Does Organic Really Mean Organic?

I found this article on Vogue.com about how organic a beauty product actually is: You'll be surprised!

DO you buy organic beauty products? Your answer may be yes, but can you really be certain that what you're buying is in fact free of harmful and artificial chemicals? According to the Soil Association, the UK's largest organic certification body, misleading product labels mean that many of us are slathering our faces, bodies and hair with potentially harmful chemicals - and we don't even know it.

"We started really looking into the issue when the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint against Boots, where a Little Me Organics Oh So Gentle Hair and Body Wash had been labelled as organic despite including only five per cent organic ingredients," Soil Association project manager Jenny Collins told us today. "The problem is widespread, and it's packaging that's the problem. Organic hair and beauty products aren't regulated in the same way as food, so things like parabens and petrochemicals are making it into supposedly organic items."

All beauty products certified by the Soil Association require at least 95 per cent of ingredients to be organic, and are checked by external auditors.

"Organic beauty products, in the same way as organic food, contribute to increased biodiversity and are kinder to the environment and to animals," Collins told us. "The labelling system is staggeringly complicated, but if you buy organic then you can have peace of mind that you aren't putting unsafe ingredients on your skin."

When we spoke to Boots this afternoon, the high street store was keen to reassure us that that "all organic ingredients used in the Botanics range are certified as organic and adhere to the Boots Organic Policy, which is verified by Trading Standards," adding that "the ingredients in the Boots Botanics Organic Facial Oil support a 100 per cent claim. The ingredient list on the packaging may not make this clear, and we will look to rectify this immediately."

However, like the Soil Association, Boots recognises a need for clearer guidelines on what constitutes an organic product.

"We have a clear policy on how we substantiate claims for our products and work hard to always provide our customers with accurate and factually correct information," Boots told us. "In the absence of a standardised policy on organics claims, and as an internationally trusted brand, we have developed our own policy within which the methodology has been verified by Trading Standards. However, we would welcome an internationally consistent regulation on the use of the word 'organic' in beauty products to remove any confusion for consumers."

In September of this year, the Soil Association's annual Organic September will feature a dedicated Organic Beauty Weekend on September 7 and 8.

"We decided it was the right time for a dedicated weekend," Collins explained. "It's in the very early stages and it's the first time we've done it, but we'll be working with Neal's Yard and other natural product retailers to stage events around the country to help consumers to find out more about organic beauty. It's very exciting."

Learn more about the Soil Association's certification policy at www.soilassociation.org.