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Organic cosmetics - Non-organic cosmetics

Organic cosmetics : a reality or an illusion ?

Natural cosmetics do exist, but genuine organic cosmetics are very rare !

To be 100% organic, all the ingredients in the product would have to be organically produced, which is often impossible. If the cosmetic contains water, for example, it is no longer 100% organic.

Some manufacturers have found a solution by replacing the water with hydrolat, which allows them to greatly increase the percentage of organic ingredients.

You also have raw materials that are not available in organic form or that are very expensive. A good non-organic active ingredient is better than an ineffective organic one !

But beware of designations. The term "organic" is only regulated for food products. Some unscrupulous manufacturers may therefore still refer to organic cosmetics without actually referring to organic farming.

All organic products must have the INCI marking, but not the concentration, the manufacturing process or the part of the plant used. So reading labels is often very difficult, unless you're a chemist with very good eyesight !

This INCI marking does not really help consumers to find their way around: the manufacturer may, for example, hide the term "phthalate" (solvent) under the name "perfume".

Unfortunately, buying "organic cosmetics" in an organic shop is not always a guarantee, as some of these shops contain cosmetics that contain the famous parabens, which are suspected of being carcinogenic.

We therefore advise you to buy products bearing a recognised label such as BDIH (Germany), Nature & Progrès or Cosmébio, which offer you the guarantee of a cosmetic that complies with specifications that exclude synthetic products.

On our website, you'll find :

- Under the Nature et Progrès label (Organic - Ecological Cosmetics) :
Soaps of all kinds

- Under the BDIH label (controlled natural cosmetics) :
Hair care, Men's care, Baby care, Make-up, Toothpaste, Acne-prone skin, Anti-cellulite oil, Deodorants, Hand and lip care, etc.

- Under the Cosmos Organic label (Organic Cosmetics) :
Baths - Showers, Shampoos, Body milks, Liquid soaps, Shea butter, Body scrubs, Oily skin, Dry skin, Normal skin, etc, Insect protection, Arnica cream and massage gel, Intimate hygiene, Lice shampoo, etc.

Don't confuse natural with ... natural.

A problem : while the term "organic" is normally regulated, the qualifier "natural" is not yet perfectly well defined.

The truth is that if you go far enough back in the production chain, everything, absolutely everything, comes from nature. But can we call "natural" a product that comes from petrochemicals, the production of which requires chemical manipulations that totally alter the original component?

A word of warning : as the cellular system does not "recognise" these invented molecules, unexpected consequences can occur (irritations, intolerance reactions, allergies, etc.). Some people consider that a natural product comes directly from nature, without transformation. While this definition has the advantage of being perfectly clear, it does not allow for a wide choice of raw materials.

A point of reference : the most acceptable definition is the one found in the specifications of the various labels that guarantee that the "organic cosmetics" you buy are not "fake organic".

The ingredients used must be obtained by mechanical transformation, distillation, cooking, mechanical filtering, fermentation and oxidation. They must also be easily recyclable and biodegradable.

Did you know ?

Organic or not, there are 26 allergenic substances that must be labelled. Most of them come from perfumes or essential oils: limonene, linalool, geraniol, citronellol, eugenol, cinnamal, farnesol or benzyl alcohol, like the preservative of the same name.

Please note : By 2020, all the European labels will be brought together under a common charter, COSMOS, to harmonise the different standards.

Comparative table of ingredients

Non-certified cosmeticsCertified organic cosmetics
Water or hydrolat sometimes Active plant hydrolats bio
Mineral oils from petrochemicals (paraffin, mineral oil, vaseline) and silicones. or natural oils in varying proportions. Natural oils, generally organic.
Emulsionnant petroleum derivatives, chemical synthesis derivatives, Peg (polethylene glycols) authorized. may be irritating and are pollutants. Emulsifiers derived from sugar or vegetable raw materials: peg forbidden. Lanoline(extract from sheep wool suint) allowed.
Synthetic gellings, often acrylate, or acrylamide... Natural gellings only: gums and celluloses
Humectants, all glycols are allowed: propylene glycol, butylene glycol ... they can be irritating. Humectants: glycerin or sorbitol for example. glycoles are forbidden.
Authorized synthetic antioxidants: BHT, BHA .classified as carcinogens ! ! Natural antioxidants only: natural or extract of plants.
Conservatives: all possibilities, including organohalogen derivatives or highly reactive formol donors. sometimes the parabens are replaced by worse ! Conservatives: only those authorized by the charters.
Dyes and perfume : all possibilities, including those with unstable benzenic nuclei, and in these cases stabilized by other chemicals ! Colours : only those authorized by the charters, natural or naturally colored active dyes. Perfumes natural allowed, often essential oils.
Ph regulators: nitrosamines possible, such as triethanolamine, highly produced reactive. Ph regulators: Nitrosamines prohibited, soda or lactic acid is used.
Stabilizer agent: all possible, like the EDTA, very controversial Stabilizing agent: edta is forbidden, uses gums or natural vitamins.
No minimum percentage requested. lack of a specific charter controlled by an independent body. Up to 5% of synthetic ingredients, and only those allowed, is possible. charters encourage a maximum of ingredients from organic farming in formulae.

