askST: How do you determine if organic cosmetics are organic?

Reader Kelly Ho wrote in to askST: "How do you determine organic cosmetics are organic? What are the requirements?"

Style reporter Melissa Heng checked with the experts for the answer.

There are no industry standards or regulations for the use of the term "organic" on cosmetic products.

Generally, organic cosmetic ingredients are those that come from organic plants. Organic plants are loosely defined as crops that are grown with only natural fertilisers and pesticides.

However, because there is no official global definition of what is "organic", a crop which is classified organic in one country may not be categorised as such in another.

So how can consumers assess if something is truly organic?

Dr Roland Chu, associate consultant at the National Skin Centre, says there are several certification organisations around the world, such as the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), that have certain minimum standards in order for products to be certified organic.

To identify organic certified products, consumers can look for products with "certified organic" seals. For example, products certified by USDA will display the "USDA Organic" seal.

In an article published in The Straits Times in November 2015, Dr Alain Khaiat, president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association of Singapore stated that other certifying companies consumers can trust include Cosmos, EcoCert, Natrue, NSF and BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics.

"Look out for their logos on the labels. And make sure the certification logo applies to the entire product and not just one ingredient in it," says Dr Khaiat.

At the end of the day, are organic cosmetics better than non-organic products?

Dr Chu says the short answer is no.

"There is no robust evidence that organic products are better for your skin than non-organic or synthetic ones. Whether the ingredients are organically grown or not will have no bearing on how they affect your skin."

This article was first published on July 5, 2016.
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