Does organic mean healthy and sustainable cosmetics?

Public opinion associates the term organic with products containing ingredients of natural origin, but not altered or processed, therefore genuine ingredients that can be considered uncontaminated.

But, unlike organic food, cosmetics do not need to be certified to be labelled as such. That means that cosmetics might actually contain a very low percentage of organic ingredients. Other elements could be practically anything including chemicals that have the potential to harm your body. Common ingredients like parabens, phthalates and irritants, might make up most of the other percentage and still be labeled as ‘organic’.

It is also true that organic ingredients aren’t always necessarily more environmentally friendly: elements used in addition to the minimal organic content could be coming from highly unsustainable sources. There is no legislation to stop a manufacturer from using the expectations of an organic label to mislead customers into buying a product full of ingredients distilled from fossil fuels or harvested in a way that damages the environment.

There are many certification bodies for an organic cosmetic that check the entire production process and the list of organic and natural ingredients on the label. But they follow different criteria and there is an clear concern that weak standards would encourage the ‘greenwashing’ practice.

The fact is that every process, every ingredient, every product must be considered individually, and new extraction and processing technologies, green chemistry and biotechnologies are bringing surely new opportunities to the formulators.