic’ oil  and as long  as the label states that  it is ‘Organic’, why pay more….. but is it?

‘Certified Organic’ implies, a product coming from a supplier whose products have been pronounced by an independent third party guaranteeing the integrity and purity of the ingredients.

Certified Organic products must comply with strict standards. These high standards cover all aspects of the processing chain, ensuring that the organic integrity is maintained from the seed or primary state to the growing, harvesting, storage, transporting and processing stages, right through to the final packaging.

The cosmetic companies’ right to label their product “Certified Organic” is expensive, time consuming and not easy to acquire.  These independent third party’s regulations prescribe detailed standards, the cosmetic companies must file extensive paperwork, certifying agents review processes and products meticulously, and for this reason many cosmetic companies do not bother and would rather abuse the system and con their way into the consumers’ pockets.

A large problem in this unregulated industry is the repackaging of  a company purchasing from their supplier, ‘Organic’ or ’Certified Organic’ raw product(s)  themselves or outsourcing it to a third party which negates the relevant ‘Organic Certification’  becoming null and void.

To find genuine Certified Organic products, there are five European certification bodies (The Soil Association, ICEA, Cosmebio, Ecocert and BDHI) that have developed the Cosmetics Organic Standard (COSMOS).  Other countries have similar bodies that harmonise their rules and regulations so that consumers around the world are in synch. These regulatory bodies  have high standards, and to achieve COSMOS certification or the equivalent,  for a product, that product has to meet a strict set of criteria. So look for the relative logo.

So we now know that there is no assurance of the specific product  being ‘Organic’ or even ‘Certified Organic’, so now what can a consumer do?

Until governments take responsibility, and have the courage needed to regulate the definition of ‘Organic’ and Certified Organic’ and it’s use on cosmetic labelling and most importantly to enforce these  laws, consumers should continue to look to see that the cosmetic manufacturer has been awarded the COSMOS “Certification Registration and that their specific product is ‘Certified Organic’

These manufacturers who are honest, trustworthy and go that extra mile, deserve your patronage.