Organic cosmetic labels: how to find your way around?

Natural cosmetics, ecological, organic? So many names without knowing their real meaning. Here is a small guide to decipher the most common organic cosmetic labels on the market and the guarantees they offer. Essential and vegetable oils also have their own labels that you can find on this article. A label is a collective mark dependent on a private or public association. Each label is associated with a set of specifications to which the products must comply, a logo and a certification body, which carries out controls within the companies in order to deliver or not the certification and allow them to affix the logo on the products concerned. A certification body can issue several certifications: its own label if it has one, as well as others with a more international scope such as NaTrue or Cosmos, as long as the specifications of each are respected.

French labels

Nature et Progrès

The Nature & Progrès association has been one of the precursor organizations of organic agriculture in France and Europe since 1964. Their label aims to promote an agriculture that respects the living and is at the forefront of development. Their specifications are one of the most demanding in that products bearing this label must:

  • Be obtained 100% from biological components,
  • Not contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs),
  • Not contain synthetic chemicals,
  • Contain only non-toxic preservativesand of natural origin.

To obtain the label, 70% of the products marketed by the company must meet these criteria and it must guarantee a willingness to move towards 100%.


This French association has been affixing its logo since 2002 on products following a charter guaranteeing three commitments: the respect of the manufacturing techniques of natural and organic cosmetics as well as that of Humans, nature and animals. Finally, it reports on responsible and transparent communication throughout the life cycle of the cosmetic product.
The composition of organic cosmetic products must meet the following criteria:

  • 95% minimum of natural origin ingredients on the total product (water and minerals considered natural),
  • 95% minimum of organic ingredients on all vegetables,
  • 10% minimum of organic ingredients on the total of the product (water and minerals considered as non organic because not from the living)


This certification and control organization approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is probably the best known in France. Since 2003, thanks to its specifications established with many actors of the cosmetic industry, Ecocert certifies products according to two criteria

  1. The use of ingredients from renewable resources and transformed by environmentally friendly processes: absence of GMOs, parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicone, PEG, synthetic fragrances and dyes, ingredients from animals (except those naturally produced by them: milk, honey...), recyclable or biodegradable packaging.
  2. A minimum threshold of natural and organically grown ingredients to be included in the composition of the product.

Ingredients such as water, salts and minerals cannot be certified organic according to this standard because they are not produced by organic farming. There are two distinct mentions which are differentiated by the organic percentage obtained by the product:

  • Organic cosmetics:

- 95% minimum of the total ingredients must be natural or of natural origin,

- 95% minimum of the ingredients plant in the formula must be from organic farming,

minimum of the of the ingredients must be from the .

  • Eco-friendly cosmetics:

- 95% minimum of the total ingredients must be natural or of natural origin,
- 50% minimum of the ingredientsplant in the formula must be organically grown,
- 5% minimum of the total ingredients must be from organic farming.

Quality France

The Qualité France label is issued by the French certification body Bureau Veritas Certification. The latter certifies products and raw materialsnot tested on animalswithin the limits allowed by the regulations. The ingredients must also not come from animal materials. This logo alone on your product provides very little guarantees.
However, members who are both members of the Cosmébio association can also obtain the Qualité France certification. In this case, the organic cosmetic products you consume respect the same specifications as the one mentioned above that is to say:

  • 95% minimum of natural origin ingredients on the total product (water and minerals considered natural),
  • 95% minimum of organic ingredients on all vegetables,
  • 10% minimum of organic ingredients on the total of the product (water and minerals considered as non organic because not from the living)

Other national labels

Soil Association

This label, established by a UK association certifies products that have a simple formula with organically grown ingredients, grown without OGM or herbicides or synthetic fertilizers. Their processing and manufacturing must be as ecological as possible. In addition, the specifications introduce a list of prohibited chemical ingredients sensitive to altering human health or the environment.
In particular, parabens, silicones, petrochemical derivatives,formaldehyde releasers, tensioactives, colors and synthetic fragrances are included. Hydrosols and water are not counted in the organic percentage.
If the latter is greater than 95% then the product is certified "organic". Otherwise we find the mention "made with X% organic" with X > 70%.


BDIH is the German Federal Association of Companies and Trade for Medicines, Food Supplements and Cosmetics. This organization controls and issues certifications to manufacturers of natural cosmetics through an ethical charter. The latter advocates the protection of nature, the careful processing of raw materials involving few chemical processes and the use of substances with low allergenic potential.
Its specifications involve the exclusion of:

  • animal testing
  • raw materials that have involved the death of the animals producing it (e.g. whale spawn)
  • mineral oils, silicone and its derivatives
  • synthetic dyes and perfumes
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
  • conservation by radioactive radiation and the use of dangerous preservatives
  • washing and emulsifying bases obtained from heavy chemical processes such as ethoxylation.

A product is certified BDIH if it has aleast 95% organic ingredients not including water and minerals.

