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Natural Personal Care

To protect and equip consumers to maximize their well being, NPA developed the Natural Standard and Certification for Personal Care Products, a set of guidelines that dictate whether a product can be deemed truly “natural.” The standard encompasses all cosmetic personal care products regulated and defined by the FDA.

The Essence of the NPA Natural Standard

The NPA Natural Standard is based on natural ingredients, safety, responsibility and sustainability.

  • Natural Ingredients: A product labeled “natural” should be made up of only, or at least almost only, natural ingredients and be manufactured with appropriate processes to maintain ingredient purity.
  • Safety: A product labeled “natural” should avoid any ingredient with a suspected human health risk.
  • Responsibility: A product labeled “natural” should use no animal testing in its development.
  • Sustainability: A product labeled “natural” should use biodegradable ingredients and the most environmentally sensitive packaging.

Under the Natural Standard for Personal Care Products, allowed ingredients come from or are made from a renewable resource found in nature (flora, fauna, mineral), with absolutely no petroleum compounds.

For each ingredient, the substance must be listed as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the FDA when used in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and contain no residues of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances set by the FDA or the EPA or has been reviewed using criteria in this standard. NPA has developed the NPA Illustrative List as a reference document for the NPA Natural Standard and Certification Program.

The Illustrative List lists ingredients that may be allowed for products certified under the NPA Natural Standard because they meet the NPA definition of natural or they are allowed synthetics under the NPA Natural Standard. This list is not definitive and even though an ingredient is included on this list, it may not be accepted in all available forms. For example, an ingredient on the list may be available in both a natural (or natural sourced) form and synthetic (or synthetic sourced) form. In these cases, only those from the natural sources would be allowed.

To determine if an ingredient is appropriate for a NPA-Certified Natural Product, manufacturers must evaluate the ingredient to assure that it is made with raw materials from natural sources, verify it has been manufactured using the allowed ecological processes outlined in the NPA Natural Standard, and that the ingredient does not contain any prohibited substances identified in the Natural Standard. Manufacturers and retailers can find the definition of Natural, and a list description of allowed and prohibited ingredients and processes within the appendix of the Natural Standard for Personal Care Products. For a list of allowed commonly used ingredients, refer to the NPA Illustrative List.

The Natural Standard for Personal Care Products requires that companies be transparent, fully disclosing their ingredients accurately and truthfully. They should strive to maximize their use of recyclable and post-consumer recycled content in packaging. And no animal testing of ingredients or products is allowed. Companies must also provide verifiable information regarding all company personal care products to confirm that 60 percent of the personal care products in that brand line meet the NPA Natural Standard requirements.

What the NPA Natural Seal Means for You

Consumers: The standard will help you become more educated about ingredients and processes considered natural. It gives consumers the information you need to easily identify which personal care products meet the standard for natural, and make the best decisions when choosing products.

Industry: The NPA Natural Standard for Personal Care Products will help you produce and bring to market personal care products that meet the definition of natural created by the industry’s oldest and largest trade association for natural products. It gives manufacturers, suppliers and retailers the information and tools you need to maintain high levels of consistency among products labeled “natural,” as well as inform consumers about how to identify truly natural personal care products.

Useful Links

For Further Reading:

Navigating the Cosmetic Label: What Does It Really Mean?

Browsing the shelves of personal care products, it would be hard to miss the labels claiming “no parabens, phthalates, SLS, etc…” What does it mean and is it all just a marketing ploy?

Parabens have been a hot topic for years and for good reason: they are cheap, synthetic ingredients used to prevent microbial growth. Unfortunately, parabens mimic estrogen in the body, possibly leading to the rise in genital abnormalities in boys, early puberty in girls, and development of breast cancer. In fact, there is enough concern that manufacturers have found alternatives because they don’t want to risk it.

Phthalates might not be listed on the label but companies love to market that they don’t use them. Why is this? Phthalates are nasty little compounds that find their way into hundreds of products; specifically fragrances, nail polishes and hair sprays. They are endocrine disrupters and studies have shown they cause reduced sperm count and have been linked to liver cancer. Companies are doing their part to ensure these synthetic compounds don’t show up in their products.

