All posts by

Cause and Effect: An Organic Law Suit

In March of 2008 David Bronner and his company sued a long list of personal care companies that used  organic claims. They also sued OASIS and EcoCert. Four and a half years later the judge dismissed the whole enchilada. 
The looming nature of this law suit caused many companies to stop using organic ingredients all together. Kiss My Face, after years of adding organic content, shifted their whole line to “natural” (natural, a word which has no meaning) but they seem to use organic aloe in a few products. Multiple other companies also stopped using organic ingredients other than aloe. The Avalon brand did get certified to the NSF Standard, which, because it only requires 70% organic content,  again means . . . a lot of aloe. So – lots more organic aloe being used. Gee. 
This is not to say that these are not good companies – they are making well designed products for the most part – but there is no incentive to use more than the minimum organic when it comes to designing the products so…there is little or no innovation in organic ingredients for cosmetics. This combined with the Whole Foods policy requiring that one use the NOP or the NSF Standard has hurt the industry rather than stimulated it. I so wish WF would add EcoCert and Soil Association cosmetic standards. That competition between standards just MIGHT push things forward. 
As for the rest of you who are clearly committed to using as many organic ingredients as possible to support farms and healthy ingredients and an environment with less garbage going down our drains: thank you.

Organic Cosmetics: Summer School

Organic Cosmetic  Summer School
Short Course # 2 (Of 3):
In a 1 hour Webinar, Brush Up On the Rules – 
  • What are the laws about “organic” labels on cosmetics?
  • What do consumers expect in “organic” cosmetics?
  •  Do I need to be certified?
  • Do I need to be registered?
  • How can I label product if I am not certified?
  • How do I get certified or registered? (Contact info will be provided).
  • Where can I find information and ingredient resources?
  • What documents should I ask for when I buy ingredients?
  • Big picture concerns: GMOs? Preservatives? 
  • Your questions . . .
This course will supply you with the links, the lists, and the knowledge to produce “organic” products with integrity. 

Sit in front of your computer, watch the presentation then call in for Q & A.

When: Sept. 14th
Time: Noon Pacific, 3 pm Eastern
Where: Your computer and phone
Cost: $30.00 (please call with cc info if you want to take this class).
How to sign up? Email:

Once you have signed up and paid for the class we will send the log-in, the conference phone number and the power point.

This is a random picture of a fully bloomed artichoke at my local farmer’s market. 

Organic Cosmetic Integrity and the Rules

Every few years I realize anew that this organic cosmetic thing is a bit confusing. Many of you are being your lovely, creative selves and are unaware of the politics, laws,  and philosophies that have evolved around using  “organic” claims.

Let’s lay out the legal part with respect to “organic” cosmetic labeling:

You must be certified by a USDA Accredited Certifier if:
  • If you sell a finished cosmetic product that is labeled as “USDA Organic” . 
  • If you sell wholesale ingredients (oil, sugar, whatever) in packages that you create labelled as “organic”, 100% organic”, USDA Organic, or “certified organic”.
If you make cosmetics and call them “organic”, you are under the authority of FDA and you need not be certified for those retail products to the USDA law. If you re-package organic ingredients and sell them you are under the regulatory authority of USDA.

You may want to look at the products you sell and your web site and make sure that a consumer could not be confused by the way you present the product. If you are referring to certified organic ingredients in a whole product, part of which is not from organic ingredients, make sure that is clear.

Make sure you have a a certificate(s) from the entity you purchased your ingredients from, than you can prove that those ingredients are organic and therefore that label claim is truthful.

Also – if you manufacture in the State of California and you call a cosmetic “organic” you are required by law to be registered with the Calif. Department of Health as an organic handler. Not terribly expensive so look into it. 

So for the philosophy part of this blog, let’s talk about why labeling and the laws are important: integrity.

A label is a promise to a consumer. The word “organic” only has meaning (aka integrity) if 1) the label is truthful and 2) there is a direct link back to a certified ingredient source.  The organic agricultural industry started because people wanted to validate that they were being good stewards of the earth. Oh – and they wanted clean, safe food for their bodies and for the planet. Then a bunch of us decide to evolve that whole organic thing into the cosmetic world.

