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Why certification is important

Many people who buy natural cosmetics think they buy organic cosmetic. But this is not true, as organic cosmetic is not a protected term.  While the Bio label in the food industry can only be put on products that have been produced according to strict and detailed production standards, whose compliance is checked and controlled without prior notice by the legislature of the European Union, cosmetic products are not so protected. The cosmetics industry – with several billions turnover a huge economic factor – orients itself towards trends. And one of the recent trends is natural cosmetics, thus making it possible that chemical cosmetic is quickly marketed as “natural cosmetic” or “bio-cosmetic” just because a few drops of plant extracts or oils from organic farming have been added. A closer look discovers that the product does contain crude oil derivatives, such as paraffin and silicone. This may be questionable, but it is not illegal.


The classical natural cosmetics manufacturers decided not to wait for the slow legislation. They found a way to signal the consumer: this product is indeed a pure natural product, made up only of vegetable raw materials, preferably grown organically, without chemicals and allergens. Most of the German producers are organised in the BDIH. Since 2001, thanks to the logo "Controlled Natural Cosmetics", everyone can tell that the respective care products have been checked and certified. Natural cosmetic products carrying the logo “Kontrollierte Natur-Kosmetik” comply to all the following requirements: the products contain only vegetable sources, if possible derived from certified organic farming or harvesting in the wild. Animal testing is generally prohibited. Synthetic colorants and fragrances are prohibited. For preservation, only natural or nature-identical agents are permitted. Additionally, enviromental-friendly recyclable packaging is required.

There are many natrueEuropean countries and there are many different certifications and regulations. Since it is a little confusing for the consumer, some of the larger manufacturers of German natural cosmetics as Lavera, Logona, Primavera, Santaverde, Dr. Hauschka and Weleda decided to establish a new, European organization for control of natural cosmetics, integrating individual regulations. In 2008 the European industry organization NaTrue, with its headquarters in Brussels, was founded and basic standards were defined. NaTrue categorises natural cosmetics into three stages: natural cosmetics, natural cosmetics with organic fraction and organic cosmetics. These three stages are made visible by the number of stars in the logo. NaTrue with one star is comparable with the requirements of BDIH. Two or three stars of NaTrue require a fraction of organic contents above 70 or 95 percent respectively. Additionally, the NaTrue logo limits compromises to a minimum, as three primary product groups are clearly distinguished: natural products, semi-natural and nature-identical products. For the respective cosmetic product groups minimum concentrations of natural products and maximum concentrations of semi-natural products are precisely defined. Water, for example, is not rated as natural product, this keeping it from being mixed into for boosting the fraction of natural products (british Soil Association for example has a similar requirement).

Are NaTrue 3-star products of higher value than 2-star products? This question can not be answered with yes or no. Sure enough, a wild rose oil from 100% controlled organic farming is more valuable than the one with 30% content of conventionally grown plants. On the other hand one has to be aware of the fact that there are many natural cosmetic products that will never get two or three stars but are still highest quality natural cosmetics. Three stars mean that the cosmetic was made from at least 95% organically grown base products. Many body care products use for example rhassoul powder, which has been mined in areas where the powder was encased for an extensively long time and therefore has an extremely high grade of fineness or a high content of minerals. All this contributes to the high quality of the mineral powder. But still it is not biological. Only farming products can be the outcome of controlled organic farming. If the fraction of mineral powder and water exceeds 30 percent, two NaTrue stars are no longer achievable, as the requirement for doing so is a fraction of at least 70% organic components.

Are products carrying the BDIH and NaTrue label of higher quality? Also this question can not be answered straight away. Application for certification and approval requires to follow very complex regulations. A certification is elaborate and expensive. Most German natural cosmetic manufacturers are mid-sized companies. Especially for the smaller companies a certification means considerable effort in time, manpower and money. Additionally, companies are competing against each other, but are obliged to disclose sources of supply or even production methods. This can lead to natural cosmetics produced to the highest standards but not labelled with one of the renowned logos. Without question, the jungle of logos will thin out slowly. But it takes time. Until then the logos give us security and base knowledge. Most natural cosmetic products come with a complete list of ingredients, which can easily be used to judge their quality. One thing is sure, as we know what food we have on our plate, we should know how raw materials of natural cosmetics look, taste and smell. That is the best we can give our skin.