International labels


The Cosmos label stems from a desire of the national organizations in charge of certification to harmonize their criteria in order to simplify the identification of organic cosmetic products in stores. The founders of this project are BDIH, Cosmébio, Ecocert, the Soil Association and ICEA (an Italian organization), this association is located in Brussels and its reference system implies respecting more ecological formulation and packaging criteria.
Only physically and chemically transformed agro-ingredients are certifiable during the calculation of the organic fraction. Water and ingredients of mineral origin are therefore not included. Ultimately, the goal of the COSMetic Organic Standard is to replace national labels so that consumers can recognize organic cosmetics on an international scale. There are two types of certification:

  • COSMOS ORGANIC : This certification requires :
- minimum of on the total of the product (10% for the products to be rinsed and the water and the minerals not considered as organic because not stemming from the living)

  • COSMOS NATURAL: This certification is for products composed of natural ingredients (e.g. clays). The percentage of natural origin is calculated as (mass of finished product - mass of non-natural ingredients - mass of petrochemical grafts) / (mass of all ingredients)*100. No minimum organic percentage is imposed but the mention "x % organic of the total" can be added.


Like the Cosmos standard, NaTrue certification emanates from a desire to harmonize the various labels. To obtain the certification, 75% of the products in a series of the brand or sub-brand must meet the label's requirements. No artificial ingredients are tolerated and water is not certifiable to avoid misleading consumers about the content of natural components. This certification designates three levels depending on the composition of the products:

  • Natural cosmetics: They must have a minimum content of natural substances and a maximum content of processed substances of natural origin according to the ingredient categories established in the standard. This is the lowest level of certification.
  • Partly Organic Natural Cosmetics: Natural substances of plant or animal origin must be at least 70% from organically grown crops controlled and certified by an approved organization.
  • Organic cosmetics: Natural substances of plant or animal origin must be at least 95% from organically grown crops controlled and certified by an approved organization.

What about the animals in all this?

It should be noted that since 2004 following the European Directive 76/768/EEC, it is prohibited to market in the European Union cosmetic products previously tested on animals. There are now many alternatives such as in vitro testing, computer modeling as well as skin culture to test products.
This measure has been extended since 2013 to the raw materials that go into the composition of cosmetic products, thanks to Cosmetic Regulation No. 1223/2009. However, some of them are governed by the REACH regulation on substances used in the chemical industry, which does not prohibit animal testing.
The problem for the world of beauty lies particularly in the imported and exported products. Indeed, in countries like China, a cosmetic product must necessarily have been tested on animals in order to be sold. The majority of large groups and companies wishing to expand their market in these trade zones must comply with local regulations and therefore perform animal testing.

Labels have been created for products or brands with a willingness to display theiropposition to animal testing. In light of current regulations, the most relevant are those that introduce in their specifications the prohibition of sales in countries imposing animal testing. On the other hand, many do not guarantee the organic quality of the ingredients or the frequency of the controls carried out.

Cruelty free - Cruelty free & vegan

The labeling of Cruelty free products was initiated by the famous association PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) which fights against violence towards animals. These products and the brand that markets them are guaranteed "without animal cruelty" both in terms of ingredients, formula, manufacturing and experimentation.

Beware, a Cruelty free product is not necessarily vegan because it may still contain substances of animal origin (wax, honey ...) but conversely a vegan product is logically Cruelty free. PETA has therefore set up another label called Crulty free and Vegan for less confusion. However, these two logos affixed to your products do not specify the organic quality of the ingredients that compose them.

Vegan Society

Vegan certified products have obviously not been tested on animals at any stage of manufacture. This certification also ensures that no ingredient or by-product has any animal origin. However, it does not guarantee the organic quality of the ingredients used nor the absence of animal testing in foreign countries that may be conducted by the group.

Leaping Bunny

The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC) is a union of North American associations that initiated this label. It ensures that companies (manufacturers and suppliers) do not test their ingredients and formulations on animals. They commit to respecting these rules when dealing with foreign markets, which implies not marketing in countries that practice animal testing. However, there is no guarantee of organic quality for the ingredients.

One Voice

This label belongs to an association of the same name created in France in 1995. The purpose of this association is to fight for the respect of life and to denounce the consequences of animal exploitation. The logos below affixed on your cosmetics guarantee ingredients not being tested on animals and not having animal origin except honey, pollen and beeswax.
It is the whole range which can be certified by two types of labeling:

  • Orange: the product is organic.
  • Blue: the product is not organic.

Choose Cruelty Free

Of Australian origin, this association defends the rights of animals notably through the creation of a label supporting the mention "Not Tested on Animals". Like the two previous certifications, the holders of this logo are referred to a list and commit themselves to adopt an ethic without animal cruelty. Accredited companies produce products that have not been tested on animals at any stage of manufacture and must exclude countries that require animal testing from their market.