I once had an experienced regulator tell me about labels: “you can state anything that is TRUE. Just make sure it is true. I’ve always added (in my head) that I’d need to be able to prove it to a judge – and this means documentation!

Keep the value in the word organic. Know the laws. Be a good steward of the word “organic”. Be true to your school (Okay – only people of a certain age will get that).
 Hugs to all of you creative, inspired folks!

Indulging my love for period art…in this case, justice may be blind but judges are not.

Definition of “Organic” in Cosmetics

I just read an article from Inside Cosmeceuticals called “Recapturing Credibility in Beauty’s Natural and Organic Landscape”. It contained the quote:  “ “Organic ingredients are those produced using methods that do not involve synthetics such as pesticides, chemical fertilizers, do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and are not processed using irradiation and industrial solvents,” said David Djerassi, cosmetic industry expert, LycoRed”.
Allow me to refine a few of Mr. Djerassi’s ideas.
First – organic ingredients start on organic FARMS. These are all renewable, plant-derived materials. If they aren’t from farms, they cannot be certified organic. Mr. Djerassi’s comment could easily apply to mined zinc – definitely not from a farm.
Second – organic farming is founded on stewardship of the land. An organic farmer’s job is to improve the soil by adding nutrients that come from agricultural sources (like compost) and from using pesticides (yes – they use pesticides) that only come from renewable resources (that means from a plant) that are non-toxic. Contrary to the quote that says what is not there – farmers would never even think about it that way. Organic farming started as a philosophical commitment to improve rather than destroy the soil and other resources necessary to feed people. They grow, add, improve and manage land resources – they don’t just avoid a sentence worth of prohibited concepts. The fact that we can take these materials and then make ingredients for use in the cosmetic industry is an outgrowth of this commitment, and a happy one for us. It is not at all about what we can’t use – as inferred by the quote, it is all about what we can use without destroying our resources.
Third and final – the quote says organic production does not “involve synthetics” – we really need to work on our vocabulary here. Sorry to burst the bubble but the organic laws even contain a list of “allowed synthetics”. Further – to say that they don’t use “chemical fertilizers” implies that compost is not a set of very complex chemicals – which it is. It is just that these are naturally derived chemicals as opposed to synthesized chemicals. We all need to remember – water is a chemical – I can write the term “H2O” and you all know what I mean – but this is a naturally occurring substance. Let’s all work on refining our words to be as clear as possible. I like the terms synthesized chemicals and natural chemicals. Then we can divide the category of synthesized chemicals into environmentally benign chemicals and those that muck things up to the degree that we now find scary stuff in our seas, waterways, soil and air.

Organic ingredients are ingredients that come from certified organic agricultural raw materials. They are processed using environmentally accountable and benign processes. They are the products of a thoughtful approach to chemical production and a personal commitment to stewardship of this little spinning ball we live on. Let’s be a little more thoughtful about the words we choose – especially when we are “experts”.

What is a “Botanical Extract” in a Cosmetic?

The simple answer is that a botanical extract is any part
of a plant that has been dissolved and is now in a carrier – any carrier.

Then, there are the questions I ask when someone asks for a
botanical extract:
Water soluble?
Oil soluble?
With what preservative?
And, oh, do you want it standardized or not?
So – the basics: the word extract means to pull something
out – so an extract of green tea in water is just like the tea you might make
at home: put green tea leaves in water and those constituents in the leaves
that will dissolve into water will make that transfer. This brings up the issue
Solubility is when some thing will dissolve into a . . .
solvent. A solvent can be water, oil, alcohol, glycerin, propylene glycol, fat,
sugar, etc. This also means that the non-water soluble “things” in a plant will
NOT dissolve into certain solvents. So oil solubles will not dissolve into
water and water solubles will not dissolve into oil. Think about your goals.
A few examples: vanilla sugar is an extract of vanilla into
a solvent (solid) of sugar; truffle oil is an extract of truffles into oil.
Garlic oil is the same thing. For the cosmetic world we can take any plant part
(flower, leaves, stems, roots, whole) and put it into any solvent or carrier –
limited only by the solubility of what is in the plant. The choices depend on
the other ingredients in your formula.
Finally, a standardized extract is made so that the exact
same amount of the dissolved and extracted “stuff” (what ever that is) is in
the ingredient every time – you only need this if you are making a front label
claim about the specific strength of some active that you get from the extract
which has gone through clinical trials (to support that it really does – what
it says it does…). These are much more expensive products, harder to find and
to make.
Sum it up: “botanical extracts” are a range of plants
extracted into a variety of solvents.

