The “Natural” and “Organic” Skincare Lowdown
by Lisa Sykes
FOR WELL-INTENTIONED SPAS
Serious money is being spent on natural and organic personal care products. According to Mintel, a leading market research company, the natural and organic personal care market has risen from $345 million to $465 million since 2005. Furthermore, Mintel’s Global New Products Database reveals a 53% increase in new natural or organic product lines in the past two years.
In the wake of the paraben scare and the petrochemical backlash, consumers are becoming more concerned about
what they apply to their skin, and their demand for chemical-free personal care products has been the call to action for many spas to enthusiastically adopt clean, green retail and treatment protocols. This cumulative buying power has cultivated the once meager selection of natural, organic spa products to grow into an overabundant cornucopia of choices. Tradeshow aisles and magazines have recently bombarded spa professionals with vibrant, foliage-rich advertisements boasting natural, food-grade ingredients. And although it may be satisfying to have a wide array from which to choose, it is also incredibly frustrating for spa professionals to translate marketing claims and decode ingredient lists so they can make wise purchasing decisions. However, there are some simple label “tests” the besieged spa professional can perform for prudent product assessments:
Determine if you want “natural” and/or “organic” products
Contrary to popular belief, these terms aren’t synonymous. The term “natural” is generally assigned to products containing plant or mineral ingredients. “Organic” describes the non-pesticide/herbicide/ GMO method in which a product’s plant-based ingredients are grown. However, sometimes these claims are made without regard for the percentage of natural or organic ingredients in them.
Look beyond labels
Labels that boast glistening fruit, grassy fields, and fanciful butterflies may belie the contents. Here’s what to do:
Search for third-party certification seals
There are third-party organizations that strictly assess for natural criteria (e.g., Natural Products Association), organic (e.g., U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program), or both (NaTrue). These unbiased boards require manufacturers to undergo evaluations to verify that a given set of standards are met. If a manufacturer meets or exceeds these standards, then it is awarded product-claim certification depending on the percentage of natural or organic ingredients (e.g., USDA NOP requires a product to be at least 95% organic for the seal to be visible on a label and a minimum of 70% organic materials to use the “made with” term). Other considerations include whether water is regarded as “natural” or “neutral” and manufacturing processes.
Read ingredient lists
Sometimes quality brands do not display seals on their labels because they are in the middle of a lengthy certification process, the cost may be too high, or they choose to keep their labels simplistic. If you do not see a third-party seal, look at the ingredient list.
Ingredient lists should display all contents—both actives and inactives—in descending order of predominance. Note two exceptions: 1) The FDA does not require colorants or ingredients present at <1% to be listed in order of predominance; and 2) The FDA does exempt manufacturers who claim “trade secret” status for a particular ingredient but stipulates the tag line “and other ingredients”.
Professional or sample packaging, literature, and websites
The FDA does not impose ingredient declaration on these materials, so many companies will only list “natural” active ingredients for marketing reasons. This is troublesome for the consumer because inactive ingredients are commonly the causes for concern. In these instances, ask for complete ingredient lists.
Know which ingredients to avoid
If you can’t pronounce it, chances are it’s a petrochemical. Petrochemicals are derived from nonrenewable sources and are potentially harmful due to their manufacturing processes, which include metal catalysts and contaminates. The nonprofit Campaign for Safe Cosmetics states that “consumers use as many as 25 different cosmetics and personal care products containing more than 150 different chemical compounds daily.” This staggering statistic is compounded with the fact that “1 in 5 of all products contain chemicals linked to cancer, 80% contain ingredients that commonly contain hazardous impurities, and 56% contain penetration enhancers,” according to the Environmental Working Group. You should also be aware that some chemicals are more hazardous than others. For a list of “dirty dozen” ingredients to avoid, easy-to-read charts, and more information about skin care, enlist the help of the Green Spa Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting environmental awareness throughout the spa community, by visiting their website www.greenspanetwork.org.
If it is designed with post-consumer materials, printed with eco-friendly inks, or readily biodegradable, the brand will boast about it in marketing materials. However, if you don’t see it, ask. You can also look for the official recycling symbol (the “mobius loop”), which shows three arrows in a triangular shape. Frequently, on paper products, a loop in the center of a shaded circle means the package contains recycled materials. Conversely, a plain loop (no circle) indicates that the package is recyclable. On the bottom of most plastic containers, the loop features a number in the center, but this doesn’t always mean that the container is feasibly recycled. Note that numbers 1, 2, and 5 are easily recyclable; the others are not. In fact, recycling #3 (PVC) is actually hazardous to the environment.
As daunting as it may seem, undertaking these initiatives is something that your clients will deeply appreciate because it will help you offer more well-informed advice. Transparency is desperately needed in the personal care market, and spa professionals are perfect advocates for this cause, but they must have a lucid understanding of the subject before they can reflect the changes they wish to make.
SACRED BOTANICALS MASSAGE OILS ARE CERTIFIED ORGANIC, UNSCENTED, HYPO-ALLERGENIC, AND DO NOT CONTAIN SYNTHETIC FRAGRANCES OR COLORS.
FARMESTHETICS SKIN CARE LINE ARE 100% NATURAL UTILIZING CERTIFIED ORGANIC HERBS, FLOWERS AND GRAINS FROM AMERICAN FAMILY FARMS.
AROMAFLORIA DEVELOPS NATURAL PRESERVATIVE SYSTEMS UTILIZING ESSENTIAL OILS AND MINERALS THAT REPLACE THE STANDARD SYNTHETIC
PRESERVATIVES. AS A RESULT, SALTS, SCRUBS AND MASSAGE OILS ARE 100% PRESERVATIVE FREE.
Lisa Sykes works as a full-time eco-friendly specialist for Universal Companies, where she researches, writes informative articles, helps initiate greening policies for the company, and makes an art out of decoding marketing materials and product labels.