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Plants are root of organics

As only plants can be classified as organic, products touting organic origins should not have animal-related ingredients.
As only plants can be classified as organic, products touting organic origins should not have animal-related ingredients. PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO

When buying organic products, make sure their ingredients are plant-based

What exactly are organic cosmetics?

With so many beauty brands claiming to be organic on the market, it is difficult to be sure of what you are really buying and applying on your skin.

Dr Alain Khaiat, president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry & Fragrance Association of Singapore and vice- president of technical and scientific affairs at the Asean Cosmetic Association, clears up the confusion. He will give a talk on the natural and organic cosmetics market at the association's annual workshop next month.

1. To date, there is no official definition of an organic product.

There is, however, a group of private companies that audits brands and certifies the level of organic content in its products.

Each certifying company has its own set of standards and the same brand may get different results from the different certifying companies. An international organic standard is in the works.

But till then, the organic certifying companies you can trust include Cosmos, EcoCert, Natrue, NSF and BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics. Look out for their logos on the labels.

2. There are no official regulations on labelling products "organic".

However, if someone disputes the labelling, the brand will have to prove that its labelling is accurate and true.

3. Organic products start with organic plants.

Only plants can be classified as organic and not animal-origin ingredients. And there is no such thing as organic water.

Organic agriculture is loosely defined as crops grown with only natural fertilisers and pesticides. Again, because there is no official definition of what is "organic", a crop which is classified organic in one country may not be categorised as such in another.

Furthermore, organic plant ingredients in a product do not necessarily guarantee an organic end-product - this depends on how the organic plant ingredients were processed.

4. Organic products are more expensive, but not necessarily more effective.

Manufacturers have fewer choices in terms of their formulations, as the simple act of adding water to an organic ingredient may lower its "organic" content.

Products made with organic ingredients are definitely more expensive. It is not easy to get organic crops because there are not many organic farmers.

5. Non-organic products are not necessarily bad for you.

Pesticides that are used on crops can be bad for the health, but the toxicity of pesticides used is controlled by governments that ensure it is within safe limits.

There are also different kinds of pesticides. Some will not affect the final product. For example, most pesticides are not water-soluble. So when the plant-sourced ingredient is extracted with water, the pesticides will not be part of the extract.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2015, with the headline 'Plants are root of organics'. Print Edition | Subscribe