sure that you know what solvent is used – it is not always listed on the label

Blog About a Blog (and RBD Oil)

Google Blogger now shows you how many times each blog has been viewed. When I looked at my blog numbers,  the highest viewership of my blogs was for “What is RBD Oil?”.

You guys – I had no idea! It really tells me that you look at technical info and I will heed that advise.

Thank you for voting with your eyes.

The heck with my opinions, technical info it is from here on out. You’ll get what you have asked for.

How Old Will You Be in 2040?

When major corporations issue press releases about their “Sustainability” programs and then talk about how much energy they saved using different light bulbs or reducing the amount of plastic they use in their bottles, I am duly impressed by their thriftiness, however,  that is NOT sustainability. That is waste reduction.

Sustainability, in most every legitimate definition, is founded on the notion that you do not destroy or deplete a resource. In simplistic terms, do not kill the golden goose. It is not about saving money and cutting waste – both of which are laudable and good but not, I repeat, not “sustainability”. 

I challenge you big corporation people to get serious. Create “sustainability” programs that represent the meaning of the word, not just focusing on light bulbs and carbon footprint. We need to do those other things too, but those are waste reduction. (Admittedly, a “Waste Reduction” program does not sound as sexy, as a “Sustainability Program”.) I also challenge you to sit down with the rest of world and come up with a clear definition of what sustainable sourcing is – I’m sorry, I just can’t buy it if each of you has your own, unique, definition.

Life is confusing enough without making up your own meaning of “sustainable”. It is well defined in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The planet is in serious trouble. I have 2 children and I’d like them to have a livable world. Hell, I’d like to have a livable world. I recently figured out that I have a good chance of living another 40 years – I don’t want the planet to look like the movie Blade Runner. Get real. Grab your gonads and make some hard decisions and make the world a better place. Design REAL sustainability programs and make real differences. Just think about what you want the world to look like in 2040 – because you may still be here.

Alert: New Potential Laws Governing Cosmetics!

There are 3 updates to the cosmetic laws that are competing their way through our Federal system. They reportedly share (I have read 2 out of the 3 – just heard about the other): – Requiring registration of cosmetic producers or brands (TBD). – Requiring some level of reporting on the formulas sold to the public – Some language about “safety” – Some language about ingredients – Fees There are 2 proposed laws from the Democrat side: one from the EWG and one from Dingell’s office (the Congressman responsible for the Food Modernization Act). The Republican bill is, reportedly, sponsored by the PCPC and…no one in the public has seen it yet. I will not make any comments about transparency. Well, not many. Not sure how this will all settle out but one of the big sticking points in the competing bills will be where the dictionary of ingredient names lives, aka INCI. Currently it is privately owned by the Personal Care Product Council (PCPC) – which means a few things: – They make a lot of money off of selling the INCI Dictionary and it’s updates so probably want to maintain control. – PCPC and it’s members have total control over “the rules”. – Much of the proceedings to make the rules and set the names and review “safety” are, essentially, secret. – And even though they saw “INCI is the law” – it isn’t. It is not in the CFR so no judge can enforce it. * Once a I heard a client of mine say, “I’m not going to use INCI until it is available to me for free.” I suspect a lot of people feel that way. The concept of INCI is great for international business and for harmony in the industry. I have my concerns, however (like 17 different names for the same thing? Come on) and I think the discussion around these new potential laws may bring a lot out of the dark. Let’s hope that which ever law wins is not rushed through the process in the middle of the night. * It is called an underground regulation – there are a number of these in laws both in the States and Federal systems – in the “olden days” when laws used to refer to private dictionaries or other non-laws, they were okay but at some point some smart judge figured that you cannot call it a “law” if the citizens do not have equal access to it . . . that pesky Constitution! So you really can call your ingredients by common names as long as you are clear and truthful.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Kiss Kiss! 02/17/12