Beware of marketing slogans

Who hasn't dreamt of seeing advertisements for natural cosmetics promising fewer wrinkles, supple, shiny hair and all the benefits of beauty at any age?

But these advertising campaigns are very expensive, margins are high, research departments need large budgets and the final product must be as inexpensive as possible: will it still be truly natural and organic cosmetics ?

The four marketing slogans : nature, care and beauty, craftsmanship and tradition, cutting-edge technology.

We have highlighted a few examples in various articles :

  • Nature pour l'Homme", 93% natural ingredients: (water, alcohol + 100% chemical colourings, fragrances and preservatives).
  • Bio-cure" and "Bio-vitalia": There's nothing organic or natural about these ranges.
  • Nature has immense resources for women's beauty: cheap synthetic ingredients + plant extracts + silicones.
  • Natural Eau de Cologne: anti-oxidant + PEG + protective filter and five synthetic and toxic colourings.
  • Natural Spray: we're looking for natural !
  • Gentle, Extra Gentle...: most of the time these are mineral oils that prevent the pores from breathing.
  • Hypoallergenic: this is not a benchmark, as some products contain irritating or allergenic bases.
  • With fruit, with plants, with essential oils: maybe... but how much ?
  • Grapefruit milk: Citric acid + grapefruit fragrance.
  • Shower with essential oils: although its composition does not indicate any essential oils...
  • Monoï Shower Gel: contains only 0.3% real monoï extract.
  • Exotic fruit shampoo: 0% fruit, entirely synthetic.
  • Fruit waters: with 0% natural extract.
  • Soap with essential oils and honey: the composition does not contain any essential oils, and the honey fragrance is synthetic.
  • Grasse perfume: Grasse may have long been the 'capital' of natural perfumes, but those days are long gone. Almost all perfumes and fragrances are produced synthetically (most natural perfumes are very expensive).
  • The collagen molecule that is supposed to 'remove' our wrinkles is far too large to be able to penetrate the connective tissue, just like the famous liposomes that are most of the time destroyed outside the skin.

This list is not exhaustive, of course, but just gives an idea of the principle.

It's important to remember that ingredients with genuinely therapeutic actions and those that can penetrate the venous system are prohibited in cosmetics !

Why buy a organic cosmetic product ?

1. for your health :
Numerous articles, studies and tests inform us that the use of certain molecules derived from petrochemicals can be dangerous (cumulative effects denounced by Green Peace).

The WHO has proved that mineral oils can be stored in the body, damage the liver and cause inflammation of the heart valves (due to paraffin waxes, for example).

What's more, only a few mineral oils and petroleum products have been tested. It's likely that out of the hundreds of molecules used in cosmetics (around 9,000 chemical products listed) we'll discover a few that are far from harmless!

On the other hand, vegetable oils and fats (almond oil, avocado oil, jojoba oil, shea butter, etc.) are very close to the fatty acids that make up the skin. This makes them easier to recognise and therefore more effective.

2. for its quality :
Quality 'organic' cosmetics contain a large quantity of active ingredients (over 30% for some products). Unfortunately, this is not the case with so-called "classic" cosmetics, which rarely contain more than 1% for reasons of profit. Some branded products are exceptions, but their price is often identical to that of organic cosmetics.

3. for the environment :
Petrochemical cosmetics contain certain materials, such as mineral oils and silicone oils, which are not very biodegradable and are therefore harmful to the environment.

No danger ?

Cosmetics manufacturers claim that there is nothing to worry about, as the molecules do not pass through the skin.

This is true in theory, but according to Pr JF. Nicolas, an immunology researcher at INSERM, this is far from proven for all the molecules used.

