With abundant claims appearing on everything from makeup to shampoo, and neither the FDA nor the USDA regulating the use of "natural" and "organic" on beauty products, you likely need a little help navigating the beauty department.
What's your best ammunition against greenwashers? Shop at stores that implement their own ingredient standards, and stay up to date on no-no cosmetics ingredients. Then, learn about trustworthy labels to distinguish which products truly live up to their claims. Look for these common seals to align your beauty purchases with your values and preferences.
Surely you recognize this green-and-white label, and it means the exact same thing on beauty products as it does on food: 95 percent of the ingredients meet USDA National Organic Program standards. Although it may be the most familiar seal, it’s also the most difficult for beauty companies to earn because it was developed for foods and drinks.
This relatively new organic label was developed specifically for personal care products. It indicates that a product contains at least 70 percent organic content, including ingredients certified to European organic standards, which are now more consistent with U.S. standards. It allows for some chemical processes typical of personal care manufacturing that the USDA Organic certification does not.
This European seal requires that 95 percent of a product’s agricultural ingredients and 20 percent of its overall ingredients be organic. It also considers eco-factors: Products must meet environmental packaging and manufacturing standards and use only approved green chemistry processes for ingredient modification. Cosmos prohibits animal testing.
Good news: Natural certifications do exist for personal care products, unlike food. Products that earn the Natural Products Association Natural Seal contain at least 95 percent “truly natural” ingredients (derived from natural sources) and are free of ingredients with any suspected human health risks. It allows nonnatural ingredients only with no speculated health issues and no viable natural alternatives.
This common European natural standard, which appears in the United States on products such as Weleda, prohibits the use of synthetic fragrances and colors, petroleum-derived ingredients, silicone oils and derivatives, genetically modified organisms, and irradiated ingredients, as well as animal testing.
Do you care about the treatment of the farmers behind your products and about international social and economic development? Fair-trade-certified ingredients must meet various criteria focused on these issues. As part of Fair Trade USA’s composite program, fair-trade personal care products must include 20 percent fair-trade ingredients to obtain this label.
You may be most familiar with Fair Trade USA’s label, but there’s another to look for: The Institute for Marketecology (IMO) Fair for Life Fair Trade certification indicates that at least half of the product’s ingredients (excluding water) are nonaqueous, nonjuice fair-trade ingredients. Products with at least 15 percent fair-trade elements are labeled “Made with Fair for Life Fair Trade Ingredients.”
Developed by eight national animal protection groups that form the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, this label indicates that a company uses no animal testing in any product development stage, including at the raw-ingredient level.
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