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Understanding Cosmetic Label Claims
Do you
really know what you’re buying when you choose a product labeled as hypoallergenic
and allergy tested? Or natural and organic? We have been programmed to think
that if a label has these claims, the product must be safe and superior. But
this is not necessarily true. There are many misleading cosmetic label claims and
you should know what to look out for.
The hypoallergenic and allergy tested claims imply that the products are less likely to
cause allergic reactions than others.  Unfortunately, the claims are largely
unverified, as most countries have no existing regulations on their use.
To understand the
absence of regulations, let’s go back to 1975. That year, the U.S. FDA issued a
regulation requiring companies with hypoallergenic claim to conduct clinical trials
on human subjects. The scientific studies should show that their product
caused a significantly lower rate of adverse skin reactions than similar products
not making such claim. The manufacturers of Almay and Clinique contested the FDA
regulation, reaching the U.S. Court of Appeals, which subsequently ruled that
the FDA requirement is invalid.
The Philippines FDA
requires manufacturers to substantiate any hypoallergenic claim, but like in
most countries, there is no clear standard on what kind of evidence is required.  To support the hypoallergenic claim,
manufacturers generally avoid the use of fragrances and paraben preservatives,
the culprits in most cases of cosmetic allergic reactions. It is good that
listing of ingredients on cosmetic labels is now required, so you will be
Organic ingredients are defined as natural, plant-based extracts produced
from farms that do not use synthetic 
pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and are not processed using
chemical solvents or additives.
For a cosmetic product claiming to be
organic, look for the stamp from any one of the following certification bodies
in the world. Each body has its own set of standards.
The Australian Certified Organic (AOC)
stamp requires 95% or more certified organic ingredients with the remaining 5%
being restricted to natural ingredients. AOC has the most stringent
DERMAX Squalane Oil
has ECOCERT seal. 

The US
Department of Agriculture (USDA)
organic logo sets a minimum of 95% certified organic content
(excluding water and salt). The remaining 5% can include non-natural
ingredients. The word ‘organic’ can be used on products with a minimum of 70%
organic ingredients, but these products are not permitted to display the USDA
organic seal.

ECOCERT is the European standard for organic labeling.
In 2003, it became the first body to set standards for organic and natural
natural and organic seal requires a minimum of 95% plant-based ingredients with
at least 10% of all ingredients coming from organic farming. The natural stamp
is allowed with a minimum of 50% plant-based ingredients with 5% of all
ingredients certified as organic.
NATRUE is a Belgian based organic cosmetic
certification body. It specifies at least 95% of the product’s natural
ingredients “must come from controlled organic cultivation and/or controlled
wild collection”. Note that the requirement is not to have 95 per cent organic
ingredients – just that 95 per cent of the natural ingredients used must be
In the Philippines, there is still no
standard set by any independent or legal body for organic claims in cosmetic

This was published in the July 24, 2012 issue of Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Section. The author is the CEO of SkinStation. He received the 2011 Outstanding Chemist Award from Professional Regulations Commission for his achievements in the field of cosmetic chemistry. He can be reached at

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