When it comes to the term “organic,” there’s actually not as much regulation surrounding use of the word as consumers would like. The U.S. Department of Agriculture regulates organic claims in farm products, but it’s the controversial Federal Drug Administration that has control over cosmetics.
Though the USDA has strict standards for organic food products, the FDA does not even have an official definition for the term “organic.” On their website, the question “Does FDA have a definition for the term organic?” is met with this answer:
“No. FDA regulates cosmetics under the authority of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). The term ‘organic’ is not defined in either of these laws or the regulations that FDA enforces under their authority.”
The FDA does have some regulations that are overseen by the USDA via the National Organic Program, but the policing efforts when it comes to cosmetics are seriously lacking. By looking at EWG’s Skin Deep database, it was determined that over 5,000 products use the word “organic” in their brand name, product name, product label or list of ingredients.
Depending on the placement of the word, certain regulations can be bypassed, and that’s why most of these products are actually horrible and receive the lowest Skin Deep score possible despite claiming to be “organic.” The use of chemicals is still allowed even in these seemingly wholesome products and some of these chemicals are so poor for your skin that they are banned in many countries.
When a beauty product claims to be “made with 100% organic or natural ingredients,” it can be misleading because they are often referring to a single ingredient that is organic or naturally-derived rather than all of their ingredients. Other tactics used to confuse consumers include using the terms like “eco-friendly” or “vegan,” both of which are even less regulated than using organic on a label. Unless there is a third-party company that you trust backing these claims, they are likely a farce and have no substance.
Since there is so much confusion surrounding these loaded words, consumers should be wary when they encounter products that make bold claims like this.
Instead of taking their labels at face value, simply take a look at the ingredients and research a few to see what they really are. If the majority of them are things you cannot pronounce, it’s likely that most are made with synthetic chemicals and far from being “natural” or “organic.”