What’s behind the label? What natural beauty means to us

Ever since Bath & Unwind began trading nearly nine years ago, we have learned that what’s in the products you are putting on you skin is an important issue. From alcohol to TEA and parabens to PEGs, the last decade or so has seen a rise in awareness that the ingredients contained in your favourite beauty products may not be the best thing for both you and the wider environment.

But with words like ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘ethical’ and ‘green’ being used to describe anything from coal to financial products, what does it all really mean for the products you buy at Bath & Unwind? Here we unpack what ‘organic skin care’ and ‘natural beauty’ mean to us.

Organic and natural certification bodies

Organic farming is the cultivation of plants, crops and livestock without the use of synthetic fertilizers or pesticides, artificial growth hormones, antibiotics, additives or genetically modified organisms. Instead, it uses crop rotation, green manure, biological pest control, careful matching of plant/animal breed to the farm location and other techniques to ensure a viable yield.

Alba BotanicaThis may be one of the easiest standards to apply to products, as there are a range of bodies concerned with organic certification. Perhaps the best known is the Soil Association, a UK charity that, along with four other European certification bodies, has developed the Cosmetics Organic Standard. This specifies that to get organic certification, 95% of a product’s agricultural, aquacultural or wild collected ingredients, and 20% of the overall ingredients, be organically grown.

In addition to this, the rest of the ingredients must still meet strict criteria to ensure they are not damaging to health or the environment. If a product contains 70-95% organic ingredients, the Soil Association allows it to state it is made with xx% organic ingredients. Products with under 70% organic ingredients are not certified at all.

Similarly, the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program will give a product an organic seal when it contains at least 95% organically produced ingredients. Any product made from 70-95% organic ingredients may state it is ‘made with organic ingredients’.

The last main certification body we looked at is Ecocert, which has specialised in certification of organic agricultural products since 1991. Again they specify that a product must have a minimum of 95% organic plant based ingredients (and 10% overall by weight) to be awarded their natural and organic label. They differ slightly from the Soil Association and USDA as they also have a natural only certification label; to be eligible for this, a product must have a minimum of 50% organic plant based materials and minimum of 5% organic ingredients overall by weight. Consequently, more cosmetics companies have products that reach Ecocert’s natural criteria.

Our decision

With many brands labelled ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ in the title, this can be a confusing issue for our customers so, having researched the various criteria for the bodies mentioned above, and taking into consideration customer feedback, we have decided on the following:

  • Organic – for a product to be tagged as organic on Bath & Unwind, it must contain a minimum of 70% certified organic ingredients (excludes water, salt and clay which cannot be certified organic)
  • Natural – this was a harder thing to decide on, as ‘natural’ is a word with various definitions. We have decided that to qualify at Bath & Unwind, a product should contain over 60% naturally sourced ingredients, must not be tested on animals, must not use synthetic fragrances, colourants, silicones, phthalates (DBP), and paraffin and other petroleum products, and must have recyclable packaging.

How will you know?

Dr BronnerWe are currently working on a project behind the scenes to tag every single product we stock with a variety of attributes, ranging from their packaging type (bottle, spray, pot etc) to product formulation.

There is also a set of attributes concerned with ingredients, including organic and natural. Once this work is completed (hopefully in the next 3-4 months), we will improve the product page so you can filter products by these attributes. (Want a travel size shampoo, suitable for curly hair, that doesn’t contain parabens? No problem…)

Are natural and organic products best to use?

Most ingredients, whether naturally derived or synthetic, can have an adverse effect if you are allergic or sensitive to them, which is worth bearing in mind when trying new products. As for the wider environment, there are those who argue organic farming is kinder to the plants and animals, and ecosystems in general.

All of the products at Bath & Unwind have been carefully selected; we would not be selling any products we are not proud of. Now, with our new natural and organic standard, you can make more informed decisions about what you buy.

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