Our skin is our largest organ, absorbing up to 70% of what we apply onto it topically. Today, many ingredients used by mainstream skincare and cosmetics brands are already confirmed as harmful to both people and the planet, from the way they’re sourced and produced, to how they impact our health.
Cue the green beauty movement. Organic, cruelty-free, natural, clean…the beauty industry (and the labels on our products) are now rife with more sustainable options. As a result, with more choice often comes confusion. How authentic are the claims of brands? How do you identify which products and ingredients are truly green and ethical, and which are greenwashing?
One way to gain clarity is through certifications, achieved through vetting by external third party certifying bodies. This is one avenue through which brands can be more accountable and transparent about their claims — we’ve gathered the most common beauty product certifications in this guide for you to look out for.
Importantly, just remember: certifications are not the be all and end all of determining if a product is sustainable. Not all smaller, indie beauty companies can afford to certify their supply chain end-to-end — it just may not make financial sense in the beginning. What’s more, some ingredients are naturally organic or wild harvested in the way they’re grown, and it may not be practical for local communities to obtain an organic certification on wild grown plants or trees. Remember: if in doubt about a brand’s claims, always reach out and ask questions!
Common Beauty Product Certifications To Know
Certified cruelty-free by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC), the Leaping Bunny Program provides the best assurance that a product is free of animal testing. The certified brands are required to be open to independent audits and renew their commitment to the program annually.
If your beauty products are USDA organic certified, rest assured that they are produced using agricultural practices that foster resource cycling, promote ecological balance, maintain soil and water quality. They prioritise conserving bio diversity by minimising the usage of synthetic materials. A NOP-authorised agent oversees the brands, to make sure they follow all USDA organic regulations and produce without using excluded or prohibited methods.
To achieve the NSF/ANSI305 certification, beauty product formulations must contain at least 70 percent organic content by weight and adhere to organic ingredient and material requirements, as well as production specifications. Look out for brands with the NSF organic certification for products free of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
All the products marketed with the EcoCert logo are verified — from composition to processing and packaging. You get transparent information on the content in natural and organic ingredients displayed on the certified products. With a minimum 95% of the plants it contains are organic, and at least 20% organic ingredients present in the total formula, beauty care products can be considered COSMOS standard organic.
Beauty and wellness products carrying the Fair trade certification have a minimum percentage of Fairtrade Ingredients of not less than 5% of the formulation for “Leave-on” products and 2% for “Wash off” products. This percentage includes water and salt.
Certified B Corporation brands meet high standards of verified social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency on factors concerning employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. Therefore, when purchasing from a B corp certified company, you’re helping improve this impact and supporting their mission towards sustainability.
Natrue warranted products don’t inflate naturalness by counting water as an ingredient. They use only natural, derived natural and natural identical ingredients and guarantee no artificial ingredients. Expert scientists validate these high level certification standards.
This is the first certificate that pursues an integral approach to the evaluation of cosmetics. Modern cosmethics review a product by the origin of the ingredients and concentration of the cosmetically active ingredients. They also look for science-based evidence, principles of rational formulating and non-misleading, ethical claims. Cosmethically Active is strictly against animal testing.
The Vegan Trademark
The Vegan Trademark is the authentic international vegan standard, managed by The Vegan Society — the charity that coined the word ‘vegan’ back in 1944. The development of a vegan trademarked product, and its ingredients, does not involve the use of any animal product, by-product or derivative, and do not partake in animal testing.
Good Face Project
Scientists analyse product formulations using cutting edge data science, with the most up-to-date publicly available scientific research. This gives you a no-nonsense, facts-based safety guide. The Good Face Index certifies products on three levels according to the amount of toxins they contain, helping you to shop having the latest ingredient information. Products containing one or more GFI Forbidden Toxins are downgraded by the Good Face Index, true to their belief that every product is as good as its worst ingredient.
PETA’s Global Beauty Without Bunnies Program
PETA recognised global animal test–free companies, verify that they and their suppliers do not conduct, commission, pay for, or allow any tests on animals for their ingredients or finished products. In cases where the entire product line is free of animal-derived ingredients, they’re certified vegan too. The global animal test–free and vegan companies are truly cruelty-free.
Australian Certified Organic (ACO) is the main certifying body for organic cosmetics. Therefore, ACO follows the COSMOS standard, which is developed by five European bodies and is specifically for cosmetics.
UK Soil Association
When buying a UK soil association certified brand, you’re saying no to animal testing, genetically modified ingredients, as well as controversial chemicals, parabens and phthalates and synthetic colours, dyes or fragrances. Products labelled ‘organic’ under the Soil Association contains 95% organic component of all ingredients.
The COSMOS Beauty Standard
A COSMOS certified product could contain any of the four signatures — Organic, Natural, Certified and Approved. The COSMOS-standard assures that a brand’s products are genuine organic or natural cosmetics produced to the highest feasible sustainability practices. Their Organic certified products carry at least 20% organic of the total product. You can find the COSMOS stamp under at least eleven authorised certifying bodies around the world.
An avid storyteller, Ananya is passionate about the future of ethical and accessible virtual fashion. You can find her having a ball of a time experimenting with natural dyes and digital prints!