Organic Trends And Products

Organic trends and  products within  the  beauty  industry are produced according to organic standards: using  ingredients derived  from  organically grown,  natural botanicals. This  is a growing  trend in the beauty  industry, with many beauty  companies  promoting a link between natural beauty  and environmental health.


Organic products are those  that  use  production methods and  include materials that  enhance and  support the  health of ecological  systems. Organic agricultural practices aim  to minimize pollution from  air, soil, and  water  by avoiding  pesticides. The  primary goal of organic companies is to create  products that  support the health of plants, animals, and people  by sustaining a healthy environment.

Chemicals in Cosmetics

Most  synthetic makeup products are petroleum based  and  are processed using synthetic and potentially harmful chemicals. Fifty of the many chemicals included in American personal care  products have  been  banned in  Europe. Researchers argue  that  many  of these  chemicals are  carcinogenic and  have  other negative health effects. Most of the products applied  to the skin are absorbed and can enter the bloodstream. Synthetic or toxic ingredients in lotions, cleansers, and makeup may cause  allergic reactions or have other effects on health. As the primary consumers of cosmetics, women are at particular risk for ingesting the  harmful ingredients of cosmetics such  as preservatives, fragrances, and  other components like formaldehyde. A recent study  found that  61 percent of 33 name-brand lipsticks contained unsafe amounts of lead.


Organic personal care  products offer an  alternative to the  chemical-based conventional beauty  lines. Such cosmetics and personal care products include organic ingredients and  are produced without pesticides or other potentially hazardous chemicals. Advocates  of organic personal care products cite the health benefits of using  beauty  products without harmful chemicals.

Organic products have risen  in popularity and  thus  the  number of products offered  has  increased dramatically. The  organic beauty  industry has  grown  at 15  percent for the  past  15  years.  In  2007,  personal care  products counted for

15 percent of the  U.S.  personal care  market, with  sales of $9 billion.  Over  100 natural, organic, and  environmentally friendly  beauty  lines have been  developed since  2002.  With  the  growth of the  organic personal care  industry, the  importance  of accurate labeling  becomes more  pressing to avoid greenwashing (misrepresenting a product as environmentally friendly).

With  the  rise in popularity of organic products, there  is an increased risk for misleading advertising and  labeling  to cash  in on  the  popularity of such  products. Among  consumers of the beauty  industry, a common misconception is that natural is synonymous with  organic. Natural is a term  used  to  describe nonsynthetic  ingredients, and this wording is not regulated, while organic products abide by strict  regulations.

Some manufacturers use terms  like natural instead of organic or authentic instead of certified. These terms  are not  regulated, and  thus  consumers may mistakenly believe  they  are buying  organic products. While  natural products do not  themselves contain synthetic additives  or chemical preservatives, they may contain ingredients that  were  genetically modified or treated with  pesticides earlier  in the production process.

Organic Standards

The  United States  Department of Agriculture’s (USDA)  organic standards regulate  specific  practices in  the  production and  processing of organic agricultural ingredients used  for both food  and  nonfood products. These standards include regulation of methods used  in crop  growing  and  harvesting, along  with the  processing  of  agricultural products. Organic standards include a list  of  approved synthetic substances that  are  sanctioned for  use  in  the  production of organic products, as well as a list of prohibited natural ingredients. Organic products are minimally processed without artificial ingredients or preservatives. Organic farming maintains and cultivates crops without the use of toxic pesticides or fertilizers. Finally,  organic ingredients must be produced without the  use  of antibiotics or synthetic hormones, and cannot be genetically modified or irradiated.

There is no  national certification body  in  the  United States:  certification  of organic products must occur by state  and  local  agencies approved by the  federal government. The  USDA  regulates three  levels of organic products. Products may be labeled  100 percent organic if they are made  entirely  with certified  organic ingredients. Those made  with  at least 95 percent organic ingredients may be labeled organic. Both 100 percent and 95 percent organic products may display the USDA  organic seal on the  label. Products containing at least 70 percent organic ingredients may use the label made with organic ingredients.

