Organic Beauty

Posted on: 25 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Could organic beauty products be a safer alternative?

The Soil Association, the UK’s leading certifier of organic products, launched standards for health and beautycare products in 2002 after three years’ of development involving industry experts.

The standards aim to provide consumers with products that are as natural as possible, with minimum processing, and the Soil Association symbol assures consumers that products have been independently audited for organic authenticity.

Under Soil Association standards, natural preservatives and antibacterial ingredients are encouraged. Natural preservatives, which have been used for centuries, include honey, sugar and alcohol. Plant extracts can also be used such as rose, cinnamon, cloves, calendula and vanilla.

To prevent the fast spread of bacteria, natural processes are allowed, such as heat treatment, removing oxygen through vacuum packing, and ensuring a low water content. A few chemical preservatives are allowed, but on a restricted basis and not if there are known concerns about health effects.

Ingredients and processes that are toxic or have detrimental effects on the environment - such as being non-biodegradable - are avoided.

A number of ingredients and processes are prohibited such as hydrogenated fat - this process of hardening fat is not allowed under organic food standards and is unnecessary in organic beauty products. Alternatives such as palm oil, which are naturally solid, are permitted.

No petro-chemicals or GM ingredients are allowed, neither are the surfactants sodium lauryl sulphate and sodium laureth sulphate - due to consumer concerns over their safety and the possibility of the manufacturing process producing toxins.

Parabens are not permitted in healthcare products that carry the Soil Association's symbol. Parabens are the most widely used chemical preservatives around the world and are used in a number of products such as baby lotions, children’s shampoos, hair conditioners, hair styling gels, nail creams, foundations, facial masks, skin creams, and deodorants - a report found them in breast tumours.

Aluminium and zirconium, which have also been found in human breast tumours, are similarly not allowed under the standards.

Any animal products used must be from animals that have been bred under organic standards. Testing of ingredients and products on animals is prohibited, unless required by law.

Products must contain a minimum of 70 per cent organic ingredients, excluding water. Products that are certified by the Soil Association carry the widely recognised Soil Association symbol.

Organic standards in Europe are set by the European Union. However, the EU standards only relate to products that are from an organic production system and intended for human consumption. The Soil Association drew up these standards, which are voluntary, to satisfy the growing interest from companies in organic beauty products.

Currently the number of Soil Association certified organic products is relatively small, which is why the organisation is doing all it can to encourage companies to research alternative processes and formulations. This will result in a wider range of safer and organic options being made available to the public.

Traci Lewis, Business Development Manager with Soil Association Certification Ltd says, “Consumers have a right to products that are safe - but they also expect them to be effective. With so many people now eating organic food, there is huge potential for a wide range of organic beauty products to be developed.”

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