Natural and Organic Cosmetics – Part I

The demand for natural/organic cosmetics is growing worldwide and also in Japan. This movement and trend started about 20 years ago in Germany when the consumer magazine ÖKO-TEST published a critical report (based on test results) about conventional cosmetics which contain many chemical and possibly harmful ingredients. The big cosmetics companies sued the magazine in court, but ÖKO-TEST could prove their claims and won.

This issue generated much interest among consumers, and in the following years the demand for natural cosmetics grew continuously. Nowadays natural cosmetics are no longer a niche market, and the growth rates are much larger than for conventional cosmetics. Several – until then small German companies – saw the potential and developed natural cosmetics which soon became very popular, not only in Germany but also in many other countries.

German natural cosmetics from Dr. Hauschka, Lavera, Logona, Weleda and many other companies soon became market leaders in this segment and are still holding this position, even though the competition from other countries is increasing. Japan is major market for conventional and natural cosmetics and also has several big conventional cosmetics companies. However, only in recent years some still small companies started producing and marketing in Japan natural cosmetics. These companies have their own, often strict guidelines, but until now have not developed a common standard and label for certification.

In Germany natural cosmetics are called BIO-Naturkosmetik. In Japan and other countries natural cosmetics are often called organic. This is confusing for many general consumers who do not know the difference (if any). Like organic food products natural/organic cosmetics should not contain chemical ingredients. However, for various reasons this is almost impossible to achieve. Many raw materials needed for natural (and conventional) cosmetics are not available in sufficient quantities in nature. Durability and shelf-life are also important for natural cosmetics. Therefore, some concessions are made for natural/organic cosmetics and their certification. The basic and easily recognized difference between natural and organic cosmetics is the certification and a respective label (BDIH, COSMOS, DEMETER, ECOCERT, IMO, NATRUE etc.) on the package. The COSMOS standard was developed by five European organizations in order to create one standard which is internationally recognized was officially introduced at BIOFACH/VIVANESS 2011. This standard applies to cosmetic products marketed as organic or natural.

All current standards and certification procedures for organic cosmetics are established by associations and other private bodies. Consumers should also keep in mind that many countries have official standards, laws and labels for organic food products, but until now no country in the world has such regulations for natural/organic cosmetics and other non-food products.