What is organic beauty?

I’m returning to first principles this week, with a longish reply to a simple question.

I’m returning to first principles this week, with a longish reply to the simple enough question: what is organic beauty?

Why not start by looking for the Cosmos or Soil Association symbol before you buy a product? Alongside four other European certification bodies, the Soil Association has developed the Cosmetics Organic Standard, or Cosmos, to harmonise organic standards globally.

The first products certified to these new standards went on sale in 2011. To get Cosmos organic certification, 95% of a product’s agro-ingredients and 20% of the entire product must be organic. The remaining ingredients must meet strict criteria to ensure that they are not damaging to our health or the environment.

What is more, these products also have to meet environmental standards for packaging and manufacturing, and use approved "green chemistry" processes when modifying any ingredients.

The Soil Association will not certify any product with less than 70% organic ingredients. If you think about processing methods and the prevalence of GM, this is vital - particularly if you seek to avoid them.

If a product has between 70% and 95% organic agro-ingredients, they will certify it. But it should not claim to be organic; instead, it can state that it is made with "xx% organic ingredients".

Lastly, a product can be called organic in the product name only where 95% of the ingredients - excluding water - are organic.

Anyone in doubt can also recap on what to avoid.

Many brands go to great lengths to explain what is not in their range. This has always struck me as peculiar; can you imagine such a thing in a restaurant - for example, no battery hens in our menu?

A great number of very ethical smaller brands, however, start out without being fully certified. So don’t dismiss them out of hand and use your judgement.

I wandered through London Road Open Market and it has really improved down there. Apart from buying enormous organic tomatoes, I also zeroed in on a PGT newcomer. Shaloah natural skin care have a range of gorgeous handmade moisturisers, serums, and body oils on their little stall. I’ll update more on their story when I have tried some out.