There is a popular saying in the cosmetics industry: “Don’t put anything on your skin that you couldn’t also eat.” After all, our skin is our biggest organ, so whatever we apply to it affects our overall health and well-being.
But still, who in their right mind would decide to eat a face cream, risking their own health in the process?
As it turns out, there was at least one man who did. In 2011, Ronald Kohl decided to drink liquid hairspray in front of an audience at the International Natural Cosmetic Conference in Europe. His goal? To show the public that it is possible for cosmetics to be truly natural and safe to use and consume.
Natural, ecological, organic, honest, safe — these trendy words are often attached to modern day cosmetics.
We may think we know what they mean or we may trust the cosmetics companies not to mislead us, but the truth is, not all cosmetics are created equal.
Often, these health claims – and the products themselves – have nothing to do with nature. (And our face creams certainly don’t mention anything about being edible.)
How often have you browsed an aisle or scrolled through a site, trying to figure out whether the ingredients of the product you’ve put in your cart mean it’s also one you should be putting on your body?
In fact, whether a cosmetic even can be labeled natural or ecological or organic or honest or safe depends on the country where it was manufactured. The European Union holds their manufacturers to very strict and transparent standards and regulations. The United States, on the other hand, leaves much up to the consumer — and the manufacturer’s — interpretation. Some companies choose to be ecological and self-regulate, others…not so much.
You may be wondering why there’s such a disparity between us and our neighbors across the pond…and why that disparity may not be common knowledge.
In 2012, the European Union made conscious efforts to “clean up” its natural cosmetics industry. They created various regulatory and certifying bodies to monitor and prove whether a cosmetic is truly natural or organic. Now, their standards of ecological cosmetics production are enacted according to the directives of COSMOS (Cosmetics Organic and Natural Standard) association. This European Cosmetics Organic Standards Working Group includes BIOFORUM, COSMEBIO and ECOCERT, BDIH, ICEA, and the SOIL ASSOCIATION.
The “crown jewel” of this organization is the French ECOCERT. ECOCERT primarily certifies food and food products, but it also certifies cosmetics, detergents, perfumes, and textiles. A leading certifier of fair trade food, cosmetics, and textiles as per ECOCERT Fair Trade standards, the organization alone inspects about 70% of the organic food industry in France and about 30% of it worldwide.
For a cosmetic to be labeled natural and organic, 95% of its ingredients must have natural origins. This means plant-based oils, fats, and waxes, extracts of herbs and flowers, and essential oils. And all of these ingredients have to come from monitored, certified organic farms.
The idea behind natural and organic products is to treat holistically the product itself, the human body, and the environment. ECOCERT was created to ensure that no part of the product’s lifecycle — from the farm to your bathroom counter to the recycling bin — disturbs or disrupts the balance of the natural ecosystem. How the raw materials are grown or harvested and then processed impacts how they are used by you and how they interact with your skin.
But before these organic farms can even begin producing the raw materials, they must undergo 3 years of analysis and monitoring of their soil, pollution levels, rainwater and underground water, among other aspects. The farms need to comply with the established natural farming procedures. Farmers cannot use commercial fertilizers and pesticides, and the final product cannot be obtained from genetically modified plants or from animals. To ensure compliance with the strict standards, these farms are continuously monitored and audited by ECOCERT authorities.
The production process of natural cosmetics is designed to be simple and eco-friendly. Natural and organic products must have a separate production process and separate production assembly lines, which is monitored and checked through audits. The ECOCERT inspection is likely more thorough than U.N. inspections of nukes sites! Everything is checked, from the hygiene of the assembly line to the storage and the dumpster. Even the products used for cleaning and disinfecting the facility have to be biodegradable and approved by ECOCERT.
As for the cosmetics themselves, they cannot contain chemical emulsifiers or preservatives, synthetic dyes or fragrances, or petrochemical by-products. The ingredients and the finished products also have to be 100% cruelty-free. They’re never tested on animals!
The ingredients and the finished cosmetics even need to be stored and transported in adherence with strict standards, and the packaging must be biodegradable and correctly labeled.
Cosmetic companies have the obligation to label their cosmetics according to an INCI code (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients). The consumer has to be able to quickly recognize whether the cosmetic is really natural.
All ingredients have to be labeled in order, from highest to lowest, based on their quantity or volume within the cosmetic.
But proof that a cosmetic is natural isn’t found in its price, its marketing claim, or even its ingredient list. Only one of the recognized world authorities can certify and guarantee that a product is a “‘controlled natural and organic cosmetic.”
Certification isn’t easy. It’s a rigorous, costly, and lengthy process. Each product must undergo preparations for 2 years before it can be certified. Then, that certification must be reassessed and renewed for the product to re-earn the logo of the certifying organization on its packaging each and every year!
What makes a natural cosmetic truly different from a conventional one?
Here are the facts: Natural cosmetics contain 95% active ingredients while conventional cosmetics often only contain up to 5%. Natural cosmetics support your skin’s natural protective system and its healing abilities while giving it the most compatible nutrition. Gentle yet very effective, these cosmetics were first produced for newborn babies and small children and to treat various dermatological issues. Now, they are available and recommended for everyone, making it easier than ever to finally replace your current brands (and their potentially misleading claims) with safe, high-quality natural cosmetics you can trust.
Natural cosmetics won’t “attack” your skin with chemicals. They are effective because their plant-based ingredients are similar to and compatible with our own cell structures. As a result, they can quickly adjust to the natural life cycle of our skin cells and respond positively to their needs.
But, because they interact with and revitalize your skin, rather than just covering it up like a plastic film, natural skin care products take time to work. Just like nature, they don’t like to rush…or be rushed. So, if you don’t see the kinds of immediate effects you would with your conventional ‘high-tech’ cosmetics filled with engineered chemicals, don’t be discouraged. Scientific studies have confirmed that natural substances are less invasive and better tolerated by our skin than chemicals and synthetics.
Natural skin cream or lotion won’t smooth your skin right away because it doesn’t contain silicone that only coats the top layer of your epidermis. Washing gels and shampoos won’t foam like expected in the shower because they lack the chemical detergents that also irritate and dry up your skin and hair.
Any inferiority of natural cosmetics, when compared with conventional ones, is just an illusion. Because natural cosmetics undergo rigorous inspections and certifications, what you gain in healthiness and safety, you don’t lose in effectiveness. Plus, natural cosmetics are always cruelty-free and do not contain any toxins that disrupt the natural balance of the ecosystem, unlike conventional cosmetics whose harmful by-products are dumped back into our waterways.
Simply put, natural cosmetics do not destroy your body’s ecosystem or that of our planet. They are all packaged in guilt-free, biodegradable containers, which will safely dissolve after usage, unlike the PVC or polystyrene containers of conventional cosmetics.
So, now, the question is: why are you not yet using and applying truly natural cosmetics?
Alina Cosmetics is proud to add ECOCERT-certified skin care products produced by the Polish company AVA Laboratorium to its portfolio. Our two new ECO Linea and Aloe Organic lines of these cosmetics will be introduced for the first time to the North American market.
Dysput, Larysa, Founder of AVA Laboratorium. Personal Interview. May 2018.
Markowska, Bozena. “Eco-Care. What are natural, organic cosmetics?” The World of the Cosmetics Industry, no. 3, 2012, pp. 8-12, https://issuu.com/39879/docs/3_2012_spgtk.