cosmetic products

Is Your Makeup Really Organic


By Lisa-Anne Sanderson

Sales of natural and organic cosmetics are expected to reach almost $7 billion this year in the US.  Sales of these cosmetics are growing rapidly world-wide.  Unfortunately many of these products contain nasty chemicals which most customers would not regard as ‘natural’ or ‘organic’.

The FDA doesn’t regulate the safety of makeup and doesn’t require product recalls.  This means that there is almost no cosmetic safety regulation in the US.  The safety of food, by contrast, is stringently tested.  There is no government certification of organic cosmetics in the US.  The commercial definition of organic is anything that contains carbon.  As this includes everything that has ever lived, almost every ingredient can be included in the definition.  Methyl paraben, a harmful preservative, can be called organic, for example, because it was formed by leaves thousands of years ago.

How do you tell if a product really is organic or natural?  There is no easy way.  The surest means is to check if the company has been certified organic by an independent body, such as the USDA (The US Department of Agriculture), Ecocert (France) and Certech (Canada).  Check for the logos of these bodies.

Read the list of ingredients carefully and check for synthetic ingredients, such as parabens and sulphates.  Also watch for the statements ‘Derived From’ and ‘Active Ingredients’.  ‘Derived From’ means that the product may be derived from natural ingredients but it includes synthetic chemicals.  If a company only lists ‘Active Ingredients’ it is not including all of the ingredients. All ingredients will be listed if the product is truly organic.

When a seemingly innocuous product such as nail-polish can contain harmful substances such as toluene or formaldehyde, it is increasingly important to try to buy safe cosmetics.

Certified organic cosmetics that are available in the US include Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and Physicians Formula Organic cosmetics.

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