Askanesthetician's Blog

An esthetician explores skincare issues and concerns

Organic Skincare: Is There A Game Changer On the Horizon? July 15, 2010

I’ve devoted a previous post to the issue of organic, natural, and green skincare  in which I highlighted the fact that the terms “organic”, “natural”, and “green” on skincare labels are unregulated by any government agency so if you want to buy such products the issue really comes down to buyer beware.  Basically you can slap the words “organic”, “natural”, and “green” on the label of your skincare product even if there is next to no organic ingredients in your product.  And using the term “green” is just a joke.  (See my earlier post The Natural, Green, Organic Skincare Fallacy for more details about this issue.)

I was super interested when I saw this article online – Well, Is It Organic or Not? –  in The New York Times this morning about the organic skincare issue and Whole Foods .  It turns out that Whole Foods is going change its policy on which skincare and beauty products they stock vis-a-via the whole organic issue.  Since Whole Foods is such a big player in the field of organic food and products, organic skincare advocates are hoping that this change in policy will have a positive affect on the whole murky issue as a whole.  

Let me point out a few important issues.  In regards to organic skincare products the article points out:

… when it comes to personal care items like toothpaste and body lotion, claims like “made with organic ingredients” or “authentically organic” can flummox even the greenest consumer. No federal agency polices organic claims for personal care items — at least not yet — so manufacturers have been able to use these customer-pleasing terms loosely and liberally. …  

The Agriculture Department has been enforcing organic claims on food sold in the United States since 2002, but does not do the same for other items. The agency does invite manufacturers of personal care products to apply for its National Organic Program label, but it does not go after them if they make unsubstantiated claims.

Just who should be in charge of enforcing those claims has been the topic of some debate and at least one lawsuit. A spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration said that her agency and the Agriculture Department were working together to develop labeling standards, but that there was no projected due date.

So what would Whole Foods new policy look like?

As of next June, the retailer will require all health and beauty products making organic claims to be certified by one of two sources: either the Agriculture Department’s National Organic Program, which sets standards for food; or NSF International, a nonprofit based in Ann Arbor, Mich., that issues its own certification mark.As of June 1, 2011, any products that make organic claims and don’t get the certification will be removed from the shelves of Whole Foods stores. (The company will continue to carry nonorganic products as long as they don’t make organic claims.)

“We’re trying to make it so that our customers don’t have to switch standards and expectations when they cross from grocery into the body care aisle,” said Joe Dickson, the Whole Foods quality standards coordinator.

I have to say that I was excited to read about Whole Foods new policy.  I am glad that a company with real national influence is taking on this issue, and I hope it makes a significant impact in the way that companies label and formulate their organic skincare products.   It is extremely frustrating as a consumer to realize that you’ve been basically duped when it comes to an issue that is important to you.  In my opinion it is also good to see the private sector taking a stand on this issue.  I hope skincare companies will take notice and really do the right thing when it comes to this issue.  No more greenwashing please!


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