The brand assessment study was carried out by a chartered chemist to examine the ingredients used in the formulations and compare them with the marketing claims.
The project looked at a cross-spectrum of product sub-categories, including certified organic, pure natural, naturally inspired and conventional cosmetics to find out how natural the product formulations really are.
Organic Monitor says that its findings indicate that the formulations of most natural brands are not meeting their marketing claims, although there is a significant discrepancy according to the market positioning of the product.
Certified products come out on top
The research project rated certified cosmetics highest, with a 9 – 10 rating, pure cosmetics with a 5 – 7 rating, naturally inspired with a 2 rating, while conventional cosmetics came in last with a weak 1 rating.
However, although certified cosmetics got the highest ratings, the Organic Monitor research pointed to the fact that although these products contained organically certified ingredients, many have synthetic ingredients that are not deemed to be of natural or organic origin.
Despite the finding, the research report still recommends that companies should take the certification route, as standards such as BDIH, Soil Association and Ecocert provide a clear set of criteria for formulators to follow in order to make valid natural and organic claims.
Criticism of fair trade schemes
In contrast, the research report does aim some criticism at fair trade schemes, specifically criticizing some fair trade organizations for allowing companies to be fair trade certified if their products contain a minimum level of fair trade ingredients.
The study states that the fair trade logo can lead consumers to believe they are buying into ‘pure natural’ products, despite the formulas sometimes having low natural ingredient ratings.
Likewise, the report also points to the fact that there is disparity within different geographical regions, with European brands scoring highest because of early certification adoption, while North American brands come in second.
Asian and Latin American brands score low
Asian and Latin American brands were rated last, mainly because they often fall short on account of high levels of synthetic ingredients.
“Many Asian companies are not accustomed to using the new palette of green ingredients, preferring to use familiar synthetics in their formulations,” said Judi Beerling, head of technical research at Organic Monitor.
Looking at specific brands, the research found that smaller independent companies did well, with Intelligent Nutrients coming out on top with a 9 rating, Green People having an 8 rating, while Living Nature had a 7 rating.
However, new brands launched by the big multi-nationals also scored well, with L’Oreal’s Garnier Bio Active, Henkel’s Diadermine Bio Expertise and J&J’s Natural brands all getting high naturalness ratings.