The word organic on wood background

Know What is in Your Massage Creams

Consumers’ purchase of organic food and personal-care products is increasing, but when it comes to massage creams, therapists need to be aware of what the term organic really means.


Organic Sales

“Organic products are now available in nearly 20,000 natural food stores and nearly three out of four conventional grocery stores,” notes a statement on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, which adds, “[o]rganic sales account for over four percent of total U.S. food sales, according to recent industry statistics.”

Also, a report titled “Organic Personal Care Products Market for Skin Care, Hair Care, Oral Care and Cosmetics—Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth Trends and Forecast, 2012–2018,” published by Transparency Market Research, showed that demand for global personal-care products worldwide was expected to grow from $7.6 billion in 2012 to $13.2 billion in 2018.


Understanding Standards

In the U.S., the USDA is the most prominent organic labeling organization. When certifying producers to their organic standards they say, “organic operations must demonstrate that they are protecting natural resources, conserving biodiversity, and using only approved substances.”

This statement is aligned with statements made by the European Council of Agricultural Ministers in their 2007 organic labeling guidelines. Those guidelines say, “Organic production respects natural systems and cycles. Biological and mechanical production processes and land-related production should be used to achieve sustainability.”

While standards and certification processes differ by governing body, the similarities include a focus on biodiversity, animal welfare, use of approved materials (such as certain pesticides), and regular inspections.


Look for USDA Labeling

As a massage therapist, you may offer or be curious about using organic creams in your practice, especially since consumers are increasingly aware of these products. But what exactly does the word organic mean in regard to this particular product type—and how can you find the best organic massage creams?

According to Jean Shea, formulator and owner of BIOTONE, if you purchase an organic massage cream, you can typically expect it to contain “at least 70 percent organic ingredients once the water is subtracted from the formula.”

This means companies cannot add more water to their products solely to be able to label them organic. Information in the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) cosmetics brochure supports Shea’s statement, noting that salt, in addition to water, is subtracted from the formula.

The USDA regulates organic labeling for agricultural products only. When a massage cream contains agricultural ingredients, it can be certified by the NOP’s regulations. The cream can then be considered for one of four available labels:

  • “100 percent organic”
  • “Organic”
  • “Made with organic ingredients”
  • “Less than 70 percent organic”

The percentages here include all ingredients in the massage creams. This means that since non-agricultural ingredients are unregulated by the NOP, they are included in the percentage of non-organic ingredients in that product.

Shea said it is important to realize statements such as “enriched with organic ingredients” and “contains organic ingredients” do not necessarily mean a product is entirely organic. Instead, such statements simply mean the product has organic ingredients in it, which isn’t the same thing.

To be certain about a product’s status, look for USDA certified organic labeling, or check the product’s ingredients list to find out which individual ingredients are organic.


Finding the Right Creams

Shea recommends that massage therapists interested in buying organic shop with a company they trust. If you’re not sure which massage-creams companies to put your faith in, research their product lines and read their customer reviews. Choose a company with a great reputation among other massage therapists.

When in doubt, ask. Most company representatives are happy to talk about their products. Ask for ingredient lists, or ask what percentage of ingredients are organic. Find out everything you want to know that will enable you to use the cream confidently. You will also be better able to discuss that information with clients, should they ask.


Benefits of Using Organic Creams

There are many benefits to using organic massage creams on clients, Shea said, one being that they are less likely to cause allergic reactions, since the use of pesticides on their ingredients is limited. This can be a great selling point for a client who is prone to breaking out or has extremely sensitive skin.

Branding your practice is an important part of running a successful business. By associating your image with ideas and wording tied to organic labeling—“clean” and “sustainable,” for example—you may create an opportunity to reach a wider audience. Providing organic choices can help develop client loyalty among those who prefer and seek out these products.

“Strong awareness about the efficacy of organic personal care products and lifestyle changes are key drivers in [the U.S.],” noted Cosmetics & Toiletries Science Applied, in a synopsis of the Transparency Market Research report.


Knowledge is Power

The world of organic labeling can quickly become overwhelming without the right information. Become familiar with USDA labeling standards, and be aware that other standards exist. Doing the initial research on the brands you like to use will set you up for success when using creams and discussing them with your clients.