The green chemistry behind the natural personal care industry has yet to catch up to consumer and retailer demands. What are the upcoming green innovations that will help make USDA Organic and NSF/ANSI 305 certifications more feasible?
Why is all the blame on personal care product manufacturers, anyway?
One thing has become abundantly clear: Your beauty products come in many shades of green. The industry has recognized that the USDA Organic label is incredibly difficult for natural personal care companies to earn, even if they do use all organic ingredients. The reason: Aside from massage oils and some lotions and lip balms (which are the products most commonly certified organic) most personal care products (think shampoo, facial wash, antiaging creams, toothpaste) require certain ingredients to keep them fresh, smooth, bubbly, foamy. These are the often forgotten emulsifiers, emollients, preservatives, and surfactants of the world. This isn’t magic; it’s science, people!
Enter NSF/ANSI 305, a label for products that primarily use certified organic ingredients (the regulation requires 70 percent organic) but still undergo some processes considered “synthetic” under NOP regulations—this is more feasible than USDA Organic, though still a challenge for many manufacturers. Why? The green chemistry behind the products has yet to catch up to retailer and consumer expectations. I anticipate seeing NSF/ANSI 305 more than USDA Organic on personal care. I’m grateful for a label that takes into consideration where the industry is as a whole, on a scientific level. But a true shift in the industry, one that brings not just more certified organic products but ones that really do work, will have to come from the supply side. The chemistry needs to reach a place that makes it easier for manufacturers to create efficacious, completely pure products. Why should USDA Organic, which Joe Smillie, QAI senior vice president says will remain the “gold standard” of organic, still be this elusive in the PC industry?
From the raw ingredient standpoint, NSF/ANSI 305 has practically met one aspect of this gold standard by requiring the supply chain to be certified organic, hence promoting those same environmental benefits that come from growing organic food and the health benefits that come from not smearing toxins all over your body. But what about those other ingredients, the ones that bring the product together? “It’s no good if we go out to the marketplace with organic products that don’t work,” said Smillie. “Preservatives are the big battleground.” At a session on organic personal care at All Things Organic at Expo East, Smillie mentioned some big changes in the works. “Green is the new black,” he said. “We’re seeing changes in the tools—how we are creating products.”
On my radar: green chemistry advancements such as a surfactant that use enzymes, which was brought to light at this year’s HBA conference with the Environmental Protection Agency’s green chemistry awards. Just the fact that HBA, a traditionally conventional beauty conference, offered a green segment shows the area is growing in the industry. As for suppliers’ green thumbs? To be determined.