There’s no doubt that buying organic has become a major trend, not only when it comes to food and drink, but also in regard to body care products. Grand View Research reports that in 2015 organic personal care product sales reached approximately $10.16 billion; $3 billion of that total was spent on organic skin care.
But how can you be sure that the ingredients listed on a product labeled organic are indeed organic? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), mandates that products claiming to be organic must be certified and only such products are allowed to bear the familiar green and white USDA Organic label.
However, the USDA does not have oversight regarding organics when it pertains to body care products, unless the term applies to agricultural products, per the National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, which “develops rules and regulations for the production, handling, labeling and enforcement of all USDA organic products.”
The regulation states that “If a cosmetic, body care product, or personal care product contains or is made up of agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards, it may be eligible to be certified under the NOP regulations.”
Products that meet certification requirements fall into four categories: 100 percent organic; organic (at least 95 percent of ingredients must be organically produced); made with organic ingredients (product must contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients); and products with fewer than 70 percent organic ingredients are not allowed to use the organic label, however, they may identify specific ingredients that are USDA-certified organically produced on the information label.
Ecocert ICO, accredited by the USDA, originally focused on certifying agricultural products, including production and operations that produce items to be labeled organic. More recently, Ecocert expanded its range to include cosmetics.
Ecocert standards aim to ensure that ingredients come from renewable resources and contain no genetically modified organisms (GMOs), “parabens, phenoxyethanol, nanoparticles, silicon, PEG (polyethylene glycol), synthetic perfumes and dyes, animal-derived ingredients.”
Additionally, the manufacturing process for organic ingredients must be environmentally friendly and “ … 95 percent of all plant-based ingredients in the formula and a minimum of ten percent of all ingredients by weight must come from organic farming.”
Many massage therapists are knowledgeable about the dangers of chemicals, additives and preservatives and so are choosing to use organic products on their clients. Brennan Kirby, independent therapist in Statesville, North Carolina, says,“ … the client benefits from organic products because they are good for the body, both inside and out.”
She adds, “They are easier for the skin to absorb and you don’t have to worry that they will cause a reaction on your client.”
Christine Tauer, owner of Honu Therapeutic Massage in St. Paul, Minnesota, believes in providing minimal exposure to harmful ingredients for her clients. She carefully examines labels to understand the ingredients and find their source.
“I look at the ingredients to see if there are any parabens, chemicals or words that I cannot pronounce. I also check to see if they are tested on animals, and, as for the source, fair trade would also be great,” she says.
“I look for coconut base versus a nut oil, just in case I have a client with allergies,” Tauer continues. “It is less likely they are allergic to coconuts than nuts. I also make sure there is no fragrance in the oil. I can add organic oils separately if I need to.”
Cost and Reward
Organic products may cost more than non-organic creams, oils and lotions. According to Tauer, the “ … more pure or better the ingredients, the more expensive it can get.” She also points out that clients may not know and appreciate the value of using organic products on the skin.
“With this being said, sometimes I question if it is worth the cost of organic oils if it makes no difference to the client,” she says, “but then I remember that I am doing it for myself as well.
“As massage therapists, we are trained to do no harm and to me massage with chemicals can be harmful,” she continues. “Your skin is your largest organ, and what you put on it is absorbed into your body.”
According to Tauer, massage is part of living a healthy lifestyle, and so is using organic products. “More massage therapists should consider doing the same, not just for themselves, but also for their clients,” she says.
About the Author
Phyllis Hanlon has written nonfiction articles and book reviews as well as human-interest stories, profiles and award-winning essays. Her specialty areas include health and medicine, religion, education and business. She regularly delights in the joys of massage. She has written many articles for MASSAGE Magazine, including “Create a Brand and Gain Clients with Private-Label Products” and “Peppermint Oil Puts the Holiday in Massage.”