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Personal care labels: What do they all mean?

Personal care labels: What do they all mean?

Use this cheat sheet on cosmetics standards and legislation to stock your HABA department and educate customers.

Organic certifications

  • USDA Organic
    Just as with organic food, at least 95 percent of a personal care product’s ingredients must meet U.S. Department of Agriculture National Organic Program standards.


  • NSF/ANSI 305 Containing Organic Ingredients
    NSF/ANSIThis label indicates that a product contains at least 70 percent organic content, including ingredients certified to European organic standards. It allows for some chemical processes typical of personal care manufacturing that are not permitted in USDA Organic certification.
  • Cosmos
    This European certification requires that 95 percent of a product’s agricultural ingredients and 20 percent of its overall ingredients be organic. Products must meet environmental packaging and manufacturing standards and use only approved green chemistry processes for ingredient modification. Cosmos prohibits testing on animals.

Natural certifications

  • NPA Natural Standard
    NPA Natural StandardProducts that meet the Natural Products Association Natural Standard contain at least 95 percent ingredients that are derived from natural sources, and are free of ingredients with any suspected human health risks. Non-natural ingredients are allowed only when they have no speculated health issues and there is no viable natural alternative.
  • NSF/NaTrue Natural Standard
    This in-development standard will be the first American national standard for natural personal care products. It will address minimum natural content requirements, allowed manufacturing processes, labeling and marketing requirements, and other issues.
  • NaTrue
    This European natural standard prohibits the use of synthetic fragrances and colors, petroleum-derived ingredients, silicone oils and derivatives, genetically modified organisms and irradiated ingredients, as well as animal testing.

Other certifications

  • Fair Trade Certified
    As part of Fair Trade USA’s composite program, fair trade  personal care products must include 20 percent fair trade ingredients.    
  • Fair for Life
    While you may be most familiar with Fair Trade USA's label, there's another to look for when it comes to fair trade. IMO's Fair For Life certification indicates that the product contains at least 50 percent fair trade ingredients, excluding water (or 90 percent of all ingredients). Products with at lwast 5 percent total fair-trade content are labeled "Made with Fair for Life Fair Trade Ingredients."                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 
  • Leaping Bunny
    Developed by eight national animal protection groups that form the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, this label indicates that a company has used no animal testing in any stage of product development, including at the raw-ingredient level.

Legislation lowdown

  • FDA sunscreen requirements
    Starting in December (originally set for June and then pushed to December), the Food and Drug Administration will enforce its 2011 mandate that any sun care company wanting to make broad-spectrum claims must test its products for effective protection against ultraviolet A and B rays. Manufacturers will also be prohibited from making misleading claims such as waterproof and sweatproof, and identifying their products as sunblocks.
  • California Organic Products Act
    COPA requires that any personal care product with organic on the front of its package contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients.
  • Safe Cosmetics Act and Cosmetics Safety Enhancement Act
    These proposed bills would update the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, giving the FDA authority to enforce cosmetic ingredient safety testing and disclosure, product recalls, and more. At press time, Congress was considering these bills. For the latest, go to
  • Proposition 65
    This California legislation lists the chemicals and the allowable amounts of those chemicals that companies selling personal care products in the state must print on labels, along with a Prop 65 warning. These chemicals include 1,4-dioxane (10 parts per million) and lead (5 ppm for lipstick and 10 ppm for other cosmetics).

A standard to call your own

Some retail chains are helping customers by creating their own personal care standards and ingredient guidelines. Whole Foods Market evaluates quality sourcing, environmental impact, efficacy and safety before granting products its Premium Body Care seal. The retailer also requires that any product with organic on the label indeed be certified organic by the USDA or NSF/ANSI 305. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage has created a list of prohibited ingredients to screen products before they land on store shelves.

What are you doing in your store? Leave a comment.

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