If you’ve been to the cosmetics isle lately, you may have noticed a new trend: Organic Cosmetics. What exactly does this term mean? Is organic really better? Most importantly, is it safer for you? This conversation is part of an on-going series about makeup safety. Other posts include Is Mineral Makeup Safe?,Lipstick’s Ugly Side and They Put WHAT?! in Your Lipstick.
Little Regulation for Cosmetics
Before we jump in, it’s important to know that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT regulate makeup. The FDA’s authority over makeup is very specific and bars the use of harmful chemicals. Sounds good right? Well, most of the chemicals that are harmful in makeup are actually byproducts and are therefore not listed on the labeling of a product. On the FDA’s official website, they clearly state that the cosmetics industry has to self regulate the safety of their products.
What Makes a Cosmetics Product “Organic?
The FDA addressed this question: There is no definition under United States law in relation to cosmetics. While no definition exists, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) does regulate the process through which agricultural ingredients are certified as “organic.”
For a cosmetic product to be certified organic, it must meet USDA standards for organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards (source). To receive an organic certification, the operators that produce the organic agricultural ingredients, the handlers of these agricultural ingredients, and the manufacturer of the final product must all be certified by a USDA-accredited organic certifying agent.
PHEW! That was a lot of government jargon so let’s break it down: There is no definition of organic. Products that are certified organic must go through a rigorous process that accesses every step of production.
“Organic” Does Not Mean “Safe”
Before getting too excited, the FDA clearly states that just because a product is organic does not mean it’s safe. Plants may still contain harmful toxins and allergens.
The cosmetics company will tell you that though, right? Wrong. While companies have to list ingredients, there are still health risks associated with makeup. Since the FDA tasks the cosmetics industry with self regulation, only a very small percentage of products are actually tested for safety.
Luckily, there’s resources out there that can make you an informed consumer. If you take nothing else away from this post other than this you’ll be in good shape: A product is not considered organic under law unless it has a certification by the USDA on its label. This label indicates that the product has gone through the rigorous testing mentioned above. If there is no label, you cannot trust that the product is organic. Here’s the label you want to look for on a product’s label:
Another powerful resource is the Cosmetics Database, a resource developed by a non-profit focusing makeup safety. You can research various products on this site and find out if there are any health risks associated with a particular organic cosmetic product.
AOrganic isn’t organic if it doesn’t have a label. And even if it is organic, it may still be harmful to your health. Do your research before laying down your hard earned cash on products that may be toxic.