Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Go Green in the Bathroom

Is it time to put your skin on an organic diet? Soap, shampoo, lotions, toothpaste, cosmetics and other personal care items are full of chemicals, some of which are toxic. Absorbed through the pores, these chemicals enter the bloodstream.

Genuinely organic products, though, are hard to find. While the federal government enforces strict standards for organic food, it has no guidelines for “organic” personal care items.

That means the word “organic” on a label is often “meaningless marketing shtick,” said David Bronner, president of Escondido-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps.

A few ways to keep your skin clean and nontoxic:

Go green — and white. Look for the USDA’s green-and-white organic label. Some personal care companies — including Dr. Bronner’s, Organic Essence and Intelligent Nutrients — voluntarily meet the federal food standards and carry the label.

Still, these soaps aren’t meant for snacking. “You could eat it,” Bronner said. “I can’t say it would taste great.”

Look for the new label. This month, San Diego’s Quality Assurance International and its parent company, NSF, began certifying organic personal care products. To receive this label — a blue leaf and stem encircling the text “NSF” and “Contains organic ingredients” — a manufacturer must prove that at least 70 percent of its product’s content is organic.

Follow the news. Like a hot new lipstick shade, this topic is starting appear with more frequency. On March 15, Proctor & Gamble announced it would reformulate 18 of its Herbal Essences shampoos to remove 1,4-dioxane, considered a “probable human carcinogen” by the U.S. Environmental Qrotection Agency. And on March 24 and 25, industry members are meeting in New York for the first Sustainable Cosmetics Summit.

“We are going to clear up the confusion in the marketplace,” promised Joe Smillie, senior vice president at Quality Assurance International. “Consumers are going to be able to put their trust back into organic, which is where it belongs.”

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