In 2008, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps stirred up a lot more than organic body care when it sued personal care manufacturers for using “organic” claims sans certification. This year, the issue hit the personal care industry hard, as activists, retailers, regulatory authorities, and consumers spoke out. Meanwhile, a new certification, launched in 2009, gave personal care companies another organic label to reach for—NSF/ANSI 305 requires at least 70 percent organic content but allows some stabilizing processes considered “synthetic” under NOP regulation. What Dr. Bronner’s President David Bronner called “a responsible compromise between purists and industry.”
But it wasn’t until a retailer—not a regulatory authority—made a bold announcement in June that purists, industry, and everything in between faced impending change resulting from self regulation: Any product with organic claims appearing on Whole Foods shelves must have USDA Organic or NSF/ANSI 305 certification. As manufacturers make abbreviations to meet the criteria in 2011 (taking “organic” out of their names or changing formulas to get certified) those products will appear in other retailers nationwide—large and small, natural and conventional—affecting all consumers, not just the Whole Foods shopper. Maybe beauty and honesty will agree.
I recently spoke with Farah Ahmed, Personal Care Products Council vice president and associate counsel, about personal care policy, consumer perception, and progressive trends. Soon after, the “first ever ingredient-free cosmetic” landed on my desk. The natural personal care industry is manic to say the least, but could this identity crisis work in its favor to help push the envelope, even if this means going back to basics? “The ‘green’ cosmetics space is continually evolving—both in terms of innovation and consumer understanding,” Ahmed said. The more things change … Aside from Whole Foods’ latest move, these trends—from chemistry and ingredients to packaging—will continue to evolve in 2011.
This ingredient—long touted for its digestive and immunity benefits (sales of probiotic supplements have increased nearly 40 percent over the past year)—has appeared in everything from soap and lotion to shampoo and conditioner over the past 12 months. The latest: Industry veteran Jodi Drexler-Billet launched Earthly Elements, a new line of pre- and probiotic based body and hair care distributed by supplement powerhouse Solgar, at Natural Products Expo East.
Why all the interest? Probiotics are on consumers’ minds, and there’s some research supporting topical and supplemental probiotics for skin care, particularly eczema relief. Personal care companies claim it can help improve a range of skin conditions such as wrinkles, acne, psoriasis, rosacea, millia, rashes, and dermatitis. And based on Drexler-Billet’s recent launch, it now may be good for your hair and scalp, too. The best way to use these products will be in conjunction with probiotic supplements to help restore balance from the inside out with topical reinforcement (Drexler-Billet mentioned cross-marketing potential with some of the Solgar’s probiotic supplements when I spoke with her at Expo).
I wrote an article on nutricosmetics for Delicious Living's March 2011 issue and have started taking some new supplements (my current favorite: a probiotic-omega-3 combo from Nordic Naturals) that I think have major beauty benefits, despite not using beauty-enhancing claims in their marketing. The “beauty-from-within” industry needs this more than ever, as recent research shows that despite an increase in nutricosmetic launches, many consumers aren’t buying the trend. What’s to blame: delivery systems that may contain potentially efficacious ingredients like collagen and omega-3s but are also loaded with sugars, preservatives, and artificial flavors, in addition to companies using over-the-top marketing claims that leave consumers skeptical.
Manufacturers will start focusing more on healthful, science-backed foods and supplements—or a combination of the two found in whole-food supplements. MegaFood’s 100 percent whole food skin, nails, and hair supplement contains vitamins and minerals from sources like oranges, brown rice, and broccoli without fillers or binders. Products like these are more aligned with what consumers are looking for—and what they can trust (when I asked our readers if they believe foods and supplements can have beauty benefits, they said absolutely yes but referenced greens and fish oil, not cookies pumped up with collagen).
I predict we’ll also see more and more consumers researching ingredients that could have beauty benefits and purchasing supplements, like omega-3s and probiotics. Products that aren’t necessarily dubbed “nutricosmetics” but can help clear your complexion or strengthen your nails, in addition to offering other health benefits.
Packaging transparency and innovation
This year, Whole Foods also demanded that all Whole Body personal care products be packaged in 100 percent post-consumer recycled (PCR) bottles. For its new sustainable packaging guidelines, Whole Foods worked with 25 personal care suppliers to develop a set of best practices to cut back on waste, such as reducing the amount of plastic in product packaging and only using materials that are reused or recycled.
In a recent conversation with John Bernardo of green packaging consulting firm Sustainable Innovations, LLC, I discovered that specificity on the package should be the future of sustainable packaging. Companies should follow the model required in the U.K., said Bernardo, where a paperboard box with shampoo inside includes a simple diagram explaining how to recycle the box and the bottle, the type of plastic it’s made from, and a recommendation for what to do with the lid. A simple concept but often underestimated or ignored by manufacturers, leaving consumers confused on how to recycle. There should be no guesswork when it comes to the type of recycled content used and percentage, as well as type of material, he said. Despite perhaps a slow start getting on board with natural packaging alternatives, I anticipate that natural personal care manufacturers will begin to embrace sustainable materials found through the natural products world like bagasse (a bi-product of sugarcane), bamboo, and palm fiber.
Green (science) is the new black
The chemistry behind your personal care products may be improving to make it easier for manufacturers to meet stringent labeling guidelines. From the raw ingredient standpoint, NSF/ANSI 305 has cleaned up your products by requiring a high percentage of organic plant-based materials—hence promoting environmental and potential health benefits.
But emulsifiers, emollients, and preservatives are still causing a problem, particularly when it comes to getting the NOP Organic certification. “It’s no good if we go out to the marketplace with organic products that don’t work,” said Joe Smillie, senior vice president of organic certifier Quality Assurance International (QAI). “Preservatives are the big battleground.” At his session on organic personal care at All Things Organic at Expo East, Smillie mentioned some big changes in the works. “Green is the new black,” he said. “We’re seeing changes in the tools—how we are creating products.” The latest green chemistry advancements includes enzyme-based surfactants, said Smillie, brought to light at this year’s HBA conference with the Environmental Protection Agency’s green chemistry awards.
Back to basics
Even with all the new technology and emerging ingredients, Delicious Living’s most popular beauty topic continues to be something considerably more humble: skin care from the kitchen. This speaks to the trend of consumers wanting to know exactly what’s in their products (remember “ingredient free?”) and returning to simple, whole food ingredients in both the kitchen and the bathroom.
For an upcoming article on bulk-bin beauty, I perused the aisles of my local natural products store and found an entire shopping list of multifunctional, nutrient-rich ingredients that can restore health in more ways than one. As for packaged products, you'll continue to find more plant-based ingredients like pumpkin, pomegranate, wine, tomato, and more in your personal care.
With exotic, new to us (old to other cultures) ingredients continuing to make their mark in personal care products (tamanu and argan oils exploded this year, appearing in products from companies like Derma e) knowing exactly where your ingredients comes from is more important than ever. Consumers care about sourcing—not just in food and supplements, but also in personal care. Kudos to Aura Cacia, in particular, which has created its own sourcing program, Well Earth, which I learned about at this year’s Natural Products Expo West.
Looking for Fair-Trade certified products is another way to help you know where the ingredients came from. Due to increasing consumer interest in sourcing, we'll see a lot more companies with this label, particularly beauty products containing shea butter, sugar, vanilla, cocoa butter, olive oil, and tea extracts.