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.

In 2009, an American National Standard known as NSF/ANSI 305: Personal Care Products Containing Organic Ingredients was created. This standard defines both production and labeling requirements for personal care products containing organic ingredients.

NSF “contains organic ingredients” standard

The NSF “contains organic ingredients” standard covers a variety of products intended for external use on any part of the body, including:

  • Cosmetics, e.g., foundation and lipstick
  • Rinse-off and leave-on personal care products, including moisturizers and lotions
  • Personal hygiene products, such as soaps, shower gels and bath beads

While other standards exist, the NSF “contains organic ingredients” standard is the only American National Standard for personal care products making organic ingredient claims. To become certified to this standard, products must undergo a thorough review by an independent organic certification organization to verify that a manufacturer’s product formulation contains at least 70 percent organic content by weight.

Similar to the NOP regulations for other organic products, the NSF “contains organic ingredients” standard has specific requirements for organic ingredient, material, process and production specifications. One major difference is that NSF/ANSI 305 allows for some limited chemical processing necessary to create personal care products. For example, soaps containing organic ingredients are permitted to undergo chemical processing known as saponification, without which these products could not lather. However, such processing would not normally be permitted under traditional organic regulations.

The NSF “contains organic ingredients” standard also includes labeling requirements, such as a mandate that certified products state the exact percentage of organic content on the label.

When shopping for cosmetics or other personal care products claiming to contain organic ingredients, check if the products have been certified to NSF/ANSI 305. Certification to this standard provides verification that the product labeling information is accurate and that the product truly contains at least 70 percent organic ingredients by weight.