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Natural and organic cosmetics: what prospects for harmonization?

At times when the battle between certification bodies is raging, Premium Beauty News questioned Laurence Mulon, an independent consultant and expert on natural cosmetics, on the prospects for harmonization in this area.

Premium Beauty News - What is the current situation concerning the attempts to harmonize the definitions on natural and organic cosmetics?

Laurence Mulon

Laurence Mulon

Laurence Mulon - At a European level, a first step was taken with the association COSMOS-standard AISBL, who last February 16, announced the start of the “Cosmos-natural” and “Cosmos biological” certifications. Five certifying body are now empowered to grant certification according to the Cosmos standard: BDIH, EcoCertGreenlife, ICEA, Qualité France and Soil Association Certification Ldt. A certification process will soon be available for new certifying bodies. No common logo is planned for the time being, just a common signature.

For its part the NaTrue label, created by German industrialists is developing itself in the U.S. through the negotiation of mutual recognition agreements with NSF/ANSI.

Premium Beauty News - Are authorities also trying to help clarify things?

Laurence Mulon - Natural and organic cosmetics are in the spotlight of the European Commission who has initiated the creation of two working groups: one at the level of the CEN [1] for the standardization of methods, and the other one at the level of the DG SANCO [2], within the subgroup “cosmetic claims”. This latter group, however, decided in February 2011 to wait for the recommendations of the ISO working group on the terminology of natural and organic cosmetics before it would start giving its own recommendations for this category.

Premium Beauty News - So ISO seems concerned about this subject too?
Laurence Mulon - Yes, since 2009, at the instigation of the Colipa, the European association of cosmetic manufacturers. In practice, it is a working group on terminology (WG No. 4 Terminology) from the technical committee on cosmetics [3] who is trying to define natural and organic cosmetics.

This working group has a wide international audience, because a number of countries have an approach to natural cosmetics which is related to their traditional uses but few countries have developed their own standards.

The members of the group met twice in 2010, in June and October. The draft of definitions submitted by the Colipa was commended by all parties. There was unanimity on one point: the future standard will not cover labelling or product claims.

This first project, greatly inspired by western approaches should integrate the traditional approaches of use of plants and natural extracts in cosmetics, and in particular India’s point of view. On the other hand, participants will have to agree on the methods of calculation of extracts and on the status of water.

Premium Beauty News - Is all this work likely to clarify things for consumers?

Laurence Mulon - The clarification expected by consumers is not for now.

At the European level, the new Cosmos standard, that groups major European labels proposes a transition period during which will coexist on the European market, products certified according to national standards, to Cosmos standards and to the NaTrue label.

The ISO standard is not expected before 2013. What will be the situation then? Will Cosmos have imposed itself? Will the NaTrue label have attracted other continents? Or will the national approaches of each country be favoured?

Manufacturers will have to make strategic choices according to the targeted market, not only on the choice of the standard but also on the choice of the certifying body.

Not to mention the fact that some new labels are emerging. Some claims go further than the simple environmental approach by adding to them an ethical dimension, such as for example: Bio équitable, ESR, “Main dans la main”, or an environmental approach focused on biodiversity, which is the case for “Forest Garden Products”.

Interview by Vincent Gallon


[1] TC392 of the CEN(European Committee for Standardization)

[2] Directorate General for Health and Consumers

[3] TC217

© 2011 - Premium Beauty News -
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