In a new survey conducted by the USDA and the Federal Trade Commission, consumers are widely misinformed about the ingredients in their personal care products, specifically whether or not they’re organic. And, says the Environmental Working Group, scores of personal care companies make questionable and misleading claims about their products.
“More than 5,000 products in EWG’s Skin Deep® database – about 20 percent of current product formulations rated on the site – use “organic” in the brand name, product name, product label or list of ingredients,” EWG explains, “but many of these products contained risky or hidden ingredients and received poor Skin Deep® scores.”
The confusion comes by way of the ingredients in the products. The USDA, which regulates the federal organic seal, only oversees ingredients that are farmed. This can certainly pertain to cosmetics and personal care products that include botanicals, oils, herbs, etc. And companies using certified organic ingredients in their products are allowed to use the USDA organic seal if those ingredients make up 95 percent or more of the ingredients. Of course, any company can use any amount of organic ingredients they wish, but to claim that a product is “made with organic ingredients,” but those organic ingredients must make up at least 70 percent of the product. Otherwise, they can simply list the organic ingredients on the label.
For skin and personal care brands, the waters get murky around synthetics—those often found in products claiming to be natural. Sometimes they’re used because they’re less expensive, or they’re more stable than natural ingredients, or because there really isn’t a natural product that does the same job as a synthetic. But these cannot be labeled organic, even though they often comingle with organic ingredients.
“The proliferation of misleading claims and the absence of meaningful oversight has fueled enormous consumer confusion,” says the EWG.
The biggest confusion is over the use of the term “organic”—much like with organic foods. Just because the front of the packaging label may say “made with organic almonds” doesn’t mean the whole product is organic. And the same goes for skin care.
“Compounding the confusion is the fact that most consumers mistakenly believe cosmetics chemicals are reviewed and regulated by the FDA,” says EWG. “A recent poll found that two-thirds of consumers believe cosmetics chemicals must be proven safe before they can be placed on the market.”
But just like supplements, FDA does not review personal care products until or if there are widespread complaints or injuries related to the products.
At Zatik, we take our products—and our claims about them—quite seriously. All of our products have been reviewed by the EWG Skin Deep® database and receive low-risk ratings. Where we can, we proudly display the USDA-certified organic seal on our products that qualify. And we think it’s most certainly worth the extra expense and paperwork (trust us, there is A LOT of it), to achieve that organic status. We know our customers want it, and we want it for ourselves, too.
Like our food system, our personal care industry is far from perfect. But the good news is that we do have organic regulations, and as a result of the recent findings, the FTC and USDA are exploring whether or not more regulations are necessary to ensure consumer safety and company transparency.