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The Lure of Organic Ingredients

By: Abby Penning
Posted: October 26, 2012, from the November 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.
  • Beauty brands seeking to use organic ingredients in their products need to know their organic certification options, as well as where consumers are responding to organic products.
  • Although challenges with ingredient supply, certifications and consumer awareness do exist for organic products, the viability of this market overshadows those surmountable concerns.
  • Including organic ingredients in a beauty product significantly adds to a product’s marketing story, from the growers to the certification to the safety and beyond.

In the development of beauty products today, the inclusion of organic ingredients is an option that more and more brand owners are considering. With the natural trend on a continuing climb and more consumers seeking out products that aren’t genuinely natural, the relatively more regulated organic industry has drawn a lot of attention and interest. However, there are a variety of considerations when it comes to an organic beauty product—it isn’t as easy as just affixing a certification logo or adding “organic” to the name and calling it a day.

“When it comes to ingredients, the standard set forth by the U.S. government—and this is the USDA, the United States Department of Agriculture—has sort of taken this under its wing,” says David Fondots, vice president, sales and marketing, Extracts & Ingredients, Ltd. “Some years ago, the USDA established what is called the NOP program, which is the National Organic Program. Its purpose is to ensure the integrity of proclaimed organic products in the U.S. and also globally.”

However, the USDA Organic certification is sometimes seen as problematic for beauty brands and ingredients. “At the end of the day, when it comes to organic, you are going to find the organic law itself, the NOP, was originally written as a food standard. So the majority of allowable non organic ingredients are non-cosmetic,” comments Sundeep Gill, vice president, R&D, Sun Deep Cosmetics, Inc. “Very little has to do with cosmetics/personal care. It is actually engineered mostly for food, so many, many things you find on there are meant for baking, meant for agriculture, and they really have nothing to do with what we do here in personal care. We must search for similar technologies used in the organic food industry to give us the desired stability and usability that we demand in the personal care market.”

To address this challenge, other certification bodies have stepped up to develop their own organic standards. “There is actually an alphabet soup of standards out there, some claiming natural, some things like ‘made with organics,’ some doing things like biodynamic certification,” notes Gill. And one of the largest of these certifiers is NSF International. “NSF is a certifying body, and it decided to put something together, a standard, that says that if you hit this calculation of 70% organic ingredients in your product and your non-organic ingredients adhere to this very short list of what you can and can’t use in terms of how this ingredient is made, then you can go ahead and carry—not the USDA Organic seal—but the NSF seal of ‘made with certified organic ingredients,’ ” Gill explains.

Additional certification bodies such as Oregon Tilth and European options such as Ecocert/Cosmos also exist, each with their own rules about organic certification. But currently, the most recognized organic certification continues to be the USDA Organic option. (See “The Process of Going Organic” for more information on organic certifications.)

Even with all these organic certifications available, however, you still have to make sure this type of investment is right for your beauty brand. Some areas of the beauty realm seem to be more accommodating of organic claims and offerings. Fondots explains, “The skin care area has been more accepting of organic ingredients. It seems to predominate, and that’s logical because the point of organic is to avoid synthetic contaminants and toxins, so certainly skin care products are the obvious target area. All the beauty segments do certainly have an interest, but skin care seems to be leading the pack right now.”

Further explaining skin care’s tendency to lean more toward organic options, Patrick Anderson, Western regional sales manager, Terry Labs, comments, “Skin care [brands] seem to be more involved in organic ingredients due to the outcry for safer and less risky ingredients. This may be a natural evolution of [these brands] changing marketing approaches. The industry seems to be moving into more functional products with super fruits and natural ingredients that occur in nature, and the whole approach to feed your skin with natural ingredients makes for a natural move toward organic ingredients grown in nature.”

Pluses and Minuses

Thus, the organic beauty market is becoming richer with opportunities every day, but there are also lots of potential pitfalls along the road for those seeking to mine this type of market.

“Most conventional cosmetics contain synthetic components that are more likely to trigger allergies and adverse reactions, especially for those with sensitive skin,” Daniel Sabará, executive director, Beraca, notes of the growing organic beauty marketplace. “Organic cosmetics source their ingredients from nature and combine them in formulas with no chemical preservatives, thereby reducing the chances of skin irritations. They are also [primarily] manufactured with no animal testing or chemicals that may harm the environment, providing a high added value to the cosmetic product.”