Whereas the term 'organic' is legally defined and requires approval by an authorized certification program, the term 'natural' is not legally defined and not regulated by an authority anywhere in the world. Thus, the claim 'natural product' can be made by anyone as there is no legal protection. One of the reasons for this legal loophole is that there is no generally accepted definition of 'natural' and, consequently, many have different opinions and views.

Thus, a natural product can contain only pure, unprocessed ingredients occurring in nature (like food-based cosmetics made of eggs, extracts etc.), or chemically processed ingredients made of ingredients originally derived from natural products (e.g. stearic acid, potassium sorbate etc.), or also synthetically produced ingredients made exactly the same way as they occur in nature (e.g. vitamins).

However, various private organizations (primarily in Europe) have developed standards and minimum requirements what natural cosmetics should or should not be made of. These standards may be more or less strict and cosmetic manufacturers can apply for approval and receive certification if their products meet these standards.


COSMOS Standard

COSMOS (COSMetic Organic Standard) is a Europe-wide private standard that was developed by five charters members including BDIH (Germany), Cosmebio (France), Ecocert Greenlife SAS (France), ICEA (Italy), and Soil Association (Great Britain). COSMOS makes use of the principles in the Ecocert standard. The standard includes various definitions and covers the origin and processing of ingredients, composition of the product, storage, manufacturing and packaging, and also environmental aspects (COSMOS Standard).

Requirements for Natural Certification (summarized):

  • Must be labeled with the term ‘COSMOS-NATURAL’
  • Must indicate on the label the body responsible for certification or control of manufacture
  • Must indicate organic ingredients and those made from organic raw materials only in INCI list
  • May indicate the percentage of organic origin ingredients by weight in the total product
  • Must not make any claim relating to organic ingredients (or percentages) on front of packaging


NATRU Standard

NATRU (International Natural and Organic Cosmetics Association) is an international non-profit association headquartered in Brussels, Belgium. The organization's goal is to promote and protect natural beauty and skin care products. Companies can apply for NATRUE formula approval by submitting their formulation for verification by a NATRUE approved certifier. For Natural Certification the NATRU standard requires that every submitted finished product must fully comply with the criteria and at least 75% of the entire product range/brand must be certified.

Requirements for Natural Approval:

  • No synthetic fragrances and colors
  • No petroleum derived products (parafines, peg, -propyl-, -alkyl-, etc.)
  • No silicone oils and derivatives
  • No genetically modified ingredients (complying with EU organic regulation)
  • No irradiation of end product and botanical ingredients
  • Products must not be tested on animals


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