When you first venture into the organic lifestyle, it can be a little overwhelming. Which foods should you eat? Which products should you buy? Many think you should only buy foods and products that are certified organic. The USDA certified organic seal is a common sight on organic foods, making them easy to identify.

With skin care products, it becomes a little more complicated. Not all skin care product ingredients are regulated by the USDA. The agency only has jurisdiction over farm-raised ingredients. Many of the plant-derived ingredients and essential oils used in organic skin care products are not regulated by the agency as they are not normally considered food products.

Organic skin care

USDA Requirements for Certification

In order for skin care products to be certified as organic, they must be made of predominantly agricultural ingredients and meet USDA and NOP standards. The USDA has specific requirements that must be met in order for a product to be certified and there are different types of certifications. In addition, the NOP’s requirements regulate production, handling, processing, and labeling. The ingredients must be grown and processed without chemical fertilizers, growth hormones, GMOs, or synthetic pesticides.

100% Organic

To market a product as “100% organic,” it must contain 100% USDA certified ingredients (excluding water and salt), have no non-organic ingredients, and all processing methods used to make the product must be 100% USDA certified organic. If the product meets all these requirements, it can display the USDA organic seal and also must display the certifying agent’s name and address.

Organic

To market a product as “organic,” it must have at least 95% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and the remaining 5% can be non-organic. Once these requirements are met, the product can display the seal which must include the certifying agent’s name and address.

Made with Organic Ingredients

To be marketed as “made with organic ingredients,” a product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and the remaining 30% can be non-organic. These products cannot display the USDA-certified organic seal but must still enlist a certifying agent and display the agent’s name and address.

While displaying this certification is desirable, meeting the requirements can be challenging. They were designed with food items in mind and don’t necessarily apply to skin care products. Even if the requirements can be met, they mean more when certifying organic foods.

Certification Agencies

In addition to the USDA and NOP, there are other agencies that offer certification services. Among these are Ecocert and Natrue along with many others. These agencies are individual businesses, each with their own set of standards. To verify that a product meets their specific requirements, these agencies will check its ingredients and processing procedures. Once their standards are met, a product will be permitted to display that agency’s certification.

Ecocert was the first agency to develop standards for natural and organic cosmetics. They require that a product’s ingredients are derived from renewable resources, utilize an environmentally friendly manufacturing processes, and contain a minimum number of organically farmed natural ingredients.

Like the USDA, some of these agencies are geared more toward food items. That, in conjunction with the fact that each follows different guidelines, makes the certifications vague and confusing. The certification process for these various agencies involves many hours to fill out the mountain of paperwork required along with what is typically a substantial fee. The result is often a certification seal that leaves consumers wondering what exactly it means.

These certification processes also take a long time, anywhere from a few months to a year. An agency will validate a product’s raw materials, formulas, manufacturing processes and labeling, as well as conduct an on-site audit. Once the agency issues a certification, it is then paid an annual fee as long as the product is produced.

To be Certified Organic or Not?

The cost of the certification ultimately leads to increased product costs. If the certification was standard across all agencies, it would be of more value to both the manufacturer and the consumer. As these certifications currently exist, they are little more than an added expense and fail to truly provide consumers with peace of mind. Certified organic does not guarantee quality or effectiveness of the product, only the eco-friendliness of its ingredients.  

Organic skin care products

For this reason, many organic skin care manufacturers have chosen to be their own gatekeepers. Daren of Skindew shared his thoughts on the subject.

Ideally, you can tell if a product is all natural just by reading the ingredients and a little research. Natural companies may not be able to afford certain seals but that does not make them any less all natural without a USDA Organic seal. Being 100% organic is near impossible. Acquiring all natural products is a good step in the right direction, if the product offers some organic ingredients, that doesn’t hurt.

       -Daren D., Director of Operations and Founder of Skindew, Skindewonline.com

I AM Organic is among those who have chosen to forgo certification. Originally born from the desire to better care for her own skin naturally, founder Sandy Marion created the line of all-natural skin care products. The sugar scrubs, body oils, and a body balm are not only a natural and wonderful way to care for your skin but for your spirit as well. All of our products are produced with organic and wildcrafted ingredients and have soothing and invigorating natural scents.

Our mission is to provide our customers with premium quality products that are free from chemicals or dyes and kind to both you and our environment while offering a great value. Our clients can trust in this, as Sandy and her daughter continue to use the products themselves. Order skin care with your favorite scents and begin your own organic journey.