Why We’re Not Certified Organic (We Think It’s a Good Thing…)

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Our skin care products are all made with natural, wild crafted, real ingredients that are protective, nourishing, calming, and hydrating to skin. So why aren’t our products certified organic?

This is a question many of our customers have asked, so we wanted to answer it here. We are absolutely committed to providing only the best nature has to offer to all of you, but we don’t want to incur extra costs that we believe are unnecessary—and then have to pass those costs on to our customers—just to support an organization.

What Would an Organic Seal Mean?

An organic seal on a skin care product means that the product has met the requirements of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to be labeled organic. This is the same organization that certifies foods organic, and the requirements are the same for personal care products—they must be made of mostly agricultural ingredients, and must meet the USDA and National Organic Program (NOP) standards for production, handling, processing, and labeling. The ingredients must be grown and processed without chemical fertilizers, growth hormones, GMOs, or synthetic pesticides.

If the USDA approves the product to use the seal, the following rules apply:

  • To label a product as 100% organic, the product must contain 100% USDA certified ingredients (excluding water and salt), have no non-organic ingredients, and all processing methods used to make the product must be 100% USDA certified organic. If the product meets all these requirements, it can display the USDA organic seal, and also must display the certifying agent’s name and address.
  • To label a product “organic,” the product must have at least 95% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and the remaining 5% can be non-organic. These can also display the seal and must include the certifying agent’s name and address.
  • To label a product as “made with organic ingredients,” it must contain at least 70% organic ingredients (excluding water and salt) and the remaining 30% can be non-organic. Manufacturers can’t display the USDA certified organic seal, but must display the certifying agent’s name and address.

The Confusion

All this works very well for food, and the USDA organic certified seal is one of the most trustworthy labels around. It’s quite different in the world of personal care products, however. The USDA has jurisdiction over farm-raised ingredients only, and not all beauty product ingredients are regulated under their program.

For example, plant-derived ingredients (like those we use!) and essential oils are not regulated through this program, as they are not typically food products. Other items like cinnamon, honey, and avocado are, but you can see the complications we’d run into, as we love our plant ingredients and what they can do for the skin!

The USDA has simply not created specific organic standards for formulating and labeling personal care products that contain organic ingredients. That means that for us, a USDA seal wouldn’t mean much.

Other Organic Labels

There are a number of other organic certification organizations we could go through to get a seal to put on our products. Ecocert and Natrue are a couple of them, but there are many others. These are businesses offering a service. They would check our ingredients and our production processes, verify they meet a certain set of standards (which differ from company to company), and grant us the right to use their seal. We’d spend a lot of money for that process and the final result.

We find these labels confusing, however. Since there is no standard organic requirement for personal care products, it’s hard telling what you’re getting with a seal. The IOS Natural and Organic Cosmetic Standard, for example, makes sure all food ingredients are organic and that the company follows a strict set of eco-friendly guidelines. But the BDIH certification association requires natural, not synthetic, raw materials, and considers the ecological impact of each product. Whole Foods has their own certification system that guarantees the products contain “safe, gentle ingredients” (whatever that means) and are free from synthetic dyes, fragrances, and “harsh” chemicals.

Ecocert was the first certification body to develop standards for “natural and organic cosmetics,” and requires the use of ingredients derived from renewable resources, manufactured by environmentally friendly processes, and a minimum number of natural ingredients from organic farming.

Which of these labels would you choose? We can guess you’d be just as perplexed as we would be. It gets even worse when you’re thinking of putting money on the line—money that you have to regain through the price of your products.

The Costs

As you may imagine, there is a mountain of paperwork and red tape involved in securing any certified organic seal. You’re essentially paying for someone else to say your products and your manufacturing processes meet with their standards and approval.

The process is lengthy. First you have to decide which certification organization you want to go with. You need to study and understand their requirements, outline your own production practices and verify your compliance, then fill out and send in a lengthy application. You sign a contract and an estimate—after all, these organizations are in this for the money—and a certification officer proceeds to validate your raw materials, formulas, manufacturing processes, labels, and communication tools. He also does an on-site audit, then processes your file, and if after everything (which can take months to a year), if the organization approves, you receive certification and permission to label your products accordingly.

Then you continue to pay an annual certification fee.

It’s not uncommon at all for the process to end up costing in the tens of thousands of dollars, especially when you consider all the hours spent completing the process, as well as the payment to the organization.

At the end of the day, we have to ask ourselves one question: Is it worth it?

We Establish Our Own Guidelines and Work to Win Our Customers’ Trust

At Annmarie Gianni Skin Care, we decided the answer to that question was “no.” Why make our customers pay for certification? We have seen other companies with certification seals that are delivering products that are not effective for their customers. It all comes down to marketing, as these other companies are going through the process strictly to sell more products and justify a higher price.

We know what our standards are. We care deeply about what we put into our products. We research carefully to be sure our raw materials are of the highest quality. (A number of our ingredients are labeled “organic” on our ingredient decks because they come from suppliers that follow organic standards.)

Finally, we work hard to establish trust with our consumers. That’s what it’s really all about. We believe you’re unlikely to trust us more because of a label—particularly if it means you have to pay more for the product! So we choose to do our thing without seeking the approval of some organization.

We hope you agree it was the right decision!

What do you think of organic seals? Would you buy a product simply because of a seal?

Reader Interactions

Comments

  1. I congratulate you on your decision to not label USDA Certified. I personally don’t find that certification has much value. Your products are the cleanest and best acting for most consumers. Keep up the good work.

  2. Unfortunately, I don’t trust any certificates or companies. I understand your point and I wish you all the best but I would need to be employed i the company and see the whole process to fully trust it. This is why I always choose products made by myself or my friends, mainly from local ingredients. This means I hardly use any cosmetics because it takes a lot of effort to prepare them. I really like your blog and have a good feeling about what you are doing..but for a consumer like me-small, local companies that are able to give a tour for all their customers is the way. Yes, it becomes expensive..but I think a lot of people will appreciate such products more and learn to respect the hard work of others. All the best!

  3. Thank you for such an in depth explanation on this topic. In owning my own natural skin care company, I understand, relate and agree with your article. Thanks again for sharing.

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