Tag Archives: organic cosmetics

3 Things to Know about Ingredient Quality

Organic Ingredient: Castor Oil
Castor Oil – I think it is beautiful!

You probably use a number of ingredient suppliers…


1 – When buying organic ingredients, always ask for a Specification from the supplier. This describes the physical and chemical characteristics of what you bought. Like: Color, Aroma, Form (liquid, solid, etc.), pH, and so on.


2 – Okay – you just received the ingredient shipment. You asked that it be sent with a C of A (Certificate of Analysis). This is the proof that the product meets the requirements described in the Specification. First, compare the C of A to the Spec. and make sure the C of A meets the description in the Spec. Now look at a small sample of the ingredient. Does it match the description on the Spec? See the example below.


3 – Small companies (us included) have neither a chemist nor the equipment in-house to test the product. If you compared the physical characteristics and they all passed, then you can trust the chemical characteristics EXCEPT: you should have a program that specifies that you send samples to a testing lab on some schedule.


Every other month we sent samples of at least 3 of our oils and other ingredients out for various types of tests. Since we sell oil, we like to know what the Peroxide Value is. This tells us if the oil is “stable” and not going rancid. We usually test the peroxide value and compare it to the Specification to assess the quality.


Sometimes we’ll send samples of our ingredients out to test for bacteria, yeast and mold. Although – oils do not support microbial growth so we’ve never had a positive.


You don’t need a full lab to assess quality. You need eyes, nose and commons sense and a written procedure to randomly test your ingredient quality at a reliable analytical lab.


If you need help finding a lab, let us know. We may be able to refer you to one near you. If these documents are still a mystery, come take a class. See the classes listed in this site: http://ohohorganic.com/class-description/


For more information about why this issue is important, check out: https://www.beautyindependent.com/gay-timmons/


Plant a tree, start a compost pile, smell the glorious roses. Join www.nohba.org

Choose Your Cosmetic Claims Carefully

Is Your Product “Organic”, “Natural”, or “100% Anything”?

In a quick Google search there were at least 12 cosmetic companies involved in class action law suits over the past 9 months for using the word “natural” to describe a cosmetic or some aspect of a cosmetic. There are a number of others law suits based on other cosmetic claims. Are your cosmetic claims** verifiable and truthful?

We went down this path with the claim “organic” a number of years ago and now the class action suit attorneys have found a new piggy bank – small “natural” cosmetic companies. I’m so sorry.

As my mom used to say, “Being sorry doesn’t change it.”. It is time solve this problem.

When this issue comes up we often hear: there is no FDA definition of “natural”.

True – there is no legal FDA definition of natural or organic cosmetics. However, there is a way to publicly define the word “natural” for cosmetic companies. Below is a short history of the organic food industry; think of it as a model, a potential path to a solution.

A Possible Model:

The history of the USDA- NOP* seal and standard is a great model for how laws get written.

– 1970s: Multiple organic farm certifiers came into existence. They evolved to add food processors by the early 90s.

– 1990: The Organic Foods Production Act was passed in the Federal Legislature (Yeah Senator Leahy).

–  Mid-1990s – There were over 45 certifiers, each with their own private organic standard.

– 1990s: The Organic Trade Association created a harmonized version of these Standards that most of the largest certifiers signed on to.

– 1998: USDA-NOP came out with the first (reviled) version of the NOP regulation. It was amended after over 350,000 Americans wrote in to the USDA. The final regulation was passed in 2001.

– 2002: The Final Rule was implemented and the NOP Food Standard became law!

Contained in the very brief review above is the fact that a large industry had to work together over a 30-year period to 1) establish a recognizable market place for “organic” food and then 2) come to sufficient consensus about what “organic” meant so that the government felt justified in creating a law and then the regulations to implement the law. Please note: we do not need to create a law about “natural”.

What Can We Do?

We, as the “organic and natural” cosmetic industry need to carve out definitions for these words and we need to work together to establish consensus. Got that? We’ll need to agree to abide by the definitions we settle on. Consumers deserve consistency and the attorneys can go jump in a lake.

We can use private standards and we can work in a Trade Association to show a united face to consumers and to the government.

