How to Identify Organic Products
Today there is a huge selection of organic beauty, skin care and personal care product lines. This gives rise to the question of how you can be certain that an organic product claiming to be organic, truly is organic. The answer to this is a bit complicated. If you haven't already done so, you may first want to read our page on Organic Labeling Confusion.
There are many different organic certifying agencies around the world: QAI, Orgeon Tilth, CCOF, G.O.C.A, Organic Certifiers are just a few of the organizations in the United States.
Organic Labeling Confusion
Beauty and other personal care products that are labeled "All Natural" or "Organic" can be very confusing and misleading to the consumer. There are loopholes in the Federal law which many companies are taking advantage of and labeling themselves.
Up to a hundred years ago, everything was organic.
There were no pesticide chemicals being used in farming or in our agriculture. There were no synthetic preservative chemicals to make our products last forever. Household products were made fresh from organic ingredients and were preserved with organic vinegar, salt, citrus and essential oils. This method created preservation that would last several months to one year. This sounds like a small amount of time compared to the several years of shelf-life that a lot of our household products have today, but since current organic preservatives can extend a shelf life to about a year, why do we even need our products to last any longer than that? Does it really take longer than a year to use a bottle of shampoo, facial cleanser or lotion?
The ones that cannot be considered as organic, but that are authentic natural elements, such as clays for instance. Clay is probably one of the oldest material on earth, but humans have decided that the term organic does not apply to it.
Organic ingredients are those that come from the entire plant (wholistic), that have not been poluted by synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or any other chemicals. They can be certified or not, however, it is of course easier to back-up a product with certification. Unfortunately, some un-certified organic products are sometimes of much higher quality than certified ones. One exception is clay, this raw material made by the errosion of the planet during a 4 million years cycle is nto recognized as been organic. Another peculiarity is for sea algae. Some on the east coast of the United States are recognized as organic, others on the west coast of France are not. A great deal of work still needs to be done towards the regulation of organic products.
Sodium Benzoate (NaC6H5CO2) is used as a preservative worldwide. It is generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) throughout the world.
The active part of the salt is benzoic acid, an organic acid (C6H5COOH) which is the actual preservative. The salt itself does not show any preservative activity. Sodium Benzoate is transformed into the free benzoic acid by lowering the pH of the solution. This can be done by adding any acid such as ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or citric acid (found in citrus fruits mostly).
Fruits and vegetables contain Benzoic acid. Plums and prunes have a relatively high content of Benzoic Acid (around 0.1%).
In the body, Benzoic acid is the result of the _-oxidation of fatty acids with odd numbers of carbons. Small amounts may also be formed in the large intestine from phenylalanine or tyrosine. Benzoic Acid reacts with glycine (an amino acid) and is excreted as hippuric acid (a constituent of urine in horses) in the human body.
There is at this time only a suspicion that benzoic acid is transformed into benzene with the presence of ascorbic acid, mineral ions and in certain condition such as in the presence of light and heat. The experiments have been only conducted on soft drinks and are not yet conclusive.
It is quite difficult to avoid synthetic ingredients in elaborated cosmetic products (mostly emulsions). Some are used as preservatives, others as thickeners (rheology modifiers), still others as stabilizers etc... They constitute the majority of "fillers" in products, and contribute to their "Look and Feel". However, they are not "wholistic" ingredients, those that come from the entire plant. The acceptable ones (in green) are mostly obtained from fractionning plants that usually undergo further chemical reactions, the not so good ones (in red) usually undergo more extensive chemical reactions. When necessary, they should allways be used with parcimony. Learn here a little more about ingredients you put on your skin.