Happy September! I hope you’re enjoying the start of the change of seasons, this is my favourite time of year. A bit of a longer post this one but hope you find it useful. I really believe in organic and hopefully this will help explain why, demystify organic certification and perhaps inspire you to make some small swaps.
This week sees the start of the Soil Association’s Organic Beauty & Wellbeing Week, a yearly event nestled into the well established Organic September. This year it will be a digital campaign to help educate and encourage conversation that champions kindness to the planet, sustainable living, health and a deeper connection with nature and brands. The campaign aims to show people that how they choose to spend their money can really have an impact, and to push for an industry that respects nature. The three pillars of the campaign are From Nature, Holistic Wellbeing and Sustainable Business.
To get people involved, the Soil Association are continuing with a challenge to change just one thing in your beauty routine to a certified organic product, and to share it. Starting with something small can make it less daunting, and if we all change even just one thing, it actually adds up to a big difference.
But just why should we choose an organic product and how can organic certification help? It all starts with the farming –
The Soil Association is the UK’s largest organic certification body. To achieve such a stamp of approval, organic farmers work to a very strict standard that respects the soil, ecosystems and people.
Weedkillers are banned and very limited naturally derived pesticides are allowed; these are as a last resort and under very strict circumstances. Instead farmers use the natural eco-system, for example ladybirds are encouraged to eat aphids.
“On average, plant, insect and bird life is 50% more abundant on organic farms, and there are around 75% more wild bees on organic farms.”Soil Association
Artificial fertilizers are avoided and instead things like animal manure, compost and crop rotations are used to keep soil healthy.
“Organic farming creates healthy, living soils by nourishing them with compost, nitrogen-fixing crops, and crop rotations. As a result, organic farmland stores (or ‘sequesters’) more carbon – on average 3.5 tonnes extra for every hectare), and organic soils are around 25% more effective at storing carbon in the long-term.”Soil Association
Animals welfare is held and adhered to the strictest standards. Preventative antibiotics are not allowed, neither is GM animal food – GM ingredients are not allowed anywhere on a Soil Association certified farm, ingredient or product.
For a food or drink product to be labelled as organic, at least 95% of the ingredients must come from organically produced plants or animals. We can easily see the benefits of organic food – kinder to the planet, wildlife, livestock, farmers. There are also reports of it being more nutritional.
So what about organic beauty and why could it be good for us?
Organic beauty products have been formulated using organically farmed ingredients, therefore boast the same planet friendly credentials as organic food. I believe these ingredients can be wonderful for our skin too.
Unfortunately the term is often mis-used and can be very misleading. With no legal definition, brands can market themselves as organic when perhaps they only contain 1% of an organic ingredient. The question then becomes what is the remaining 99%? Looking for certified organic products can really help to demystify when starting to explore this area of beauty.
Organic certification – what does the logo actually mean?
The Soil Association launched the first standards for organic certification for cosmetics back in 2002, and since January 2017 any beauty product certified by the Soil Association has to meet the COSMOS standards. COSMOS is a harmonised standard devised by the five major European organic and natural standard setting organisations – BDIH (Germany), COSMEBIO (France), Ecocert Greenlife (France), ICEA (Italy) and the Soil Association.
For a product to be labelled organic e.g ‘organic facial oil’ 95% of ALL ingredients must be organic
For leave on products, 95% of all physically processed agro-ingredients must be organic and at least 20% of the total ingredients must be organic.
For rinse off products, 95% of all physically processed agro-ingredients must be organic and at least 10% of the total ingredients must be organic.
The logo guarantees that the organic ingredients are sustainably sourced and biodegradable, protecting wildlife and biodiversity. All colours and fragrances have come from plants and flowers. Companies must be transparent with all manufacturing processes and packaging must be minimal with maximum recycled content.
No animal testing is allowed, no GM ingredients or controversial chemicals such as parabens and phthalates, no synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances.
