Woman with face mask and hair towel holding cucumber slices by her eyes.

by Laurie Burgess | Organic Matters Blog

“Did you know that your skin in your largest organ?!” is a fun fact that a preteen may share after coming home from their biology class. Indeed, it’s a fact that you may vaguely recall learning at some point – but we want to understand what this means for the products you use, especially in regard to organic.

As the largest organ, it is commonly cited that we absorb about 60% of what we put on our skin – from sunscreen to body wash. If the majority of chemicals on our skin end up in our blood stream, it is easy to understand why we should be careful about what we choose for our health and beauty products.

we absorb about 60% of what we put on our skin

On average, a woman is exposed to 168 chemicals before she leaves the house in the morning (think soap, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, lotion, cosmetics), according to the Environmental Working Group. When combining the amount of products we are exposed to with the fact that many may have harmful chemical ingredients, it paints a concerning picture.

In the U.S., Safe Cosmetics points out that we only ban 11 harmful chemicals from personal care products. It may not be enough – especially if you consider Europe bans more than 1,300 chemicals from these same products. Furthermore, the standard for “organic” label claims on body care products is tricky:

“For many years organic companies were looking for an acceptable organic standard by which personal care products could be evaluated. While personal care products making organic claims such as “100% organic,” “organic” and “made with organic” are eligible for review under programs such as the USDA National Organic Program (NOP), because traditional organic regulations were designed for food, they cannot be applied to some personal care products like soaps and lotions, which have non-food ingredients and go through different manufacturing processes.” (NSF)

Proactive natural retailers like Whole Foods have created a List of Unacceptable Ingredients for Body Care Products including phthalates, microbeads, triclosan, BHT, BHA, aluminum chlorohydrate, and many more. Why did they do this? For example, phthalates are considered to be endocrine disruptors because of their complex effects on several hormonal systems including the estrogen and androgen hormone systems (Breast Cancer Fund). Although these substances are technically permitted in our body care products by law – do you want your body to absorb a potential hormone disrupter? When it comes to my skin and blood stream, I’d rather be cautious.

Taking it a step further, let’s say we avoid the unacceptable ingredients. Does that mean the product is organic? No. In the natural body care product segment, there is a whole spectrum of products with pros and cons. Given our modern-day beauty standards and hygiene etiquette, here are some additional compelling reasons to choose organic:

  • Support the Organic Industry: Incorporating organic personal care and non-food products into your purchases helps to advance the industry as a whole. If the demand for organic products goes up, the entire organic industry will grow – from food to cotton. In essence, you are choosing the type of farming you want the world to use by voting with your dollar.
  • Better for the Environment:  As the website It’s Worth It points out, “Because they are produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, organic personal care products help prevent against damage to valuable water resources, protect species diversity, and combat climate change.” Organic farming practices help preserve our earth.
  • Less Likely to Have Harmful Chemicals: While it is important to take into consideration the full ingredient list, organic products generally have cleaner, less-toxic chemicals than their conventional products.

Organic Trade Association reports that organic nonfood items (think fabrics, personal care, and household cleaning supplies) rose +13% from 2015 compared to the previous year, up to $3.6 billion in sales. Given the positive impact on the industry, environment, and your body, it makes sense that organic skin and personal products will continue to grow. It is important to safeguard your largest organ, after all!

Comment below: What are some of your favorite organic body care products?

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About The Author

Melody Meyer's picture

Melody is the Vice President of Policy and Industry Relations for United Natural Foods (UNFI). In this role she is responsible for communicating and educating all stakeholders on critical organic issues. Her Blog www.organicmattersblog.com covers a range of organic and sustainable food issues.

She is the executive director of the UNFI Foundation which is dedicated to funding non-profit organizations that promote organic agriculture  www.unfifoundation.org. Melody serves as Secretary of the Board of Directors for the Organic Trade Association www.ota.com.

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