Organic Versus Certified Cosmetics
Not all "green" cosmetics are sustainable
Natural ingredients, but sadly also greenwashing, are in vogue. Natural ingredients are being promoted more frequently and many certificates promise a "green" and "clean" approach. However, it is worth taking a closer look at the certifications, ingredients listings and packaging - because, not everything that is advertised as being "green" and "clean" is good for you or nature.
Demeter vs. Organic
Demeter is considered the oldest and strictest organic certification worldwide. In contrast to conventional organic labels, Demeter inspects and certifies the raw materials, processing and packaging of each product. Unlike various organic cosmetics, Demeter does not allow teh inclusion of conventional ingredients. At least 90% of the raw materials used must meet the Demeter criteria, and the remaining 10% must be of organic quality - at the very least. In contrast, many "natural" products are referred to as being organic as soon as 1 ingredient is produced organically while the rest are sourced from conventional production. Many logos - from vegan to microplastic-free - are supposed to identify as "green" cosmetics. However, this is often not the case.
What's not inside
What a product formula does not include is at least as important as the ingredients incorporated into it. Oftentimes, dubious substances are used in natural cosmetics to make the product more affordable to produce or to improve lather formation and scent. Substances, such as mineral oil derivatives can have a negative impact on the skin barrier while certain fragrances may cause irritation. The environmental impacts are just as severe, e.g. deforestation of the rainforest for palm oil plantations. Microplastics - come in form of liquid microplastics - are also found in many cosmetic products and shower gels, that end up in our water supply.
While most natural cosmetics certifications allow additives that have not been identified as harmful, Demeter cosmetics have a "positive list". This list contains all additives that have been proven to have no negative effects on humans, animals or the environment and have therefore been approved for use in the production of Demeter cosmetics.
Not everything that is "green" is good for the environment. Although many companies are taking an important step towards sustainable packaging, not all alternatives are automatically eco-friendly. For example, "green plastic" often requires large areas of cultivated land for raw materials, such as sugar cane. This plastic is often produced from renewable raw materials, but it is not biodegradable and is just as durable and ultimately no better than conventional plastic.
Holistically sustainable cosmetics, therefore, rely on reusable raw materials, such as glass or aluminium. These have a very high recycling rate and can be reused almost infinitely if they are returned to the raw material cycle.
Organic, as it should be
Due to the high demands of Demeter, there are only a handful of cosmetic lines that have been awarded this seal of approval. The Austrian organic grape cosmetics line, dieNikolai, is one of these holistically sustainable cosmetic brands and even goes one step further: the majority of the ingredients are sourced directly from Nikolaihof, Wachau's own biodynamic vineyard, which means that the transport routes for the raw materials are particularly short. The products are completely free from palm oil, microplastics and artificial fragrances and preservatives. As a result, the ingredient lists are short and the products are well tolerated. They are packaged in recyclable materials which result in the lowest possible climate footprint.
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