New Certified Organic Personal Care Ingredients
Expand Functionality and Quality
By Karl S. Halpert
The term “organic personal care” means different things to different folks. Currently there is much debate over whether or not organic personal care should be regulated by the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP). Although the NOP was originally developed to be a food standard, in 2005 the NOP agreed to let personal care manufacturers certify to the NOP as long as they could meet the same standards as organic food.
For this reason, manufacturers eagerly embrace new ingredients and technologies that pass NOP regulations and today a growing number of household items—from anhydrous products such as lip balms, salves and massage oils to shampoos, conditioners and anti-aging creams—are able to place the USDA organic seal on their label. These products have now crossed over into mass-market retailers including Walgreens and Target in the United States, virtually all mass-market retailers in many parts of Europe, and in several in Asia and the Middle East.
Expanding the Organic Personal Care Tool Box
Driven by escalating global demand, formerly scarce ingredients are increasingly available in reliable supply, and in many cases we see a shrinking price differential between conventional and organic materials. This variety of new ingredients is making it easier for manufacturers to create a wider range of products that meet consumer needs.
Something for the Sweet Tooth. Launched in 2009, organic stevia, a natural herbal sweetener, has been embraced by the food industry, as well as organic cosmetic companies. The glycosides in stevia are three hundred times the sweetness of sugar. Stevia also has no calories. While organic sugar has long been available, it has limited use in personal care products due to its insolubility in oil. Also, other oral care products, such as toothpaste, needed a greater concentration of sweetness. Organic stevia replaces synthetic sweeteners as well as licorice-derived products, and offers a viable organic sweetener for lip balms, lipsticks and other oral care.
Better Butters. Organic shoppers also value products that help support the greater good. Bead for Life, known primarily for its beautiful beadwork made by Ugandan civil war refugees, has expanded its offerings to include organic nilotica shea butter (vitellaria nilotica). This vastly different type of shea comes from East Africa and is markedly softer and more fragrant than the West African shea. In its unrefined state, it feels much like butter cream, adding a luxuriant quality. Consumers and manufacturers can also feel good about supporting this organization, which offers entrepreneurial training for Ugandan women.
There is also a wide range of other specialty butters now available in organic. BioChemica of Melbourne, Florida has developed an extensive line of organic butters, specializing in exotic products such as coffee and citrus butters. They are presently working on adding certified organic kokum butter to their line. Kokum is similar to cocoa butter, and is used to treat dry, chapped skin. It is rich in essential fatty acids and tocopherols and helps restore the skin’s elasticity.
Scents. Many companies are also expanding their offerings of organic essential oils and proprietary fragrances that meet NOP standards. Taking the science of perfumery to the organic and natural realm, suppliers have created certified organic isolates. Jack Corley of Trillogy asserts that these are as important as organic essential oils in perfumery.
“It is difficult for a perfumer to ‘balance’ a fragrance using only organic essential oils. For example, ingredients like organic geraniol (from organic palmarosa) and organic terpineol-4 (from organic eucalyptus) when combined with organic essential oils help a perfumer balance the fragrance notes and smooth out any medicinal or crude notes,” Corley says. These sorts of ingredient advancements afford the organic personal care industry the opportunity to take fragrances to ever more sophisticated levels.
Functional Ingredients. There are also several new products that help improve functionality of organic personal care. One of these ingredients now available is organic lecithin, a natural emulsifier. While lecithin is most widely used in the manufacturing of chocolate, it also provides stability to many personal care products, as well as glide and sheen. To create an organic version, Clarkson Grain developed a mechanical extraction system that precludes the need for chemical (hexane) extraction which is utilized in conventional lecithin. Although lecithin is traditionally made from soy, the company also offers a canola-derived lecithin for those with specific allergy concerns related to soy. Clarkson also has a lecithin made specifically for applications that require low microbial levels.
Emulsifiers are needed to bring water and oil together in many types of products, but until recently most organic emulsifiers were either on the low end (around 4) or the high end (around 16) of the Hydrophile Lipophile Balance (HLB) scale, leading to products that lacked body. Earth Supplied Products (ESP) now offers a SafeEmuls line, which has HLB ratings that are in the middle (around 8). SafeEmuls are all primary emulsifiers and work well with rice bran and soy lecithin as secondary emulsifiers.
Another ingredient that has drawn a lot of attention this year is glycerin, which many thought would be impossible to make in organic form. Widely used in cosmetics, glycerin serves as an emollient, humectant, solvent and lubricant. Also now available in organic is ethyl palmate, recently made available through OFFI, part of the Elan Group. This mixture of fatty acid and ethyl esters is oil-soluble, water-miscible and has a variety of applications in personal care and fragrance. It can be used in personal care products as a carrier, solvent, emulsifier, co-emulsifier, emollient, moisturizer and lubricant.
Keeping product shelf-stable has also been an issue in organic personal care. To help remedy this, Oh! Oh! Organics recently introduced a new source of sunflower oil-derived tocopherol. While this ingredient is not organic, its non-GMO status means it can be used in NOP products. Most all of the global tocopherol supply is from genetically modified sources, which does not comply with the NOP, so non-GMO tocopherol is an important ingredient in NOP personal care. Its antioxidant properties are also beneficial to the skin. It can be found in lotions, salt and sugar scrubs, body oils, and many other skin treatments.
Looking Forward. Despite current economic conditions, the organic and natural personal care industry continues to grow, both within the scope of the NOP, and also within the larger category of sustainable products, of which organic is but one component. One key to this growth is education, as the mass-market consumer is increasingly making educated purchasing decisions. In addition, “Made in USA” has become somewhat of a gold standard in personal care throughout Asian markets, and foreign consumers pay a premium for this designation.
Still more trends combine to provide a “perfect storm” of market conditions. The consumer’s insatiable thirst for new products continues to drive manufacturers to develop new and exciting products, while the increased availability of NOP ingredients enables producers to work toward meeting this demand. As global trade barriers lift and regulatory reciprocity increases throughout the world, the demand for organic and sustainable products drives growers to convert more and more conventionally farmed acreage to organic. This, of course, is the true bottom line of the organic movement.
Karl S. Halpert is president and CEO of Private Label Select, a Taos NM-based global manufacturer of organic and natural personal care products. Private Label Select also distributes Aunt Bee’s Skin Care. In 2005, Halpert’s facility was one of the first personal care facilities in the United States to be certified organic under the NOP. Private Label Select is an FDA facility and is EcoCert certified as well. Karl is a speaker and an editorial contributor to several trade publications. You can reach him at email@example.com.