Certification Organisations and Their Standards

Certification for organic skincare is not government-regulated and there is no global standards which makes it sometimes difficult for consumer to know where to look, what to look for or how to establish common standards. An understanding of the different types of certifications and rules makes your choice as a consumer easier and that is what we aim to outline on this page.

How does certification work?

Each certifying body specifies a set of requirements that a product and manufacturer must meet in order to be certified natural and/or organic, including:

  • The minimum percentage of organic content required within a product
  • The percentage of synthetic ingredients acceptable under the certification
  • The list of ingredients that are categorically excluded from use in products that
  • The manufacturing processes which can be used in the creation of ingredients and the end product
  • Whether water can or cannot be included in the calculation for the organic percentage of the product

Part of the requirements also include the regular auditing by a third-party organic certifier of both the manufacturers' ingredients and processes to ensure it is compliant with all the rules of the certification standard. A few general requirements which apply to most certifications include:

  • No animal testing
  • No ingredients derived from an animal unless produced without harm to the animal e.g. honey or beeswax
  • No Genetically Modified (GM) ingredients
  • Consideration for how the ingredients are grown and harvested
  • Environmentally-friendly packaging requirements

Today, there are a number of international organizations with organic skincare certification standards. Below are the six most common ones:

- The SOIL ASSOCIATION

Is a non-profit organisation from the United Kingdom. It provides standard for "organic" and "made with organic" ingredients. Limited amounts of synthetic preservatives and ingredients are allowed, for example benzyl alcohol, dehydroacetic acid and phenoxyethanol. It excludes water in calculation of organic content. Products labelled as "Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients. Products labelled as "Made with Organic Ingredients" must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.

- The USDA NATIONAL ORGANIC PROGRAM 

Is a US governmental food standard with three certification variations. Products labelled as "100% Organic" must only contain organically-produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Products labelled as "Organic" must contain at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding water and salt). Limited amounts of synthetics are allowed. Finally, products labelled as "Made with Organic Ingredients" must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients, but cannot display the USDA seal on packaging.

- NATRUE

Is a Belgian and International non-profit organisation. The cosmetic standard requires 100 percent certified pure natural and derived natural (natural origin) plus some limited nature-identical* as a baseline for entry. It excludes water and salt in calculation of natural and organic content and has a 3-star system. Cosmetics labelled as "NATRUE Organic" are 3 stars and guarantee at least 95 percent of their natural ingredients stem from controlled organic production. Cosmetics labelled as "NATRUE Natural with Organic Portion" are 2 stars and guarantee at least 70 percent of the natural ingredients stem from organic production. Cosmetics labelled as "NATRUE Natural Cosmetics" are 1 star and require 100 percent certified pure natural and derived natural (natural origin) plus some limited nature-identical*.

- ECOCERT

 Is a French for-profit organisation. They require a minimum of 95 percent natural origin as a baseline entry. Water can be included in its calculation of organic content. Up to 5 percent of synthetic preservatives are allowed e.g. Dehydroacetic acid and Sodium hydroxide. A product labelled "ECOCERT Natural" must contain a minimum of 50 percent of all plant-based ingredients in its formula and a minimum of 5 percent of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming. A product labelled "ECOCERT Natural and Organic" must contain a minimum of 95 percent of all plant-based ingredients in its formula and a minimum of 10 percent of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming.

- BDIH

Is a German for-profit organisation that requires membership of brands provided they meet its standards. A product requires 100 percent natural origin/nature identical* to gain the "BDIH Natural" standard. There is no certification for Organic and no organic content is required for certification but BDIH requires manufacturers to use organic content wherever possible. Nature Identical preservatives such as benzyl alcohol and salicylic acid can be used along with natural preservatives.

- COSMOS

Is a non-profit organisation and the first European Harmonized Standard for organic and natural beauty created by the first five EU organic beauty certifiers (BDIH, Soil Association, CosmeBio, EcoCert and ICEA). Limited synthetics are allowed in the "Organic" and "Natural" standard for some product types. Minerals are excluded in the calculation of organic content. Logo is as the five certifiers with the addition of the COSMOS stamp. COSMOS offers two labels. In products labelled "COSMOS Organic", at least 95 percent physically processed agro-ingredients must be organically produced, while a minimum of 20 percent (10 percent in wash-off products) of total ingredients by weight must be organic. The standard for products labelled "COSMOS Natural" is that they may contain natural / organic ingredients, but the standard does not allow active marketing of organic content.

End Notes:

* Nature identical substances may only be used when natural substances cannot be recovered from nature using reasonable technical effort. Nature identical ingredients are 100 percent identical in composition to their counterparts in nature, but have been created in the laboratory to ensure stability, safety, and sustainability.

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