Decoding Natural Product Labels

Are you confused by organic labels? I know in the world of organic labeling that it’s getting harder and harder to figure out what’s really in our products. Current labeling allows for virtually any claim to be on a label. Right now, you can get an “organic” shampoo and still discover ingredients like sodium laureth sulfate and parabens on the label. You know what ingredients you do not want in your beauty products, but it is still difficult to know what’s safe and what is good. We have made a small list of terms and what they really mean, so it is possible to make an informed shopping choice:

* Certified Organic. As defined by the US National Organic Standards Board, “organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, and enhance ecological harmony.” If you see “certified organic”, that means that an ingredient has been grown or produced according to these standards and are verified by a third party organization. Water and salt can not be organically certified.

* Biodynamic. In addition to organic practices, biodynamic farms use unique plant, animal, and mineral preparations. They use the rhythmic influences of the sun, moon, and planets to create their own thriving ecosystem. This method has been controlled and certified by the Demeter International Association since 1928. The US Demeter Association certified its initial farm in 1982, and some product lines that use biodynamic ingredients include Weleda, Primavera, and Dr. Hauschka.

* Hypoallergenic. This labeling doesn’t necessarily make a product much more natural. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, there are no federal standards or definitions that govern the use of “hypoallergenic”. Manufacturers also don’t need to show that their items have fewer allergic reactions. Lots of times, goods that are labeled for sensitive skin contain chemical and plant based ingredients that cause irritation!

* Cruelty Free. As surprising as this might be, you will discover no legal definitions for this claim and no independent agency checks this. On the other hand, most organic manufacturers steer clear of any type of testing. Keep in mind though that even if a company declares that it doesn’t test its goods on animals, their suppliers might.

* Non-GMO. GMO stands for genetically modified organism which is a natural substance whose DNA has been altered making use of genetic engineering methods. Presently, corporations don’t need to label if their products are made from ingredients that are genetically modified. All certified organic cosmetics are produced without GMO ingredients.

* Fair Trade. This indicates the product or ingredients were produced in a Third World Country, and also the workers received fair pay for their services. You will see a teal-green round stamp that was issued by the international fair trade certification body FLO-CERT for this certification.

* Natural. Natural and organic aren’t the same thing (that is like stating that cotton clothing and bamboo clothing are the same thing for the reason that they are both clothing). According to government labeling requirements, “natural” indicates that an ingredient “has not been considerably altered from its original state, nor has anything been removed from it, nor have other substances been added to it.” That doesn’t prohibit companies from adding chemicals to their “natural” ingredients. Natural goods may well contain GMOs too. Natural products are not certified by a third party.

Just because a product is labeled as made with organic crucial oils, contains organic ingredients, is made with nontoxic ingredients, 100% natural, basically nontoxic, earth-friendly, or environmentally safer doesn’t mean that the product is safe and pure! An informed consumer can be a smart consumer, and we hope this list helps clear up some of your confusion when reading product labels.