Natural and Organic Personal Care Products: Can You Always Trust the Claims?

When shopping for cosmetics and personal care products, it’s common to see many brands touting their goods as ‘100% natural and organic’. A lot of the time, we don’t check the ingredient list to see if these claims are true. And even if we did, we probably wouldn’t even know what we were looking at!

Unfortunately, it’s very easy for brands in Australia to make these claims without proving them. In fact, companies are not legally required to have their products certified by an independent organic certification body. Additionally, use of the term ‘natural’ is unregulated by the government, so even a product with a low percentage of natural ingredients can still be advertised as ‘natural’.

If you can’t always trust the advertising claims, then how do you find personal care products that are both gentle on your skin and good for the environment?

There are some simple things to look out for when you next go shopping. Here we’ll take you through the difference between natural and organic ingredients, and what organic certification means.

 Natural vs. organic ingredients

 Natural ingredients are those sourced from nature as opposed to synthetically processed. As mentioned above, a product can claim it is natural even if it contains the smallest amount of naturally-derived ingredients.

Organic ingredients, on the other hand, have to adhere to a few more rules. They must be derived from nature without the use of synthetic pesticides, petroleum based fertilizers or sewage sludge fillers, and they must not be a genetically-modified organism.

What is organic certification all about?

 A company does not have to have its product independently certified in order to claim it is organic. In fact, many companies create their own certification logos to make it appear as if it has been independently certified, which means that their products could contain barely any organic ingredients at all!  

 There are several independent certification organisations that have developed their own standards with which companies can choose to comply. Once such organisation is Australian Certified Organic (ACO), which has one of the strictest compliance standards. PPC Herbs chooses to comply with ACO standards.

ACO-certification guarantees that products do not use toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical fertilizers during production.

ACO determines the type of organic claim that can be made according to the percentage of organic ingredients contained in the product. You can read more about ACO requirements for personal care and beauty products here, which will help you determine the percentage of organic ingredients in the products you buy. ACO products can only display the ACO logo if they contain more than 70% certified organic ingredients, and no parabens, sodium lauryl sulphates, genetic modification and petroleum derivatives. If a product is claiming to be organic, but you can’t see a logo, then you know it doesn’t contain any certified ingredients.

Next time you go shopping

 Next time you go shopping for personal care products, be sure to look for signs of independent certification from a reputable organisation such as ACO, COSMOS, Natrue, NSF or Ecocert. Remember, even if a product claims to be made from natural ingredients, it only needs to contain a small percentage to advertise as such, so it pays to do your research. Take the time to look up the ingredients list, and remember that according to Australian regulation, ingredients for cosmetics and personal care products must appear in descending order according to their mass or volume. So if a natural ingredient appears last on the list, you’ll know it only contains the smallest amount.