The difference between ‘Natural’ and ‘Organic’ in personal care products
The terms ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ can be both confusing and also misleading in personal care/beauty products. They are often used interchangeably despite the fact there are clear differences, and the packaging utilised can often confuse consumers into buying products that are not what they were expecting.
‘Natural’ product claims:
- The Australian government does not regulate the use of the word ‘natural’ on products, so even a low percentage of natural ingredients can still be advertised as ‘natural’.
- A product is considered ‘natural’ when it contains ingredients that are sourced from nature rather than created synthetically. Synthetic chemicals are produced through laboratory manipulation and are not found in nature, though it is possible to create synthetic versions of natural ingredients (such as Vitamin E).
‘Organic’ product claims (with certification logo):
- Organic ingredients must pass more rigorous standards of purity. In order to be organic, an ingredient must have been derived without the use of synthetic pesticides, petroleum-based fertilizers or sewage sludge fertilizers, and it must not be a genetically modified organism (GMO).
- To advertise as ‘organic’ in cosmetic products, a company may have its product ‘Certified Organic’ by a reputable certification body. However, in Australia there is no legal requirement to do so and hence the term ‘organic’ has no relevance without a recognised certification logo.
- Some companies design their own ‘certification logo’ to make it appear as though they have gone through the validation process. Often, these look very similar to the official certification logo in an attempt to deceive the consumer.
- Independent Certification organisations, such as Australian Certified Organic (ACO), COSMOS, Ecocert and NSF, have developed their own standards to which cosmetic and personal care companies may choose to comply with.
- Only ‘Certified Organic’ guarantees no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals. Organic producers and processors also are subject to rigorous announced – and unannounced – certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a manner that is acceptable.
How it works: Certification % and ACO (Australia Certified Organic) requirements for personal care/beauty products
- The amount of non-organic ingredient(s) will affect the type of organic claim that can be made.
- With 100% certified organic content, the label can state ‘100% organic’ and include the ‘bud’ logo.
- With 95%-100% certified organic content, label can state ‘Certified Organic’ and include the ‘bud’ logo.
- With 70%-95% certified organic content, the label can state ‘Made with Certified Organic ingredients’ and can use a modified ‘bud beauty’ logo on the back of the label with an approved Certification number (ie ‘ACO 10934P’) and actual organic ingredient percentages.
- <70 % certified organic content cannot make any organic certification claims, can only list ingredients as ‘organic’, cannot include the certification number or the ‘bud’ logo.
- Products claiming they are made with organic ingredients can only contain other functional ingredients that meet ACO requirements.
- ACO requires that products bearing their logo are FREE from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, genetic modification and petroleum derivatives.
Why is it so difficult to make 100% “Certified Organic” skin care products?
- It is very difficult to make a skin care product or cosmetic that is 100% organic as it depends on the level of complexity of the formulation and the level of performance (or product efficacy) desired.
- Organic skin care products are composed of two major types of ingredients – functional and organic ingredients. The percentage of organic component is determined by the ratio between these two types of ingredients.
- Organic ingredients: consist of naturally derived ingredients. Ingredients that come with an organic certification can be vegetable oils, essential oils, glycerine, ethanol, beeswax etc. These ingredients contribute to the unique characteristics of the formula and can enhance the efficacy of the product (eg moisturising, providing fragrance and humectancy). They usually do not have a major impact on the stability of the product.
- Functional ingredients: consist of ingredients that impart the product with its functional properties and define the product performance (efficacy). They usually don’t come with an organic certification but they still require approval by the organic certifying body. Examples are emulsifying waxes, preservatives, thickeners, emulsifiers, detergents and antioxidants. They are crucial for the manufacture of the product, as well as the efficacy, stability and characteristics of the formula.
- All functional ingredients have to be validated by ACO prior being used. All ingredients have to satisfy ACO criteria of how that ingredient is made/synthesised.
- Non-certified ingredients are only permitted when an identical organic certified ingredient is not available on the market.
- Non-certified ingredients cannot be of GMO origin or manufactured using GMO technology, be fumigated, irradiated or treated with compounds prohibited by the organic standard.
- In all cases, the onus is on the manufacturer to obtain and supply ACO with proof of non-GMO origins, Irradiation and treatment statements for non-organic ingredients.
Because of the ACO endorsement of our Certified Organic products, the Australian consumer can be confident that all of our ingredients used will meet stringent certified organic requirements.
What’s important in designing and manufacturing a Certified Organic product?
Three factors are critical in determining the ingredients to be used in making an ‘organic’ product:
- The desired level of ‘organic’ claim to be made (for example, the % ‘certified organic’).
- The desired level of product performance (for example, the efficacy of the product).
- The required physical, chemical and microbial stability to support the shelf life and use.
All of these issues have to be considered when formulating a Certified Organic, high performing product.
PPC Herb products are designed to perform to a certain standard whilst still having the maximum possible ‘certified organic’ component. The addition of functional ingredients (which may not be available as certified organic) will limit the overall organic % claim permissible.