Tag Archives: safe cosmetics

How to Make a Cosmetic Black List … (Hint: Don’t)

I’ve no idea how many “green” brands and retailers there are but all of them seem to have a “black list”. They choose some number of nasty chemicals and promise that they are not in the products they sell.

Further – everyone seems to copy everyone else’s Black List – so you see the same list over and over.

Here’s the problem: there are 60,000 different cosmetic ingredients.  A list of 20 or even 200 chemicals is never going to capture all of the problem chemicals.

What is the solution?

First: everything this a chemical. H2O is a molecular description of the chemical, water.

Second: all chemicals are made using a finite number of methods. Some chemicals are made using biological methods like fermentation or production using yeast. Some are naturally occurring like oil in a sunflower seed. Most, however. are made using a set of reactions that require reacting one chemical with another chemical. If you are not a chemical engineer, how do you know what is “green”?

If you want to convey to a chemist your goal to use “green” ingredients, giving them a list of 30 chemicals just won’t do the trick.

One solution is to explain that you want “green chemistry” per a wonderful paper that was published in 1998 by John Warner and Paul Anastas*. The link below is to the American Chemical Society site which explains (in very clear language) these principles.

If an ingredient meets these standards, then it is a pretty sure bet that it is safe for skin and for the planet. Many chemists were never taught about this in school but it is high time that they learn.

Spread the knowledge and save the planet. Use ingredients that meet the Principles of Green Chemistry.

*Green Chemistry Link

Mislabeling: The FDA and the The No-No Words

A lot of cosmetic brands seem to have a “No-No List” of ingredients. I think it is time for a list of “No-No” words – because, you know, FDA and “mislabeling”.

The basic thing you need to keep in mind is that unless you are selling a registered, approved DRUG, you may not any use words that promise a medical outcome. That is considered mislabeling and mislabeling is against the law. So – here is a partial list of “No-No” words:

  •    HealMislabeling
  •    Healing
  •    Anti-inflammatory
  •    Anti-microbial
  •    Anti-bacterial
  •    Cures
  •    Penetrates to (heal, sooth, etc.)
  •    Stimulates circulation …
  •    Treats
  •    Alleviates eczema, rosacea, scarring, acne, etc
  •    Improves circulation
  •    Minimizes
  •    Improves the skin’s immunity
  •    Boosts collagen
  •    Protects from UV Rays (this = sunblock – and must be registered with the FDA)
  •    Protects against infection
  •    Cellular regeneration

Oh, I could go on. What these all have in common is what the FDA calls a “structure-function claim”.  Structure = a body part (skin, muscle) and Function = changing the physiology of that body part. These sorts of claims = DRUGS and are seen is mislabeling by the FDA. The USDA-FDA makes a lot of money approving drugs so if you have not sent them a couple 100,000 dollars, you are probably not selling a drug.

Look at your website – are you making structure-function claims? If so – use that wonderful, free thesaurus on Google and fix it before you get a scary letter from the FDA. You can “change the appearance of”, you can “sooth the symptoms of” you can do all sorts of things, but no structure function claims! You do not want a letter from FDA accusing you of mislabeling.

The organic and natural cosmetic industry needs to look good in the eyes of the law. We do not need big manufacturers telling the FDA that we should be heavily licensed or regulated. We need room to grow. Know the laws. Respect them. Do good work.

Hugs                   Resources:    Choose Your Words                          Link to FDA Article

 

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

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!