New research finds few natural & organic cosmetic brands are living up to their marketing claims. In the first study of its kind, Organic Monitor assessed over 50 international brands of natural cosmetic products and ranked them in terms of their naturalness.
The Brand Assessment study involved a chartered chemist examining the ingredient composition of cosmetic products and classifying formulations according to their ‘level of naturalness’. Certified organic cosmetics received the highest rating (9-10), pure natural cosmetics got 5-7 ratings, naturally inspired cosmetics got 2 rating, whilst conventional cosmetics got 1 rating.
A major finding is that the formulations of most natural brands are not meeting their marketing claims. Many companies claiming to have ‘chemically-clean’ cosmetics actually are falling foul of having contentious synthetic ingredients. Many such brands are classified as semi-natural or naturally inspired, even though they claim to be ‘100% natural’. Surprisingly, some organic cosmetic brands are given low ‘naturalness’ ratings; although their products contain certified organic ingredients, the formulations still have synthetic ingredients not common to natural and organic products.
The research highlights the importance of certification in creating a ‘level playing field’ for formulators. Natural & organic standards have tight guidelines on permitted and prohibited ingredients and encourage green formulations. Thus, brands with high levels of certified products received high ‘naturalness’ scores.
Brands that received high naturalness scores include Intelligent Nutrients (9), Green People (8) and Living Nature (7). Intelligent Nutrients products got high naturalness ratings as they contain high levels of organic (food) ingredients, with almost all products certified organic. New brands launched by large multinationals also scored high in terms of their natural & organic formulations: Garnier Bio Active (L’Oreal), Diadermine Bio Expertise (Henkel) and Johnson’s Natural (Johnson & Johnson). The high naturalness rating of these brands epitomizes how the natural & organic arena has evolved from just having small niche brands.
With so many brands marketing their cosmetic products on natural and organic claims, the study encourages companies to take the certification route. Standards provide a clear list of approved ingredients and processes to formulators. Furthermore, certified products build consumer trust since symbols and logos—such as Ecocert, Soil Association, BDIH, NPA and NaTrue—clearly distinguish legitimate natural / organic products from falsely labeled ones.
Although certification is encouraged, there is also some criticism of fair trade and new eco-labeling schemes for cosmetic products. A growing number of fair trade organizations are allowing cosmetic products to be certified fair trade if they contain a minimum level of fair trade ingredients. Many consumers perceive these products as ‘pure natural’ since they are certified and often marketed on their fair trade (natural) ingredients. However, this Brand Assessment study found many certified fair trade cosmetics received low naturalness ratings because of high level of synthetic substances; most fair trade standards do not have an approved and prohibited list of synthetic ingredients. Tighter standards are called for otherwise fair trade seals could add to the existing consumer confusion about natural products.
Organic Monitor finds the level of naturalness of brands varies considerably between geographic regions. European brands, partly because of the high adoption rates of natural & organic standards, score highest. North American brands are the second most natural, whilst brands in other regions generally receive lower ratings. Although a growing number of Asian and Latin American brands are emphasizing their natural—and in many cases, indigenous—ingredients, the formulations are usually high in synthetic preservatives, emulsifiers and other ingredients.
One reason behind the low level of naturalness of such brands is lack of experience with green ingredients. Judi Beerling, head of Technical Research at Organic Monitor, comments: ‘many Asian companies are not accustomed to using the new palette of green ingredients, preferring to use familiar synthetics in their formulations’. These products, although may contain certified organic ingredients, would fall short of any recognized natural / organic standards. To address the formulation issues associated with natural & organic cosmetics, Organic Monitor is dedicating a workshop and seminar program to this subject at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit (www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com), taking place in Hong Kong on 7-8th November. Some of the key findings of this Brand Assessment study will be presented at this executive summit, whilst established Asia-Pacific brands like Himalaya Herbals and Comvita will participate.
About Organic Monitor
Organic Monitor is a specialist research, consulting & training company that focuses on the global organic & related product industries. In 2011, we are celebrating 10 years of encouraging sustainable development. Since 2001, we have been providing a range of business services to operators in high-growth ethical & sustainable industries. Our services include market research publications, business & technical consulting, summits, seminars & workshops. Visit us at www.organicmonitor.com
Sustainable Cosmetics Summit
Organized by Organic Monitor, the aim of the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit is to encourage sustainability in the beauty industry by bringing together key stake-holders and debate major sustainability issues in a high-level forum. The technical and marketing issues relating to natural & organic cosmetics are the key focus of this first-ever Asia-Pacific edition. The summit takes place at InterContinental Hotel, Hong Kong on 7-8th November 2011.
More information is available from www.sustainablecosmeticssummit.com