Synthetic ingredients and chemicals are inexpensive, stable and have a long shelf-life – so some major cosmetic manufacturers love to use them. But the arsenal of toxic ingredients in some products poses serious dangers to long term health and the environment.
The skin is the largest organ of the body: it lives, breathes and absorbs everything applied to it. Unlike food which goes through your digestive system before being absorbed into the body, the chemicals you put on the skin are directly absorbed into the bloodstream in a number of ways.
Hair sprays, perfumes and powders are inhaled; lipstick is swallowed; eye shadow and foundation, body lotions and fake tan are drawn in by sensitive mucous membranes in the skin.
Over the past decade, as awareness of the noxious chemicals in some makeup has grown, a new green cosmetics consumer has emerged. Not a vegan greenie with Birkenstocks and undyed hair, but an increasingly mainstream shopper looking to make better choices for their health and that of future generations.
However many amongst this new market are victims to a marketing term called greenwashing, a form of spin used to promote the perception that certain products are physically and environmentally friendly.
Ever seen a product with a leaf, flower or plant on it? Or a logo or stamp that when you look closer is really not a certification? What about the use of the words Natural or Organic ingredients? There are government regulations for food labelling in New Zealand, like many places in the world – but not for cosmetics. This will probably change in the future but for now you need to be a bit of a detective, especially when a product claims to be Certified Organic, as there are stringent rules around making such a claim.
How do we learn about toxic ingredients and what it means for a cosmetic product to be truly organic? First learn the expectations that come with following terms:
This is the most used term to trick consumers into thinking they’re buying a healthy cosmetic product, and currently there are no regulations around the use of the word in the New Zealand beauty market. Truly natural beauty products should feature at least 90 percent of ingredients derived from nature, be free from all synthetics, should not be tested on animals and use biodegradable ingredients in environmentally sensitive packaging.
As there is nobody policing it, you still need to be careful and do your homework. Check the ingredients listed on the packaging thoroughly.
A product is allowed to call itself organic should it be formulated using all natural ingredients, be free from parabens, sodium lauryl sulfates, genetic modification, petroleum derivatives and contain between 70-95 percent of organic origin ingredients.
This means that ingredients must come from organic farming that is inspected, controlled and regulated, the growth process must not include any chemical fertilizers, pesticides, the farm must not produce any products that use nor have any toxins or hormones added.
In order for a product to receive certified organic accreditation, it must meet all the criteria above and adhere to strict guidelines of a national or international governing body. It must contain at least 95 percent of ingredients of an organic origin and the remaining percentage should be, for example, minerals (such as titanium dioxide, used in mineral cosmetics and as a natural SPF). The process of cultivating organic sources for ingredients must be ecologically friendly and must not pollute the environment. The packaging must also be ecological, which it means using recycled and recyclable materials (recycled packaging, vegetable ink etc).
Ingredients such as shea butter and tea tree essential oil, for example, should be wild harvested, which means they come from their historically old natural habitat and gathered in accordance to ecologically sound process of not disturbing and/or destroying that habitat. If you want to investigate ingredients further, why not download a free app for iPhone or Android called Skin Deep – it allows you to scan barcodes of products in store and ranks their health threat.
Their database contains 12,000 products but may not list New Zealand products, so stay alert.
BELLA VI GOES CERTIFIED ORGANIC
New Zealand created makeup brand Bella Vi (meaning Beautiful You in Italian) has introducedCertified Organic products to their mineral cosmetic range. Already not tested on animals and free of genetically modified ingredients, parabens, dimethicone or bismuth oxychloride, Bella Vi’s new Certified Organic Liquid Foundation, Primer, Pressed Foundation and Concealer are now made in Italy and Certified Organic by international accreditation group Ecogruppo Italia.
“Bella Vi always chose to use premium and natural ingredients to behave more like nourishing skincare with the added bonus of being a cosmetic,” says Bella Vi Co-Director Melissa Furze.
Helping to beautify, hydrate and revitalise skin naturally, the brand has always been 100% open about all of the ingredients in their products, even down to listing them descriptively on their website.
But to gain certification by Ecogruppo Italia, Bella Vi’s cosmetics had to comply with very stringent international regulations and rules over the entire process of creating their Certified Organic range. “The Certified Organic process is very controlled and regulated to assure the consumer of quality in what they are purchasing,” says Furze. “Every step must comply with international certification standards that start right back at the certified producer (grower) of the organic ingredients through to manufacture and packaging,” she says. The farmer must be certified and comply with strict governing regulations in growing, harvesting and transportation of organic ingredients. The manufacturers must be certified and audited to ensure the certified organic cosmetics adhere to the very stringent and controlled regulations in all aspects of the production process.
The entire certification process is audited by an independent international Certification Control Body to assure that the products they are purchasing meet and passed the very stringent auditing process to be able to be labelled as Certified Organic.
“Acquiring an organic certification is quite an expensive and time consuming endeavour for a small brand,” says Furze. “But we felt it necessary to demonstrate to our customers our commitment to choosing and using organic and ethical farms, low impact processes and products free from added chemical substances,” she says.
“Bella Vi’s journey into their Certified Organic makeup products has been a very long and challenging commitment with a number of processes to work through, but we have enjoyed every moment.” However there were many significant obstacles to overcome. After a year of learning driven by 100% passion, Bella Vi started the process with true dedication through countless emails and skype calls via a translator, many times running well into the small hours, to gain the internationally recognised Organic Certification ‘ECOSMETICA quality – organic certification’. “Our organic ingredients are not only certified by an independent international organic certification body but our finished products are too,” she says. “Bella Vi is proud to embrace this very high standard of quality and integrity.” All products must be formulated using raw materials from organic farming to ensure the absence of genetically modified ingredients, ionizing radiation, pesticides and synthetic substances. Even the packaging through to this article must be approved by the accreditation board to ensure it contains no incorrect or misleading information. “It has been a long journey to ensure we offer our clients only the finest Certified Organic and natural ingredients to deliver the most indulgent products ever,” says Furze. Italy is well known for having some of the best technical cosmetic formulators in the world, and working closely with their formulator there Bella Vi developed an absolutely gorgeous Certified Organic makeup range they believe to be the absolute finest and the most beautiful you could experience. “Bella Vi is now truly Italian!” says Furze.
Bella Vi Certified Organic and natural range offer amazing skincare benefits due to ingredients such as sweet almond and apricot oil, shea butter and vitamins A and E, to hydrate and revitalize the skin. The products also include an Amino Acid derivative from coconut oil to aid anti-oxidation and protection while leaving a very smooth, soft and silky. The next twelve months will see Bella Vi rollout the complete Certified Organic range, including lipsticks and liquid lip-glosses, pressed bronzers and blushers, eye shadows and liquid eyeliner, and the release of Bella Vi’s new Naturalceutial range.
So what should Certified Organic mean to the Bella Vi consumer? It means guaranteed quality throughout the whole process with traceably, accountability and sustainability that offers assurance to customers purchasing certified organic cosmetics.
Miranda Likeman is a creative with many strings to her bow: journalist, social media specialist, PR, upcycler and artist. Her latest role is of mother to baby Nina.