Understanding Cosmetic Label Claims
Do you really know what you’re buying when you choose a product labeled as hypoallergenic and allergy tested? Or natural and organic? We have been programmed to think that if a label has these claims, the product must be safe and superior. But this is not necessarily true. There are many misleading cosmetic label claims and you should know what to look out for.
The hypoallergenic and allergy tested claims imply that the products are less likely to cause allergic reactions than others. Unfortunately, the claims are largely unverified, as most countries have no existing regulations on their use.
To understand the absence of regulations, let’s go back to 1975. That year, the U.S. FDA issued a regulation requiring companies with hypoallergenic claim to conduct clinical trials on human subjects. The scientific studies should show that their product caused a significantly lower rate of adverse skin reactions than similar products not making such claim. The manufacturers of Almay and Clinique contested the FDA regulation, reaching the U.S. Court of Appeals, which subsequently ruled that the FDA requirement is invalid.
The Philippines FDA requires manufacturers to substantiate any hypoallergenic claim, but like in most countries, there is no clear standard on what kind of evidence is required. To support the hypoallergenic claim, manufacturers generally avoid the use of fragrances and paraben preservatives, the culprits in most cases of cosmetic allergic reactions. It is good that listing of ingredients on cosmetic labels is now required, so you will be guided.
Organic ingredients are defined as natural, plant-based extracts produced from farms that do not use synthetic pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and are not processed using chemical solvents or additives. For a cosmetic product claiming to be organic, look for the stamp from any one of the following certification bodies in the world. Each body has its own set of standards.
The Australian Certified Organic (AOC) stamp requires 95% or more certified organic ingredients with the remaining 5% being restricted to natural ingredients. AOC has the most stringent requirement.
|DERMAX Squalane Oil |
has ECOCERT seal.
ECOCERT is the European standard for organic labeling. In 2003, it became the first body to set standards for organic and natural cosmetics. The ECOCERT natural and organic seal requires a minimum of 95% plant-based ingredients with at least 10% of all ingredients coming from organic farming. The natural stamp is allowed with a minimum of 50% plant-based ingredients with 5% of all ingredients certified as organic.
NATRUE is a Belgian based organic cosmetic certification body. It specifies at least 95% of the product’s natural ingredients “must come from controlled organic cultivation and/or controlled wild collection”. Note that the requirement is not to have 95 per cent organic ingredients – just that 95 per cent of the natural ingredients used must be organic.
In the Philippines, there is still no standard set by any independent or legal body for organic claims in cosmetic products.
This was published in the July 24, 2012 issue of Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section. The author is the CEO of SkinStation. He received the 2011 Outstanding Chemist Award from Professional Regulations Commission for his achievements in the field of cosmetic chemistry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.