Build a solid foundation in science, formulation and product development—find out more!
Most Popular in:
Organic and Natural: Caveat Emptor
By: David C. Steinberg, Steinberg & Associates
Posted: April 1, 2009, from the April 2009 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
page 6 of 7
Organic Consumers Association (United States): This final group was established in 1998 in opposition to the USDA’s NOP program, and deals primarily with the food area. It has been involved in litigation with other standards.12
What chaos. Why are there so many different organizations, standards, symbols—and now, lawsuits? There is only one answer: marketing. One may question whether the companies selling cosmetics stamped with these symbols care about anything more than selling products. The underlying message is that consumers have been misled to believe that these products are safer than non-natural or non-organic cosmetics. These organizations’ definitions are contradictory and in some ways, amusing. One set of rules states that water found in the Aloe barbadensis leaf is organic while water from the faucet is not. Water is water is water. Also, natural minerals are allowed as colorants but they cannot be processed; as a minor point, this means that with the exception of mica, none of these natural minerals would be permitted in cosmetics.
Natural iron oxides, for example, would be in violation of FDA, EU and Japanese standards since ground iron oxide ores have enough lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, etc., in them to keep Proposition 65 lawyers in California busy filing lawsuits forever. Natural does not mean safe. In fact, the NPA’s list of permitted “safe ingredients” includes 15 of the EU’s 26 listed fragrance allergens. Perhaps natural allergens are better, then? And while one firm stands behind the EWG and proclaims that synthetic UV filters are dangerous, only permitting ZnO and TiO2, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has in the meantime declared TiO2 to be a known human carcinogen; plus, synthetic ZnO is the only ZnO used since its natural ore only exists with lead.
How far can this go?13 Do natural or organic cosmetics impart real benefits or are they just another marketing fad? As the economy in the United States declines, it appears that consumers are still spending money for organic foods but are foregoing higher priced organic personal care products. This column is titled “Caveat Emptor,” which means “let the buyer beware.”
This column also calls to mind a quote by David Hannum, among others, that states: “There’s a sucker born every minute.” In this author’s opinion, that is what keeps these products on the store shelf.