For now, educate yourself. I encourage anyone using organic and/or natural claims to become familiar with the Calif. Organic Products Act language on cosmetics, look at the COSMOS and NSF 305 Standards and, even if you don’t want to become certified, use them as a guideline. Then join the Natural and Organic Health and Beauty Alliance and work on “best practices” with us for using these terms.

We need to do this together. That means public conversations, people working on committees and patience. Lots of patience.

*NOP – National Organic Program

** This is a link to an FDA article on cosmetic claims**.

Graphic Logo for Oh Oh Organic

Ingredient Transparency and Quality for Your Products?


Getting Transparent About Your Ingredients
Castor Oil – I think it is beautiful!


We only sell organic and sustainable ingredients. It seems pretty dumb to do anything else (hello Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and the gang) – agriculture adds about 50% of all un-sequestered carbon to the atmosphere. Organic agriculture helps solve that problem. We want you to have full transparency about the ingredients you receive from us.

Over the past 20 years we’ve developed a group of people who call to find ingredients. The job tends to be split between two major types of inquiries:

1 – Chemists who have no idea or concern about where an ingredient comes from but “a customer (Cosmetic Brand) wants xyz in their product. Do you have it?” and,

2 – Brand Owners who are serious about their brand and work with us because they know we care and that we will not sell them something just to sell it. We are not a web sales site, we are people who work with ingredient manufacturers so we can give our customers as much information as possible.


Examples of Ingredient Requests

Here are a few examples of requests I’ve recently received for you all to think about over this hot, holiday weekend.

#1 – Recently a chemist with a private label lab wanted to purchase organic bergamot oil from fruit – not from the peel.

We know most of the legitimate EO suppliers and we couldn’t find anyone that offered this EO.

This implies a few things:

a) the brand developer bought something from a web site and did not ask for a certificate that disclosed what the oil was made from or

b) they assumed that they could get an organic version commercially but…they originally used a non-organic version or

c) they found a good product but it is so rare that it is NOT consistently & sustainably available.


#2 – A customer told me they had purchased oil from a web site. The site operator would not supply his organic certificate because “he did not want anyone to know who his supplier was” – this means he was not certified to re-package and re-label (handle) organic products. The oil lost it’s organic claim when he changed the package and label. If you bought it and used an organic claim on your product you would be in violation of Federal Law.


#3 – A large and reputable company offered to sell me some organic sunflower oil – I always look at production dates. It was a year old. I refused to buy it because it was expired – they probably could have re-tested the product and extended the life for 6 months, which can work with food. People use food far faster than they use up cosmetics. We won’t do that.

The Bottom Line on Ingredient Knowledge

Working with a supplier who will help you understand the ingredients you are buying and the documents that explain the quality of the ingredients is so important. “Transparency” tells you where they come from, what they are made from, and how they are made.

Ingredient quality is always on our mind. We throw product out when we don’t have enough shelf life, we test our oils for freshness and double-check our suppliers because we care and we are always transparent.


Happy Labor Day! Stay cool, stay safe, get out of your car. and walk on the planet

What is a “Safe” Cosmetic?

In 2000 (OMG, the Dark Ages!) I first started to participate in various industry discussions hoping to define “organic cosmetics”. What I heard was apples and oranges: one set of people who talked about product “safety” in terms of chemical exposures and the other set who said – “organic” ingredients were “safe” because they were food. I repeat – what is a “safe” cosmetic?

We all know about “food safety”. When that phrase is used most people think about control of bacteria and other contaminants. We want food that is free of salmonella, listeria, e-coli, insect parts, etc. Other than that, we generally seem to believe that there is enough information on food packages to allow us to make an informed decision – so long as we don’t get food poisoning.

Cosmetic “safety” has a broader and less clear meaning. “Safe Cosmetics” to some means that individual ingredients are somehow perceived of as “safe”, as we see on packages that state they are free of parabens, sulfates, etc. Additionally “safe cosmetics” includes protection from bacteria exposure or other adulterations (just like in food safety). To others the broader issue of environmental persistence from cosmetic waste moving downstream is a concern when assessing these products.

I point this out for a reason – do buyers have enough info on a package label to make an informed decision about cosmetics? Here are at least three areas of concern: individual ingredient safety, protection from contamination or adulteration, and downstream pollutants. Do you think about all three when you shop for your personal care regimen?

