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Why use organic beauty and wellness products?


Title: Why use organic beauty and wellness products?

Did you know that products can be called ‘organic’ and have as little as 1% organic ingredients? This is where The Soil Association steps in, with their organic certification which ensures you can find beauty and wellness products you can trust. In honour of Organic Beauty Week, we caught up with them to discover why certified organic beauty and wellbeing is so important.

 

What is certified organic beauty and wellbeing?

Organic refers to a system of farming that works with nature, by prohibiting the use of artificial pesticides and fertilisers. In the food industry “organic” is a legally regulated term, yet no such legislation exists for using this label for beauty and wellbeing products. This means that companies can legally label products as “organic” even if they contain just 1% organic ingredients!

This is why the Soil Association helped to develop the international COSMOS standard for Organic cosmetics, so consumers have guidelines they can trust. In a COSMOS certified product, 95% of the ingredients grown on farms and then physically processed, for example by drying and crushing, must be organic. We also have our Private Label Health & Beauty standard for non-cosmetic wellbeing products (such as candles, lubricants, and cleaning products) that has similar requirements, and the same thorough checks from farm to the finished product. Looking for products with the Soil Association logo therefore ensures the product meets the gold standard of sustainability.

 

Why is organic so important for beauty as well as food?

The same arguments for organic food apply to organic beauty and wellbeing- it is a system of farming that is better for the planet and the people and animals living on it. As beauty products are a luxury, we should be especially careful that their production does not destroy nature and ensuring that they are certified organic is one way of doing this.

Organic farming provides many solutions to the current ecological issues we face, including climate change. Soils on organic farms store twice as much carbon in them than non-organic[1], keeping more of this out of the atmosphere. By prohibiting the use of nitrogen fertilisers- which are created from fossil fuels- organic farms also use less energy than non-organic[2].

This is not to mention the amazing protections organic farming gives to biodiversity. The prohibition of artificial pesticides, herbicides and fungicides means biodiversity is much higher on organic farms than non-organic. On average, organic farms are home to 50% more plant, insect, and bird life[3]. We rely on insects like bees, moths, butterflies, and others to pollinate our crops. If we want to ensure crop growth can continue to feed us- let alone provide for our beauty products- such pollinators need to be protected, and organic is the way to do so.

 

Why is biodiversity a hot topic this year?

Sadly, our biodiversity, particularly insect life, is declining. Over 40% of insect species are declining and a third are endangered, and intensive farming (due to the use of pesticides) has been identified as the main cause[4].

The issue of biodiversity loss has been brought into the public consciousness more this year by the UK Government announcing that they are planning to relax the ban on neonicotinoids. These are pesticides that are particularly harmful to insect populations, such as bees. Just a single teaspoon of neonicotinoid pesticide is enough to kill 1.25 billion bees[5]. It is not hard to see how this relaxation could wreak massive environmental havoc. The Soil Association were instrumental in first getting these pesticides banned in the EU in 2017, and opting for certified organic beauty and wellbeing products is just one way you can ensure your purchases do not go towards supporting such harmful practises.

 

Are there some ingredients that cannot be organic certified?

Yes, as “organic” can only refer to ingredients that have been grown and farmed via the organic method. This means many ingredients that are found in beauty and wellbeing products cannot be organic certified. The COSMOS standard states that at least 20% of the overall ingredients in a product must be organic, and the reason this may seem low is because water constitutes most of the formulation in many beauty products. Water, which is not grown, cannot be organic. However, as explained above, the standard stipulates that 95% of any ingredients that come from agriculture must be grown organically.

There are also many natural minerals, including clay and salt, that are commonly found in beauty products. Again, these cannot be classed as “organic” because they are not grown. However, we also certify to the COSMOS Natural standard which covers these types of ingredients. Like the Organic standard, COSMOS Natural ensures that any natural materials are sourced sustainably.

 

Is one certification better than another?

COSMOS Organic is an internationally recognised standard, which gives it leverage over other standards that exist. We developed the standard in association with other European certification bodies. However, Soil Association Certification is the only UK body that certifies cosmetics to this standard.

It is certainly one of the most rigorous standards out there when it comes to sustainability. It is not just for ensuring the agricultural ingredients in a product are organic- the whole manufacturing process is inspected.

In terms of the product formulation, we prohibit certain ingredients in addition to certifying the ones we do permit. Those that we do not allow include parabens, phthalates, and synthetic plastics and microplastics. It is worth looking at our list of “Terrible Ten” ingredients for more insight on some of the ingredients we would never allow in our certified products, but which can actually be found in some other beauty and wellbeing products that label themselves “organic” without certification!

 

All beauty and wellness products sold at Planet Organic are COSMOS certified, find our favourites here.

 

[1] Gattinger, A., Muller, A., Haeni, M., Skinner, C., Fliessbach, A., Buchmann, N., Niggli, U. (2012). Enhanced top soil carbon stocks under organic farming. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 109(44), 18226–31.

[2] Smith et al. (2015) The energy efficiency of organic agriculture: A review. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems, 30, 3

[3] Bengtsson, J., Ahnström, J., & Weibull, A. C. (2005 ‘The effects of organic agriculture on biodiversity and abundance: A meta-analysis’ Journal of Applied Ecology, 42(2), 261–269. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2664.2005.01005.x

[4] Sanchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys (2019) Worldwide decline of the entomofauna: A review of its drivers. Biological Conservation, 232, 8-27

[5] Goulson, D ‘Are crops being devastated without neonicotinoid protection?’ http://www.sussex.ac.uk/lifesci/goulsonlab/blog/neonicotinoid-protection

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