Organic Personal Care: Are we being fooled?

Whether you use regular personal care products or organic personal care products, you deserve to know exactly what you are putting on your body every day. But with cosmetic companies "greenwashing" their products, it is making it increasingly difficult to know what products are safest for us and our families. A lot of consumers are more aware of the dangerous chemicals and compounds in cosmetics and are choosing to use products labeled "organic" or "natural." However, these labels do not always mean that products are any safer than non-organic products.

Here are some common beliefs about organic cosmetics and personal care products:

Products labeled "organic" are certified and have to adhere to strict regulations.

False. Although the USDA certifies and regulates organic food products, there is no regulatory authority for personal care products. At this time, neither the USDA or any third-party organization has any authority to regulate personal care products. This means that cosmetic companies are their own "authority" and can label their own products however they want.

Products labeled "organic" use only organic ingredients.

False. Even companies whose products do contain certified organic ingredients are still able to use non-organic ingredients if there are no organic alternatives available. Companies who have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics make a "pledge to replace all hazardous chemicals with safer alternatives." However, you still must be aware that when you buy certified organic products, only a certain percentage of the ingredients must be organic for it to be certified and labeled as organic.

Ingredients that are "derived from" natural plants/fruit/etc. are safe.

False. Ingredients that are "derived from natural ingredients" are often not natural at all. They are often active chemical compounds that develop from the "proprietary processing" of a natural ingredient. With the complicated ingredient names and lingo on packaging, it can be difficult to know what exactly is in your product. In my opinion, it's best to just avoid these ingredients altogether.

If a product is sold in stores, it must be safe.

False. This goes for cosmetics, cleaners, and even packaged foods: the safety of products has little to do with being sold in stores. In fact, a lot of safer alternatives are not sold in stores because they are made by smaller companies who cannot supply adequate amounts to chain-stores or cannot compete with the low pricing offered by big cosmetic companies.

So what can I do?

Read labels. Find out what ingredients are in the products you use and take a look at labels before you even purchase a product.

Thanks to the internet, there are some great resources available to consumers. So do your research! One site I refer to a lot now is the Cosmetics Database. It contains information on many different personal care products and rates them on the safety of their ingredients.

Find safer alternatives by shopping online or looking up local stores in your area. When you visit a website or a store, make sure the ingredients are listed on products. If there are ingredients that seem questionable, don't be afraid to ask.