As a world of consumers we are using more of these products than ever. Mintel has reported that 93% of adults shampoo “almost daily”. That is a lot of downstream waste!

Pre-internet most cosmetics were made by large companies that had staff who understood the need to test for bacterial safety. Now I speak with small internet companies and learn that they are not testing the cosmetics for bacterial safety prior to selling over the internet. Scary!

The whole issue of the safety of individual ingredients is an on-going challenge and question. What , exactly, is wrong with sulfates? (There will be a blog). Is the Safe Cosmetics Database always right? (No, not always).

What is the “big picture” effect of cosmetics on us and our world and what should we buy? We need to identify the problems so that we can address them. We need sensible solutions, even if those solutions take time. Consumers need to know what questions to ask of their retailers.

For the short term, look at the big picture and make sure the products you buy have been made by companies that are consistently improving and sold by retailers who can answer these concerns. Ask the questions above, was this product tested? What do you know about the downstream effects of this product?

The stores are the gate keepers, you vote with your dollars. Good luck out there!

No Growth Blues for Greens

This morning the TABS Group, a U.S. based consumer analysis firm announced a study finding that there was little or no growth in “organic” personal care product sales in the U.S.. Recently Organic Monitor, out of the UK, announced that double digit growth in “organic” personal care continues in European markets.

What is up with that?

I think it has to do with certification. In the EU over 60% of the products making organic and natural claims are certified. The Europeans have used various standards for many years. BDIH, a natural standard, has been around since 1951, certifying “natural” since 1996. Soil Association and EcoCert both put out organic and natural standards in the early 2000s. The Europeans are not allowed by law to certify cosmetics to a agricultural standard so they use private standards. As a result:
Manufacturers get educated through the certification process
– They educate their consumers
– Consumers can look up the standards on line and hold someone accountable
– Retailers know they are getting a product that has been vetted by a third party
– Organic farmers continue to be supported
– Sustainable production is increasing as a result of this work

Man, I hate it when the Europeans are ahead of us.

On our side of the pond, things are a mess. Yep, you read it, a mess. “Organic” cosmetic companies are not getting certified nor are they compelled or encouraged to get certified. Why?

– A litigious party brought a law suit and made many people paranoid that they might be sued too. So they just keep doing what they are doing hoping that no one will notice them.
– Whole Foods made their own “list” which they call a “standard” but there is no third party certification, just people saying they meet it. So, what is that all about? It has nothing to do w/ organic!
– OCA (who only ever prints half of any story, because if you knew the full story they wouldn’t be able to scare you into making a contribution), has done their level best to support the use of the organic food laws to certify synthetics!! Why? I wonder if it is because of who they get money from?
– No one seems to remember the 90s, when we all bought privately certified food products because we were working out what processed organic food was. It took 12 years! Cosmetics needs the same thing.
– Finally; why would anyone use a food law to certify cosmetic chemicals? Why?

Another opinion, although one supported by consumer research; people buy products that work, they want “performance”. So the challenge to the “organic” cosmetic industry is to make products that perform AND that are made from organic materials. In order to do this, we have to use organic raw materials, like coconut and palm oil and react them in similar ways to conventional products, using environmentally safe processes and technologies. This will make “organic” ingredients that perform (under a separate standard). Again, the EU is far ahead on this path.

What can you do? Write the National Organic Program Director, miles.mcevoy@ams.usda.gov and tell him you don’t want the USDA to regulate personal care products until private standards have been developed enough to give us the ingredients and standards that are appropriate for personal care. Twisting the organic food regulation in order to certify synthesized chemicals is simply hurting the organic food community. Further more, it s a statement by a very few that consumers are not smart enough to tell the difference between a food standard and a cosmetic standard. Consumers are smart enough and they deserve respect and certified products that work. Not some lousy “shampoo” that you have to follow with a lemon juice rise so that you don’t completely destroy your hair. Yes, it will take a couple years but the Europeans are already providing the model for good and functional standards that will, eventually, vastly increase the market for organic raw materials. Time for a few people to check their egos at the door and do what is right to promote more organic agriculture in a time when our planet desperately needs it.

Copyright G. Timmons 12/14/09