By: Dr. Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH
The term organic is commonly used in reference to foods and other consumer products that are considered healthy, non-toxic and all-natural. Organic skin care products have become very popular lately as many people are looking to avoid the harmful toxins found in most traditional products. But what does the term “organic” really mean? What assurance can you have that the products you choose are truly “organic?” Let’s talk a bit about the standards of organic skin care products, and learn how to know if a product meets these standards.
What Is Organic?
“Organic” is the term used to label food that is grown naturally without the use of any synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, fertilizers, hormones, or other man-made or poisonous compounds. Organic foods must also be without artificial flavors or colorings. In addition, organic certification will not be given to foods that have been treated with radiation or genetically modified (GMO). According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in order for products to be labeled organic, they must be free of all the above harmful substances for a minimum of three years. In October of 2002, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) passed new legislation regarding national standards for organic labeling. The new standards include a three-tiered set of classifications:
100% Organic. The USDA organic seal can only be held by products that exclusively contain organically produced ingredients.
Organic. Products may be labeled organic if they are composed of a minimum of 95% organic ingredients.
Made with Organic Ingredients. This label can, by current law, be used for any food product that contains a minimum of 70% organic ingredients.
Why Buy Organic?
Organic foods are great for our health, and for that of the environment as well. Organic farmers don’t use toxic or artificial chemicals to grow and produce their products. Instead, they manage their crops and provide pest control naturally by such means as crop rotation and planting a wide variety of products. Thus, organic farming is friendly to the environment. With organic methods, no chemicals and poisonous toxins will enter the food chain or the water supply.
At the present time, the FDA does not closely regulate the labeling of organic skin care products. In fact, less than 1% of their budget goes toward monitoring personal care products. Hopefully this will change soon, as more and more consumers speak out and demand higher standards and accountability for the manufacturers of skin care products.
Most people today want personal care products that they can be sure are free of unwanted toxins. But, there is a concern. Due to poor regulation, these products can be identified as “natural” or “organic” even though they contain dangerous chemicals. You might think reading the ingredient label is the answer, but unfortunately ingredients are listed with their chemical names and are hard for most of us to understand. To make matters worse, some labels may read “Derived from…(a natural substance)” and may give the impression that this is a natural product. In reality, it may be quite toxic and many chemicals are “derived” from a plant source. For example, ingredients might be followed by the words “Derived from coconut oil.” This misleading statement makes it appear that these man-made chemicals are “natural.” However, nothing could be further from the truth. Cocamide DEA is a foaming agent often include in shampoo formulas. In order to produce this substance, coconut oil must chemically interact with another chemical called Diethanolamine (DEA) that is a known carcinogen. Cocamide DEA is technically derived from coconut oil, but it is certainly not natural and is definitely dangerous.
Identifying Organic Skin Care Products
According to FDA policy, “…a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA” (FDA 1995). This leaves it wide open for manufacturers to put just about anything in personal care products. While some companies make products that would be safe to eat, others include known human carcinogens and developmental toxins such as coal tar and lead acetate. The best way to tell the difference between companies who manufacture truly organic skin care products and those that irresponsibly throw the word around as a marketing ploy is to read the product labels. By law, all skin care products must list their ingredients on the package in descending order based on the percentage of total volume. In other words, the first ingredient listed on the label makes up the majority of the product. A good rule of thumb to use when analyzing products is to divide the ingredient list into thirds. The top third typically contains 90-95% of the product; the middle third usually contains 5-8%; the bottom third is about 1-3%.
As I previously mentioned, the most confusing thing about labels on personal care products is that all of the ingredients are listed by their chemical names. Unless you have a background in chemistry, it is unlikely that you will understand the benefits or safety issues regarding the ingredients. This is where a bit of research is in order. It is a fairly easy process to quickly find out about any chemical you come across. Simply access the internet, and punch the chemical name into a search engine such as Google. When you get the results, look for the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) regarding that particular compound. Here you will find such valuable information as other names the chemical goes by, health hazards associated with it, precautions to take when handling it, and first aid recommendations if you are exposed to it.
A good rule of thumb is that if you cannot pronounce the ingredient name then quite possibly it is a chemical and therefore may be harmful. Do your research and your homework and purchase products from companies that are making non-toxic, chemical-free natural skin care products.
About the Author
Loretta Lanphier, ND, CN, HHP, CH is a Doctor of Naturopath (traditional), Clinical Nutritionist, Holistic Health Practitioner and Clinical Herbalist in The Woodlands, TX and Founder / CEO of Oasis Advanced Wellness. Under her leadership, OAW is known and respected as one of the leading companies in providing safe, clean and hi-tech natural health and wellness solutions for whole body wellness. Because of the need for high-end natural and organic skin care products, Dr. Lanphier has developed Oasis Serene Botanicals™, an all-natural skin care line which promotes natural health and anti-aging solutions for the skin. All Oasis Serene Botanicals™ and Oasis Advanced Wellness developed products are free of toxic ingredients, heavy metals, irradiation, excipients and preservatives and are certified organic, organic, wild crafted or of the highest purity and quality that we can obtain while still providing the utmost degree of active ingredients. All products are laboratory tested to ensure that you are getting exactly what the label states. We will never knowingly compromise health in order to provide a cheaper product or to get a product out quickly. Lanphier is Editor and contributor to the worldwide Free E-newsletter Advanced Health & Wellness. Please visit us at Oasis Advanced Wellness, Acne Resource Center, Allergy-Asthma-Sinus Relief Resource Center and www.oasisserene.com