Body Care Certifications: Let’s Clear A Few Things Up
Body Care Certifications
— Let’s Clear A Few Things Up.
We’re going to take a wild guess and say that you wouldn’t want to put synthetic chemicals in your food. Especially ones you can’t pronounce. So, why would you want to put it on your skin?
✎ Kat Guerrero
Enter the world of eco & skin-friendly beauty products. This is an industry that has exploded in the last decade to the point where we have hundreds of products that cater to beauty enthusiasts interested and invested in using quality products made with quality ingredients.
From lines that taut the benefits of superfood infused moisturisers (we’re looking at you Raww Cosmetics) to chic brands like A’Kin, there is no shortage of Australian products that claim to be Natural, Organic, or Naturally Derived.
So, ask yourself. Do you know what each term means?
Do you know how and why brands are able to market themselves with eco-friendly claims?
Turns out, in Australia, there is no overseeing authority on how the beauty industry market itself. The industry lacks regulation to monitor the validity of product claims and instead encourages a self-regulated approach.
It’s up to us to decide which products are worth their claims. The best way to do that is a quick lesson in what each term means.
It’s time to break down those labels.
As the least regulated term on our list, the word natural is thrown around casually. Natural, in theory, implies that there are no synthetic ingredients included in the product and that ingredients are directly derived from plants and minerals. A natural product undergoes minimal to no processing.
The trick to assessing a product is to read through the ingredients. Remember, products list their ingredients from the highest percentage to the lowest. Ingredients that may sound synthetic (like citric acid) can be a component or extraction of an otherwise natural ingredient.
In Australia, a company can brand themselves as natural if just one ingredient complies to the vague standard of ‘natural.’ The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) can theoretically act against claims, but because the terms ‘natural’ can be easily contested, it’s a grey and tricky area to manoeuvre. The ACCC believes that “the people who make and supply cosmetic products need to be fully aware of their responsibilities” and that “false representation is about products is not allowed.”
Defining the term organic is seemingly simple. Getting that stamp of approval? Not so simple.
An organic ingredient is derived from a non-genetically modified, chemical-free plant grown in respect to the environment. Skin and beauty products with organic ingredients tend to be higher quality because the ingredients haven’t been altered, providing a user with plant benefits of the purest form.
The use of the term ‘organic’ is well-regulated in Australia through independent certification organisations who investigate a products supply chain over a long and costly period. Australian Certified Organic offers certification for companies looking to receive confirmation that their product reaches a minimum level to be considered organic. When a company undergoes the certification process and said the product contains over 95% certified organic ingredients, they can include ACO’s ‘bud logo’ on the package. Products under that 95% threshold are still able to use the term ‘organic’ to advertise but aren’t able to include the bud on product packaging or advertising. ACO’s standard for ‘certified organic’ approval is based on Europe’s standard (COSMOS), which is known as being difficult to achieve.
Remember, getting the ‘certified organic’ label is expensive. Smaller start-up companies that make quality products may be creating organic products regardless of official certification due to lacking financial backing. Companies that create products that include a small percentage of organic material can also advertise themselves as ‘organic choice.’ Word choice (including biological, whole and vital) and lack of regulatory parties ensuring that the term organic is reserved for certified organic products only has led to a market full of products that claim to be organic, many without certification or transparency. One company even went far enough to call themselves Organic Choice™, a company who admits that they use very little - to none - organic materials in their products.
For consumers hell-bent on buying products that have gone through an inspection process, stick to the official labels, particularly keeping an eye of out for ACO’s bud logo. For those that understand Australia’s less than ideal oversight on the organic cosmetic and skin care market, do your research and read your product labels.
We’ll cut to the chase. Any product that advertises itself as ‘naturally derived’ shouldn’t be the first on your priority list, especially if you are hoping to limit your skin's exposure to chemicals and synthetic ingredients.
Naturally-derived implies that at some point, regardless of when, the ingredients used originated from a plant. What seems to be naturally-derived could have been altered to the point that it doesn’t resemble a plant anymore. And that’s fine – products we used day to day, like essential or cooking oils have technically fallen under this alteration. The Green Chemist phrases how natural ingredients are sourced well:
The amount of skin care products that directly go from this first transformation stage straight onto the shelf is limited. To achieve lotions, foaming cleansers and traditional skin care products, scientists take these plant extractions and modify their chemical structures. A product can be advertised as naturally derived and contain 100% chemical or synthetic ingredients – as long as a portion of said ingredients originates from a natural substance.
The moral of the story? You’re in charge of what you put on your skin. It’s up to the consumer to decide what ingredients and what companies they want to support. For some, that may mean doing their best to purchase whole-ingredient products. For others, that may mean purchasing the products that have been working for them, regardless of how they are produced. Either way, we encourage all skin-care enthusiasts to be smart and educated consumers.