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How to recognise natural cosmetics?

all certificatesCertificates of natural cosmetics.

When buying natural cosmetics in a shop or on the internet, it is possible to see different certification standards and certification stamps on the products – ECOCERT, BDIH, The Soil Association and others. This month, MADARA explains what natural cosmetics certification is and which stamp is more reliable.

Why is certification needed?

Even today, the cosmetics legislation in the European Union and also in other places around the world does not define what natural cosmetics are. Therefore, many cosmetic products can be found in the market that are portrayed as natural, while in fact they contain various synthetic preservatives and perfumes, mineral oils and other ingredients strongly prohibited in natural cosmetics. Titles such as “Natural essences”, “Herbal shampoo” or even the words “natural”, “ecological” do not mean anything unless there are references for certification on the product package.

 

The natural cosmetics certification standards have been developed in order to facilitate the customer’s choice. In the 21st century, there are more than eight thousand different ingredients used in the production of cosmetics. A part of them are of natural origin – plant oils, extracts, essential oils, but a great part – laboratory-synthesised chemical compounds. Very often synthetic ingredients are harmful to the human body and, when applied for a longer period of time, can damage the immune system, cause allergies both to you and your future children, as well as hasten the creation of cancer cells. Nobody can remember all the possible ingredients and their impact; therefore the certification stamp on the package allows differentiating between a natural and synthetic product.

Why are there several standards?

The cosmetics certification standard is a set of regulations which state what ingredients the manufacturer can add to the product and what criteria of manufacturing process and packaging the product should meet. Historically, the cosmetics standards and certified authorities formed as manufacturer associations or independent organisations. Thus, nowadays, when the products travel far away from the definite manufacturer country’s borders, there are a whole range of different standards that often greatly confuse the customer. The natural cosmetics standards in Europe are as follows:

 

- ECOCERT (France),

 

- BDIH (Germany),

 

- The Soil Association (England),

 

- ICEA (Italy),

 

- Cosmebio (France),

 

- NaTrue (Germany/Belgium).

A new common European Standard - COSMOS

In 2010, in order to facilitate the customers’ orientation among various certifications, the organisations united and created a common European natural cosmetics certification standard – COSMOS. It has already come into force and, in the near future, the buyers will be able to find a reference to a common COSMOS standard under each of the certification stamps. The only organisation that refused to join the COSMOS standard is the German manufacturer’s association, NaTrue (Weleda, Dr.Hauschka/Wala, Logona/Lococos, Lavera/Laverana, Primavera, Sanaverde), which has created its own standard that is a little less demanding and more lenient than COSMOS.

 

There are also other standards in Europe, for example, USDA Organic (USA) –imported natural cosmetic products from USA. However, regardless of the variety of standards, the most significant requirements for all the certification organisations are similar:

 

- it is permitted to use natural ingredients in cosmetics manufacturing,

 

- the ingredients of herbal origin must be to the utmost obtained from biological farming,

 

- it is permitted to use only naturally extracted emulsifiers and detergent compounds,

 

- it is not permitted to use products of animal origin (with some exceptions, for example, beeswax),

 

- it is not permitted to use synthetic perfumes, preservatives or other synthetic ingredients

 

- it is not permitted to use genetically modified ingredients.

 

If you want to buy a cosmetics product with a guarantee that it will not contain harmful ingredients and that the manufacturer has taken care not only of the natural structure, but also of the careful treatment of the environment and animals, then you can surely trust each of these stamps! The most important thing is that the product has one.

The main criteria and differences of cosmetics standards

ecocertECOCERT

ECOCERT is the world’s largest biological product certification institution that manages 30 % of the entire biological farming inspections in the world. ECOCERT has created standards and certifies natural cosmetics and perfume, home chemicals, textiles of biological origin and cloth manufacturing.

 

ECOCERT was established in 1991 by French biological farmers, and in the 20 years since then has become the most significant independent certification institution operating in 80 countries.

 

The independence of the organisation:

 

ECOCERT is not directly linked to the manufacturers of the cosmetics, therefore it can be considered as an independent and impartial organisation.

 

Standard general requirements:

 

ECOCERT has two levels of cosmetics standards:

 

1. Natural and organic cosmetics

 

2. Natural cosmetics

 

Natural and organic cosmetics should contain at least 95 % biologically farmed ingredients and at least 10 % biologically certified ingredients from the whole amount of the product ingredients. This level is more often adjusted to the products with a higher content of plant oil, for example, creams, body oils, because in percentage terms they contain more ingredients of herbal origin.

 

Whereas natural cosmetics should contain at least 50 % biologically farmed ingredients and at least 5 % biologically certified ingredients from the whole amount of the product ingredients. This level is more often adjusted for products with high water content, for example, shampoos, shower gels, because water is not a farming product and therefore cannot be biologically certified.

 

ECOCERT permits the application of five different preservatives in products which are identical to natural ingredients (ingredients that can be found in nature, but due to the costs or ecological reasons are synthesised in laboratories), unless their amount does not exceed 5 % of all the ingredients. The allowed preservatives are as follows:

 

- Benzyl alcohol

 

- Sorbin acid and its salts

 

- Benzoic acid and its salts and esters

 

- Salicylic acid and its salts

 

- Dehydracetic acid (DHA)

 

ECOCERT also strongly defines packaging requirements – it should be recyclable and environmentally friendly, as well as tests the energy efficiency of the production unit and its impact to the environment.

 

COSMEBIO

COSMEBIO is a certification brand of natural cosmetics that is popular in France and uses ECOCERT as the basis for granting the certification mark to a product.

 

bdihBDIH

BDIH is the German association of industrial companies established in 1996 by the German manufacturers, including Weleda, Wala/Dr. Hauschka, Lavera/Laverana. In 2010, the organisation created the natural cosmetics standard.

