Thursday, August 6, 2009

"Organic" cosmetics. What truly rates?

A Reader Asks:

"Can you comment on the safety of Physicians Formula organic line and the ECOCERT rating?"

I never cease to be amazed at the prevalence of the word "organic" in the brand names of many personal care products, some of which not only contain not a single certified organic ingredient, but several toxic synthetic chemicals, such as parabens and phthalates in synthetic fragrance! Dr Bronner's and the Organic Consumers Association are suing several manufacturers that list organic claims on their labels but whose products contain 1,4 dioxane, a carcinogen.

As for "natural," don't even get me started. I will restrain myself to repeating that "natural" is an undefined and unregulated claim in the cosmetic marketplace.

What labels are meaningful?

The USDA certified organic seal on a personal care product means that the entire product is certified organic, containing, at minimum, 95% certified organic ingredients. This is still a rarity, but some companies such as Organic Essentials and Origins Organics do make USDA certified products.

Look on labels for "contains USDA (or QAI) certified organic plant ingredients," and you'll be getting a good thing.

BDIH is an EU seal barring all petroleum-based ingredients.

The newis Natural Products Association (NPA) seal strictly limits chemical processing and additives.

ECOCERT is a respected European mark still rare in this country. It requires at least some percentage of certified organic ingredients, and forbids many synthetics and problematic processing that can create toxic byproducts, but does allow some synthetics, so one should still read ingredients lists. Physicians Formula Organic Wear is ecocert certified. But make sure you’re buying the Organic Wear and not their conventional mineral makeup line, which has parabens.

See GreenerPenny's specific product and brand recommendations and critiques here.