Position Paper on the Definition of Organic and Natural Cosmetics

M. Neumeier, R.A. Brunke

As long as people have existed, there has been vanity and concern about wellbeing, and so it is easy to explain how humansAs long as people have existed, there has been vanity and concern about wellbeing, and so it is easy to explain how humanshave always been in search of remedies that improve the appearance and keep the skin in good condition.Given that, in the early human era, nature was the only available source of raw materials, preparations and remedies, peopleturned to nature for skin care. Thus, over many millennia, experience was gained in dealing with natural substances and usingthem to beautify and care for the skin. The resulting remedies were not just part of everyday life – reports from ancient culturesalso mention the special importance of cosmetic products reserved exclusively for the ruling classes or for funerary offerings.Thus, millennia of experience gave rise to cosmetic science in the successful use of natural substances as skin-care products.The popularity, and thus the need, for cosmetic products increased steadily with the growth of the population, and as early asthe 19th Century, cosmetic products were used in such large quantities that industrial production became necessary. The greatneed and desire for consistent product properties regardless of the time and place of purchase prompted demands for stability,reproducibility and year-round availability of raw materials, which could no longer be satisfied from natural sources. The emergingchemical industry and its petrochemical and synthetic raw materials were the opportune solutions to the problem.Thus, the era of pure natural cosmetics came to an end. The 1872 patent on the cosmetic use of Vaseline may well have markedthe parting of the ways between today’s conventional cosmetics and pure natural cosmetics. However, the anthroposophicallifestyle and the movements of the 1960s prompted a perceptible renaissance in natural cosmetics.The responsible German ministry developed a definition of natural cosmetics in 1993, which was then expanded in 2010 tomake natural cosmetic products distinguishable from conventional cosmetics in terms of consumer protection and consumereducation. The Austrian authorities likewise developed a definition, Codex 33, which is used by some companies in that country,but not elsewhere. In recognition of the serious endeavours by the natural cosmetics companies to distinguish genuine naturalcosmetics from conventional products in green packaging (so-called “greenwashing”), in 1997, the leading German naturalcosmetics companies joined the initiative of a natural product chemist to define “controlled natural cosmetics” and workedtogether to achieve the common goal of establishing the world’s first industry standard for organic and natural cosmetics. Productsmanufactured to this standard were recognised with the symbols for the raw material sources of natural cosmetics (oceanwaves and plant leaves) and the sun as energy source.The idea of this standard has been widely acclaimed, but failure to implement it as the exclusive international standard promptedmany other organisations to develop a variety of organic and natural cosmetics standards and marks that were broadlysimilar, but differed in their details. The resulting confusion was no longer sufficiently transparent for consumers, retailers,consumer advocates and appraisers.To create realistic consumer expectations for informed purchasing decisions, public-service controls in the interests of consumerprotection and a generally acceptable view of organic and natural cosmetics, the experts of the Cosmetics Working Group inthe GDCh have developed the following definition. This definition is written so comprehensively and broadly that it covers allexisting industry standards in the basic principles and is not at odds with any industry standards. The result is a definition thatjustifies a classification of cosmetic products as organic and natural cosmetics if they comply with the following rules.

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