Sales of organic products are on the rise, with growth rates averaging over 20% per year. Not surprisingly, many companies are trying to catch the wave by offering their own “organic” products for sale – so many that it can become unclear what the word “organic” means when it’s used. And it raises the question: How do organic standards apply to soap and skin care products?
This means just what the name implies.
The term “organic” applies to products that contain a minimum of 95% organic contents by weight.
“Made with Organic…” applies to products that contain a minimum of 70% organic content but do not reach the 95% mark.
How this applies to Soap and Skin Care
Because of their chemistry, bar soaps can never reach the 95% level of organic content.
Organic soap and skin care products are among the most misrepresented organic products. This has to do with formulation issues,
labeling requirements, and a misrepresentation of the standards. All bar soaps, and most skin care products, fall short of the 95% organic mark.
Bar soaps require sodium hydroxide (NaOH, or lye) for their production.
Sodium hydroxide is on the allowed list of non-organic ingredients that can be used in making organic products, and it accounts for approximately 10-15% of the ingredients,
by weight (not including water or salt and depending on the recipe).
Even if every other ingredient in a bar soap were certified organic, the soap would never have an organic content of more than 90%,
as this is the maximum level of organic content in a bar soap.
Sometimes, manufacturers “cheat” a bit to reach higher organic content levels. Take lotion for example.
A typical lotion has water among its ingredients, which does not count in any way toward organic content levels.
However, by steeping organic herbs in this water first, some manufacturers claim their water is “organic,” thus counting it as an organic ingredient
and raising their products’ organic content levels. As always, it is crucial to understand the standards and read the labels.
It is also important to verify whether or not a company’s products are certified according to organic standards.
Many companies claim to use organic ingredients or call their products organic; however, few have actual certification, which is the only proof for the claim.
Part of the certification process includes proving an audit trail and showing the ability to trace any organic product sold back to its original organic ingredients.
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