Organic Monitor assessed over 50 cosmetic brands and ranked them according to their level of ‘naturalness’. The research was led by a chartered chemist who analyzed the formulations of natural and organic cosmetics and compared them to their marketing claims.
Brands were categorized by their rankings as follows: Certified organic cosmetics received the highest rating (9-10), pure natural cosmetics were rated 5-7, naturally inspired cosmetics 2 and conventional cosmetics 1.
The study found that the majority of brand’s formulations do not accurately reflect their marketing claims. Products that claim to be 100% natural were discovered to include synthetic preservatives, emollients and surfactants. Some brands with ‘natural’ claims were conventionally formulated, and several organic cosmetics did not even meet natural standards.
However, the study did show that products certified by a recognized agency received the highest ranking. Although, some products contain certified organic ingredients, the formulations still have synthetic ingredients not common to natural and organic products.
Organic Monitor emphasizes the importance of natural or organic certification as it adds continuity to the industry with strict standards and guidelines on allowed natural formulation processes and ingredients. Moreover, Organic Monitor encourages companies to become certified and establish trust with consumers by helping them distinguish a truly natural product from a falsely labeled one.
Brands that received high naturalness scores include: Intelligent Nutrients (9), Green People (8) and Living Nature (7). Intelligent Nutrients products received high naturalness ratings, as they contain high levels of organic (food) ingredients, with almost all products certified organic.
New brands launched by large multinationals also scored high in terms of their natural and organic formulations: Garnier Bio Active (L’Oreal), Diadermine Bio Expertise (Henkel) and Johnson’s Natural (Johnson & Johnson). The high naturalness ratings of these brands epitomize how the natural and organic arena has evolved from just having small niche brands.
Not all certifications are created equally. While natural and organic certification agencies like ECOCERT, Soil Association, BDIH, NPA and NaTrue standardize what constitutes a natural product, the report criticized Fair Trade organizations which allow cosmetics to be certified Fair Trade if they contain a minimum level of Fair Trade ingredients. Some consumers perceive these products as natural since they are certified and often marketed on their Fair Trade (natural) ingredients.
The study went on to show that many certified Fair Trade cosmetics received low naturalness ratings because of high levels of synthetic ingredients. Organic Monitor calls for Fair Trade certification standards to be tighten so they do not add to consumer confusion of what constitutes natural and organic cosmetics.
According to the study’s findings, the level of naturalness of brands varies considerably between geographic regions. European brands, partly because of the high adoption rates of natural and organic standards, score highest. North American brands are the second most natural, and whilst brands in other regions generally receive lower ratings. Although a growing number of Asian and Latin American brands are emphasizing their natural – and in many cases, indigenous – ingredients, the formulations are usually high in synthetic preservatives, emulsifiers and other ingredients.