The COSMOS Natural products do not have to contain any organic ingredients, it is most suitable for products containing a lot of ingredients which cannot be organic, such as water, salt or clay – for example toners, bath salts or face masks. The logo guarantees no animal testing, no GM ingredients, no controversial chemicals, no parabens and phthalates, no synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances.
Other logos to look out for –
NATRUE have 3 levels of certification. There are also 13 different product categories that help ensure the maximum percentage of natural and organic ingredients. A body wash for example will need to contain water whereas a body oil will not, so therefore the requirements are different. Ingredients used will fall into one of 3 types – natural, derived natural, or nature-identical. Nothing artificial (man-made) is allowed.
Natural Cosmetics – This is the foundation level of the NATRUE label and defines which ingredients are permitted and how they may be processed. Any product certified by NATRUE must meet this criteria.
Natural Cosmetics with Organic Portion – Products must meet the base level but at but at least 70% of natural and naturally derived ingredients must stem from controlled organic production and/or controlled wild collection.
Organic Cosmetics – Products must meet the previous two levels with at least 95% of natural and naturally derived ingredients stemming from controlled organic production and/or controlled wild collection.
Natrue do not allow just one product in a range to be certified, at least 75% of the range needs to be certified. The logo also guarantees no animal testing, no GM ingredients, all ingredients used must be sustainably sourced and biodegradable. Responsible packaging is a requirement too.
USDA – There is no specific beauty certification for the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) however many beauty products are certified using their criteria. There are a 4 different levels, only 2 can actually carry the USDA logo.
100% Organic – Must contain 100 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). This is the only label that guarantees a completely organic product. These products can carry the USDA 100% Certified Organic Seal.
Organic or Certified Organic – At least 95 percent of content is organic by weight (excluding water and salt). Any remaining product ingredients must consist of non-agricultural substances approved on the National List including specific non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form. These products can carry the USDA Organic Seal.
Made with Organic Ingredients – At least 70 percent of content must be organic (excluding water and salt). The front panel can say “Made with Organic” and list up to three specific ingredients. These products cannot carry any USDA Organic Seal.
Less Than 70% Organic – Can list only organic ingredients on ingredient panel, but not on front panel.These products cannot carry any USDA Organic Seal.
What small switch could you make?
Organic cotton pads, buds and wipes are such a simple easy switch and one of my favourites to do. Conventional cotton has been called the ‘dirtiest crop’ due to the excessive use of pesticides and fossil fuel based fertilisers; it uses 16% of all insecticides sold worldwide. It also very water intensive and the industry is a heavy user of GM seeds bringing many issues to the farmers and their families.
There are loads of amazing organic skincare brands that I absolutely love. Some Soil Association certified ones include Nourish, Neal’s Yard Remedies, Therapi Skincare and Pennies and Feathers which is formulated by a fellow mua. Weleda are also kit favourites and they are certified by Natrue.
Make-up is harder to certify than skincare. Many natural brands use minerals for their colour however they cannot be classed as organic because they are mined, as opposed to plant based and farmed; minerals would be from natural origin. Some brands will choose to use a little synthetic pigment to achieve their desired shades, most organic certifying bodies will not allow these in formulations. The key here is to really research brands and ask questions so you can make conscious decisions as to what you’d like to use. Inika and Kjaer Weis have some wonderful certified products. Inika are certified by various bodies and Kjaer Weis by Italy’s certification body, the Controllo e Certificazione Prodotti Biologici. Odylique have a compact range certified by the Soil Association and Green People’s mascara is a personal favourite and certified by Ecocert.
I originally wrote this post for Conscious Beauty Union – we’re going to be sharing our swap ideas all week if you fancy checking it out!
We really can make a difference just by switching a few things up in our daily lives and beauty bags. Even the small switch of changing our cotton pads, collectively over the year will amount to something great.
Will you be switching anything this Organic Beauty Week?
Some past year’s posts if you fancy a read.
Thanks for reading! Hope you found it useful!