Moreover, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) have recently been banned, since it has been proven that they penetrate the skin and can cause carcinogenesis.

Cosmetics regulations

A decision by the European Commission in 1998 requires laboratories to list all ingredients on packaging, based on the European INCI system (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients).

Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight (7th amendment of February 2005).

They are listed in descending order of concentration, as in food labelling, but for the first ingredients only.

There's nothing to stop a fruit extract at 0.001% being placed well ahead of a toxic preservative at 0.1%.

In 2005, the European Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) restricted the use in cosmetic products of substances classified as carcinogenic, mutagenic and/or toxic to reproduction.

However, hormone disruptors (such as parabens) are not included.

This directive does not provide for the application of a precautionary principle, which would involve the elimination or substitution of chemical molecules suspected or recognised as undesirable.

A stability date or expiry date (from the date of opening) must now appear on the packaging of cosmetic products.

This is often symbolised by a drawing of a cream pot on which is indicated 12M for twelve months.

REACH is the new Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals.

It came into force on 1 June 2007.

REACH streamlines and improves the European Union's (EU) previous regulatory framework for chemicals.

The main objectives of REACH are to
- to better protect human health and the environment against the risks of chemicals,
- to promote alternative testing methods
- to encourage the free movement of substances within the internal market,
- strengthen competitiveness and innovation.

REACH makes industry responsible for :
- Assessing and managing the risks posed by chemicals,
- providing safety information to users.

At the same time, the European Union can take additional measures concerning extremely dangerous substances when further action at European level proves necessary.

But this new regulation remains difficult to put in place: lobbying, financial impact, etc. Stay tuned !

Composition of organic cosmetics

Overall, the difference between organic and non-organic cosmetics can be summed up in a few key points: the ingredients used, the manufacturing process, the quantity of active ingredients and the quality of the product.

Whether it's a cream, gel or emulsion, cosmetics all have a more or less identical composition: excipients + active ingredients + additives (for shampoos, shower gels, etc., the excipient is the washing base).

1. the excipient
The excipient (base material) is very important, since it can make up 80% of the product, for a cream for example. It is also important because it is largely responsible for the quality and effectiveness of the product.

We now understand why it is preferable to have an excipient based on raw vegetable fats (most often virgin oils) or natural waxes, which are themselves a mine of active ingredients, rather than paraffin oil with no positive action.

2. active ingredients
The active ingredients used in organic cosmetics can be very varied : clay, trace elements, vitamins, fruit, vegetables, essential oils, etc. They must, of course, be of natural origin.

3. Additives
Additives in organic cosmetics must be limited to the essentials. No colouring agents to attract the eye or perfumes to mask unpleasant smells.

15 rules if you do not use organic cosmetics

1 Remove non-essential items from your bathroom cupboard, avoiding duplicate products.
2 Avoid baby wipes, which may contain parabens and propylene glycol.
3 If you shampoo every day, try spacing out your next shampoos by a day or two and check the difference.
4 If you shampoo every day, try spacing out your next shampoos by a day or two and check the difference. If you are concerned about the composition of your sun cream, limit its use by covering up or staying out of the sun. According to Cancer Research UK, only 30% of us currently stay in the shade.
5 Avoid using products with a high sun protection factor unnecessarily.
6 Reduce the number of bubble baths, which may contain skin-irritating detergents.
7 Cleanse your face with floral water or cold water rather than lotion.
8 Everyone reads food labels, so get into the habit of doing the same with cosmetics.
9 If you want to be sure that a cosmetic is organic, look for the logo. Words like organic, natural and hypoallergenic don't usually mean much in the beauty industry.
10 Follow the directions and use only what you need.
11 Eliminate non-organic tampons and sanitary towels. Cotton is bleached with chlorine. Preferably use products made from 100% pure cotton and without GMOs.
12 Rediscover natural henna.
13 If you can't give up nail varnish, protect your cuticles with oil. Although the part of the nail you see is dead, it is still porous and can absorb the chemicals used in nail varnish and polish remover, such as toluene, acetone and formaldehyde. Choose varnishes that are formaldehyde-, toluene- and rosin-free.
14 Most lipsticks contain petroleum derivatives. Try brands based on beeswax, vegetable oils or vitamin E.
15 As far as deodorants are concerned, there are now more natural products on the market. Don't hesitate to try several before finding the one that's right for you.

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