ISO 16128 – The future of natural and organic cosmetics

For the past five years, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) has been discussing harmonized criteria and definitions for natural and organic cosmetics. On the 11th November, the first part of the ISO 16128 – which defines the technical definitions and criteria for natural and organic cosmetic ingredients and products – was finally approved for publishing.

In recent years, consumers have shown an increasing interest in purchasing “green”, “sustainable”, “natural”, or “organic” products, normally associated with the low presence or absence of chemicals. This tendency has also reflected in the EU market, and has pushed the beauty Industry and skincare sector to adapt, resulting in an increasing number of “natural or organic” claims in cosmetic product labelling.

According to the EU Regulations EC 1223/2009 and EU 655/2013, “every claim present in a product label shall be supported by adequate and verifiable evidence”. However, the different existing standards for natural and organic products are not widely accepted by every Competent Authority, which makes these claims very difficult to prove.

ISO 16128

“The purpose of these guidelines is to encourage a wider choice of natural and organic ingredients in the formulation of a diverse variety of cosmetic products to encourage innovation.”

The ISO 16128 standards are divided into two parts: ISO 16128-1 and ISO 16128-2.

The first part has been approved by ISO member states and is currently under publication, and establishes definitions for natural and organic cosmetic ingredients.

The second part states the criteria for ingredients and products, and is still under discussion by the ISO member states.

Even though these cosmetics guidelines may prove a big step towards a long-awaited harmonised definition for natural and organic cosmetics, ISO 16128 does not yet provide any information on substantiation of claims for these types of products or ingredients. This means that, so far, there is no clear designation of when a cosmetic product is considered “natural” or “organic”.

Next steps

Until both parts of the ISO standards are approved and published, the status for classifying these products remains the same.

Considering that ISO has no direct relation to the European Commission or its institutions, there will still be a need for discussion on these standards on a European level before their adoption.

The cosmetics industry and their designated Responsible Persons shall closely follow the developments of the International Organization for Standardization and European Commission to ensure their product regulatory compliance with product safety regulations.

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