While  the  USDA  has  been  regulating organic personal care  products since 2004,  the  first  organic standard specifically  for  the  beauty   and  personal care industry  emerged in  2008.  The   Organic and  Sustainable Industry Standards (OASIS) certify personal care products that have at least 85 percent organic ingredients as organic. OASIS also certifies those  products that  are made  with organic ingredients, which  have a minimum of 70 percent organic content, with  the  remaining 30 percent of ingredients meeting additional criteria. The  Organic Consumers Association (OCA)  criticizes  OASIS  for allowing  ingredients made  from conventional agricultural materials, which  may use pesticides.

Controversy and Certification

The  organic food  and  product industry emerged in the 1960s,  when  it was composed  of small,  independent farmers selling  to  local  consumers. These farmers had direct, personal relationships with their  customers, who trusted them  in their claims  to be organic. In 1990,  U.S. Congress passed  the  Organic Foods  Production  Act (OFPA)  in a first attempt at a national program to regulate production of organic ingredients. In 2002, the National Organic Program (NOP)  was implemented after 10 years of public  input and  debate. The  NOP regulates the  use of the  term  organic, restricting it to  those  products certified  by state  agencies and approved by the USDA.

Organic farmers and  consumer groups alike protested that  the new guidelines were  unfair  to  those  farmers who  were  already  practicing organic farming and production, but  would  now  be  excluded based  on  the  national standards. For example,  farmers who had been  raising  crops  organically would  not be certified  if they could  not prove no pesticides have been used on their soil for 10 years. Some farmers and producers also view the labeling program as restrictive and potentially economically disadvantageous to their  own livelihood. Certified  organic ingredients are much more  expensive, and the certification process is potentially burdensome  for small  farmers who  do  not  have  the  resources to  process through the bureaucracy. Consumer advocacy  groups also argue  that  the  certification debate is occurring in lieu  of measures to educate consumers about the  ingredients in their  products. By focusing on labeling, consumers may ignore  the complex principles and practices behind organic production and fall prey to manipulation.

Health and  Environmental Benefits

Proponents of organic products note  many  benefits for  the  consumer’s health and  the  environment. The  most  basic  benefit  of organic products is the  reduction  in toxicity. Contemporary research shows  that American infants are exposed to hundreds of harmful chemicals such  as pesticides and  additives. The  National Academy  of Science  cites potential neurological and behavioral effects from even low-level exposure to pesticides, while other research demonstrates that pesticides commonly used  in nonorganic food are carcinogenic and may decrease fertility.

Organic agriculture, which  produces ingredients for beauty  products, reduces pollution by eliminating pesticides that  cause  air and  water  contamination. Organic  production  methods also  build   healthy soil.  Organic farmers promote biodiversity by using  pesticide alternatives such  as crop  rotation, avoiding  monoculture (planting one crop over a vast space of land), and planting pest-repelling plants (for  instance, geraniums repel  insects   that  feast  on  tomatoes). Organic matter used  to fertilize has been  shown to increase nutrients in organic produce, whereas synthetic fertilizers deplete the soil’s mineral content and cause  leaching of excess nitrogen. Organic farming protects wildlife by respecting wetlands and fragile ecosystems. Finally, organic farming methods have proved  to use an average of 30  percent less  energy  than conventional farming methods. Proponents argue  that  organic farming promotes healthy ecosystems and  is safer for farmers and consumers alike.


While  the consumer demand for organic products is growing, these  products are generally  more  expensive  than conventional products because of the  time  and labor  required to cultivate organic crops.  Organic farmers do not  receive federal subsidies as conventional farmers do,  and  many  are  small  farmers who  cannot offer lower prices  achieved through efficiency, as can industrial agricultural producers. Organic ingredients are  thus  more  expensive. This  is seen  particularly in  organic beauty  products because of specialty  ingredients grown  for  cleansing, moisturizing, and  other properties. Advocates  of organic products argue  that these  are actually the true costs of these  products, whereas conventional products do not reflect the environmental costs of the use of pesticides and other chemicals in the production of their  ingredients.

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