What these beauty certifications mean and which ones you should look for
So many companies claim to be sustainable. But how are you supposed to know which ones are actually sustainable and which ones are greenwashing? Fortunately, third-party organizations certify some of these claims. As independent organizations, these certifying bodies define the certification criteria. Many include on-site inspections. If a brand or product meets the certification requirements, they can use the certifier’s mark.
For us, certifications are helpful in selecting skincare and makeup products that match our own values. In this post, I briefly explain some of the beauty certifications you see in the United States.
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|Organic Beauty Certifications|
|Sustainability Beauty Certifications|
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Once upon a time, if a brand claimed they didn’t test on animals, I took their word for it. Now I know that many brands claim they don’t test on animals unless required by law. China requires animal testing for cosmetics made outside of China. Therefore many brands, including NARS and Benefit, finance animal testing so they can sell in China. Now, I look for cruelty-free certifications before buying.
Certified cruelty-free by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). PETA also offers a Vegan certification for makeup and skincare that use no animal-derived ingredients. Examples of brands that are PETA certified cruelty-free brands: Aether Beauty, Booni Doon, Elate Cosmetics, OSEA
Organic Beauty Certifications
In agriculture, organic means grown without pesticides. It also excludes genetically modified organisms (GMO).
Certified organic by the United States Department of Agriculture. The product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients. Examples of USDA Organic certified products: 100% Pure Organic Skin Care Collection, CocoRoo Natural Skin Care, Honest Beauty Organic Beauty Facial Oil, Juice Beauty Organic Facial Wash
Certified organic by NSF International. The product must contain at least 70% organic ingredients and meet other production specifications. Examples of NSF organic certified products: Avalon Organics Nourishing Lavender Shampoo, Osmia Purely Gentle Mud Cleanser, Ogee Sculpted Face Stick
Cosmetic products can be certified by Ecocert, an international organic organization. To be eligible, a brand must meet several qualifications: At least 95% of plant ingredients are organic; (2) The formulation contains at least 20% organic ingredients; (3) Production respects the environment, biodiversity, and human health; (4) Uses green chemistry; (5) Excludes petrochemical ingredients, parabens, phenoxyethanol, perfumes, and synthetic colorants; (6) absence of GMOs; and (7) Recyclable packaging. Examples of COSMOS-certified brands: Antonym Cosmetics, Coola, KORA Organics, Odacité, One Love Organics
These certifications ensure workers are treated fairly, earn a fair wage, and producers are paid a fair price.
Fair Trade (2 words) Certified means certified by Fair Trade USA. To earn this certification, a product must only source Fair Trade Certified ingredients and pay producers at least the Fair Trade Price. They must also obey labor laws and the International Labour Organization’s conventions. Examples of brands that make Fair Trade Certified products: Badger Healthy Body Care, cocokind, Eco Lips
Fairtrade (1 word) Certified means certified by Fairtrade America, which is associated with Fairtrade International. From what I can tell, they only certify food and clothing/textiles.
Sustainability Beauty Certifications
In this final category, I briefly consider sustainability certifications. These beauty certifications ensure that ingredients are harvested in a way that does not harm ecosystems, wildlife, or people.
The Forest Stewardship Council certifies that wood used for brushes and paper packaging was sustainably sourced. Examples of brands that use FSC certified wood for packaging and/or brushes: Aether Beauty, Vapour Beauty brushes, Versed Skincare, W3LL PEOPLE
The Rainforest Alliance addresses all three sustainability pillars: environmental, social, and economical. Its requirements include protecting the environment, protecting people, and ensuring fair prices. The Rainforest Alliance certifies many agricultural ingredients, including palm oil. Palm oil is a safe and effective beauty ingredient that provides a livelihood for many growers. However, unsustainable palm oil growth leads to deforestation and a loss of biodiversity. The Rainforest Alliance seal indicates that a beauty product includes at least 30% of sustainably harvested palm oil. Examples of Rainforest Alliance certified products: Grandpa Soap Co. Oatmeal soap, Tom’s of Maine Creamy Coconut Natural Beauty Bar, Mrs. Meyers Clean Day Daily Bar Soap
B Corporation, or B Corp, is the ultimate certification. Companies are scored on company governance, treatment of employees, community relations, and environmental impact. Examples of B Corp Certified brands: Alima Pure, Beautycounter, Elate Cosmetics, Ethique, Sunday Riley, Ursa Major
These are only some of the beauty certifications you will see. For example, the American Vegetarian Association (AVA), Green America, and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) also have certification programs. The EcoLabel Index provides a relatively exhaustive list of some of the marks you might see on your favorite products.
Certifications are helpful, but they only tell part of the story. Smaller brands might meet the criteria for a given certification but might not afford the cost. For help selecting sustainable beauty product, check out our informative articles, product reviews, sustainable beauty brands list, and shopping guides.
What certifications do you look for when shopping for skincare or makeup?