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”.

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