 

The independence of the organisation:

 

BDIH is directly linked to the manufacturers of cosmetics, therefore the certification objectivity and neutrality might be compromised.

 

BDIH Standard has two levels:

 

1. Organic cosmetics: at least 95 % of farmed ingredients should be biologically grown.

 

2. Cosmetics with organic compounds: 70-95 % of farmed ingredients should be biologically grown.

 

It is interesting that BDIH states that 15 defined plant varieties should always be biologically grown, including chamomile, peppermint, calendula and sunflower. However, more strict criteria for some plants is an unusual practice within the world’s cosmetics standards. BDIH states that these plants are widely available and biologically qualitative, thus the manufacturers should use them. Nevertheless, if the product does not contain specially defined plants, BDIH assumes that the certified product does not have any ingredients of biological origin.

 

BDIH permits the application of 4 different preservatives in products which are identical to natural ingredients. Unlike ECOCERT and COSMOS, the amount of preservatives is not limited. The allowed preservatives are as follows:

 

- Benzyl alcohol

 

- Sorbin acid and its salts

 

- Benzoic acid and its salts

 

- Salicylic acid and its salts

 

soil associationThe Soil Association

The Soil Association is an organisation, established in England in1946 by farmers, scientists and nutrition specialists, with an aim to popularise biological food and healthy diet. The Soil Association manages both the certification of farming products and cosmetic products.

 

The independence of the organisation:

 

The Soil Association is not directly linked to the manufacturers of the cosmetics, therefore it can be considered an independent and impartial organisation.

 

The Soil Association standard has 2 levels:

 

1. Organic cosmetics: at least 95 % of farmed ingredients should be biologically grown.

 

2. Cosmetics with organic compounds: at least 70 % of farmed ingredients should be biologically grown.

 

The Soil Association permits the application of four different preservatives in products which are identical to natural ingredients. Unlike ECOCERT and COSMOS, the amount of preservatives is not limited. The allowed preservatives are as follows:

 

- Benzyl alcohol

 

- Sorbin acid and its salts

 

- Benzoic acid and its salts

 

- Dehydracetic acid (DHA) and its salts

 

In case of having a specific permit whose assignment procedure is not defined in the standard, The Soil Association allows the use of the following synthetic preservatives:

 

- Phenoxyethanol – liberates formaldehyde that has carcinogenic effect

 

- Lactoperoxidase

 

- Phenylethyl alcohol

 

natrueNaTrue

By refusing to join the European common natural cosmetics certification standard COSMOS, (unites organisations ECOCERT, BDIH, The Soil Association, ICEA, Cosmebio), in 2010 the German natural cosmetics manufacturers - Weleda, Dr. Hauschka/Wala, Logona/Lococos, Lavera/Laverana, Primavera, Sanaverde – created their own certification standard, NaTrue. The NaTrue standard, depending on the amount of the biological ingredients in the product, has 3 certification levels that, in the beginning, were labelled with a logotype of one, two or three stars, but later the star symbols were cancelled.

 

The independence of the organisation: NaTrue is directly linked to the manufacturers of cosmetics, therefore the certification objectivity and neutrality might be compromised.

 

NaTrue standard has 3 levels:

 

1. Organic cosmetics: at least 95 % of farmed ingredients should be biologically grown.

 

2. Cosmetics with organic compounds: at least 70 % of farmed ingredients should be biologically grown.

 

3. Natural cosmetics – ingredients should be of natural origin, but it is not obligatory that the product should contain biologically grown ingredients.

 

NaTrue permits the application of seven different preservatives in products which are identical to natural ingredients. Unlike ECOCERT and COSMOS, the amount of preservatives is not limited. The allowed preservatives are as follows:

 

- Benzyl alcohol

 

- Sorbin acid and its salts

 

- Salicylic acid and its salts

 

- Benzoic acid and its salts

 

- Dehydracetic acid (DHA) and its salts

 

- Propionic acid and its salts

 

- Formic acid and its salts

 

cosmosCOSMOS

COSMOS is the first common European natural cosmetics certification standard that unites organisations ECOCERT, BDIH, The Soil Association, ICEA and Cosmebio. The common standard was established in 2010, in order to allow various institutions to certify the products according to the common standard in Europe and facilitate the customer’s choice of products. The COSMOS standard is the strictest in the use of product ingredients.

 

The independence of the organisation:

 

COSMOS is not directly linked to the manufacturers of the cosmetics; therefore, it can be considered an independent and impartial organisation.

 

COSMOS Standard has 2 levels:

 

Organic cosmetics: at least 95 % biologically farmed ingredients and at least 20 % biologically certified ingredients from the whole amount of the product ingredients.

 

Natural cosmetics: ingredients should be of natural origin, but it is not obligatory that the product should contain biologically grown ingredients.

 

COSMOS permits the application of five different preservatives in products which are identical to natural ingredients, unless their amount does not exceed 5 % of all the ingredients. The allowed preservatives are as follows:

 

- Benzyl alcohol

 

- Sorbin acid and its salts

 

- Benzoic acid and its salts and esters

 

- Salicylic acid and its salts

 

- Dehydracetic acid (DHA) and its salts

 

Comparing the most popular standards in Europe, it can be concluded that ECOCERT and COSMOS, in terms of their demands, are stricter than other standards. In the near future, the most part of the organisations will certify the products according the COSMOS standard, thus decreasing slight differences. However, when choosing cosmetics, the most significant thing is to pay attention to whether the products has SOME of these certificates, then it can be relied that the purchased product will satisfy not only the skin’s beauty needs, but will also be safe for the health and environmentally friendly.

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