Yesterday morning the Washington Post reported recent FDA findings on lead in lipstick for 400 lipsticks. (See below for link). I was very concerned by the paucity of the report. It seemed to lack context and background information. We all need to be concerned about how adulterants get into products. We need safe consumer products. We also need to be complete and truthful about the context, the threats and the real goals. While I understand that it is easier to focus on the cosmetic industry and to hope that women will put pressure on the government about beauty products, the real problem in this country is with chemicals and how they are made. The EPA is under constant attack by lobbyist and the current Congress to reduce their authority to mandate SAFETY and HEALTH for all Americans. Criticizing lipstick is a sidebar at best and distracts from the real issue at worst. The article failed to explain how different levels of lead are allowed in different agencies, from 15 ppm for water under EPA to 0.01ppm for children’s candy under the CPSC. Nor does it make clear that lead is not classified as a carcinogen but is a neural toxin for developing children. (In fact, the article does not say why lead is a problem at all). Babies exposed to lead tend to accumulate the lead in their bones where it continues to effect how their brains and other nerves develop into adulthood. There are not any studies that indicate any anyone has suffered anything from using lipstick (except that time I got in trouble for drawing on white walls with my mom’s lipstick when I was 3). Bottom line: everything can be safer and healthier. If we are serious about safety, we need to look at the chemical industry, the base manufacturer of everything we buy and use. This constant harping on the cosmetic industry seems to avoid the hard work of changing how we make and sell chemicals in this country. Let’s get real and do the hard work. Start by using as much organic product as possible. LINK:

Whole Panic! Will they empty the shelves?

This week I have received numerous calls asking: “What can I do to get certified for (you pick the question)…the Whole Foods List…the Whole Foods Standards…the NOP…the NSF…? And then they want to do all of this by June 1st for formulas that already exist and were never designed to meet any of those Standards. Certified by next Wednesday. Yeah, right. I have received “Help!” calls from brands, from private label labs, from cosmetic distributors, and from NOP certifiers who look at ingredient statements of things like: “Cocoamidopropylbetaine, Sodium Cocoaphoacetate, Sodium Cocoyl Sarcosinate” . . . and their eyes cross. (Just in case you don’t know, none of these ingredients would pass NOP or NSF). Folks – a few basics: #1 – The NOP Standard is for food. The NOP certifiers are looking for an ingredient statement that includes recognizable food ingredients. (Yes, I know you make cosmetics but…facts are facts). You will need to make sure that your INCI names translate into things like “sunflower oil”, “Non-GMO Vitamin E”, etc. You will not meet the NOP unless you used all food ingredients and a few allowed non-organic food ingredients like citric acid and malic acid. Good luck with that. #2 – The NSF Standard was designed without being tested by real cosmetic companies which means it will change repeatedly over the next few years. (Reminded me of that old line that a camel was a horse designed by a committee). They do NOT have a list of approved ingredients and it does not allow things like most vitamins (no C, no D, no A, etc.) and the only effective preservative it allows is potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate. Again, good luck. #3 – Whole Foods sent this letter to their vendors…what, a year ago? Well, 11 months anyway. Now what? Whole Foods decided that the NOP and/or the NSF were the only acceptable standards for their store. They have that right. One might argue that in the interest of promoting organic agriculture it would have served us all if they accepted the other organic standards, but . . . they didn’t and too many companies have waited until now to react. Results? As of today – there are only 2 private labels labs in the US certified to do NSF certified products and it takes a few months to get through the process. There is only 1 certifier offering this standard and my sense is that it is a struggle to get the right documents from their applicants and they are learning as they go. It is a confusing process that is evolving and will get easier – but not before June 1st. There are about 5 brands, (1 large, 4 small) who have gotten products certified.SOOOO – should we start a pool? Who thinks that WF will pull all the non-certified products that are not certified off the shelves next Wednesday? I really don’t know. I also don’t know if they realize how few people have gotten certified. I am working with a few who are trying to get certified – but it won’t be by next week.Stay tuned – this will be interesting!