Formaldehyde Donors – you might see it on a label as Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin, or Diazolidinyl Urea – are preservatives that work by releasing formaldehyde. When I hear formaldehyde, I think back to science class and the embalmed frog lying on the lab bench. Depending on the level of exposure, formaldehyde is toxic, allergenic and carcinogenic. There are all sorts of limitations on its use and because of this most manufacturers take the safe route and avoid it all together.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) or Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) have sparked a lot of controversy during the past few years. These surfactants are what cause foaming in shampoo, toothpastes and cleansers. SLS can cause skin and eye irritation. SLES is the less-irritating version but undergoes a synthetic process called ethoxylation, which can produce 1,4-dioxane – another carcinogen – as a byproduct.

The important question here is, do we even need foam for our cleanser to work? Not necessarily, but some products still have them. The important part is when you’re at the store, looking at a product label, it’s hard to know what to buy. So many consumers say, “I just want to find a product that’s natural or organic.” Is there a way for them to know which products don’t contain these synthetic chemicals without getting a master’s disease in chemistry? Yes, if the product has a third-party certification, like NPA’s Natural Seal or USDA’s organic seal. Look for the seals so you know that you aren’t just paying for marketing, but a truly natural product.

What is Natural in Personal Care?

The Importance of Certification
What’s natural? That depends on who you ask. Over the last 10 plus years, I have worked with no less than 8 groups working on definitions and/or standards development for natural and organic personal care. All of the groups had one thing in common — to come up with a sensible definition for natural personal care that was real, authentic, and ultimately protective of the consumer. Some were written in the United States, some in the EU, Japan, Australia, and other places around the world.

One would think all these disparate groups would come up with vastly different definitions, but what always amazes me is how similar all of the standards really are. When authentic members of the natural products community sit face to face to discuss the various definitions, we argue like cats and dogs over the slightest interpretative fault or weakness in any standard, but we have a real passion for what we are doing. Therein lies our common goal. The natural products industry has drawn a line in the sand between the truly natural and the “green-washed” versions of our products.

The best way for a customer or retailer to know for sure if a product is the real deal is to look for a valid certification on the product. There are a number of certifications around that manufacturers can use and that retailers should become familiar with. These certifications not only incite companies to “keep it real” but they also boldly communicate the message to the customer that these companies take consumer demand and concerns to heart.

Let’s face it, in this day and age, with everyone’s time and money in short supply, times are tough and purchase decisions are made quickly and economically. Consumers want good products that may also provide a sense of well-being. How do they know if the products they select are truly natural? They look for the natural certification, find the NPA Natural Seal, and already may feel a little better because they know they have selected a quality, truly natural product.

Natural certification is fast becoming less of a nicety, and more of a standard to incorporate into product development. Customers benefit from purchasing certified products, but the companies that sell them also see the benefits, both to their reputation and to their bottom lines.

By Curt Valva
Aubrey Organics
Winner of the 2012 NPA Industry Champion Award

The Importance of Certification

What’s natural? That depends on who you ask. Over the last 10 plus years, I have worked with no less than 8 groups working on definitions and/or standards development for natural and organic personal care. All of the groups had one thing in common — to come up with a sensible definition for natural personal care that was real, authentic, and ultimately protective of the consumer. Some were written in the United States, some in the EU, Japan, Australia, and other places around the world.

One would think all these disparate groups would come up with vastly different definitions, but what always amazes me is how similar all of the standards really are. When authentic members of the natural products community sit face to face to discuss the various definitions, we argue like cats and dogs over the slightest interpretative fault or weakness in any standard, but we have a real passion for what we are doing. Therein lies our common goal. The natural products industry has drawn a line in the sand between the truly natural and the “green-washed” versions of our products.

The best way for a customer or retailer to know for sure if a product is the real deal is to look for a valid certification on the product. There are a number of certifications around that manufacturers can use and that retailers should become familiar with. These certifications not only incite companies to “keep it real” but they also boldly communicate the message to the customer that these companies take consumer demand and concerns to heart.

Let’s face it, in this day and age, with everyone’s time and money in short supply, times are tough and purchase decisions are made quickly and economically. Consumers want good products that may also provide a sense of well-being. How do they know if the products they select are truly natural? They look for the natural certification, find the NPA Natural Seal, and already may feel a little better because they know they have selected a quality, truly natural product.

Natural certification is fast becoming less of a nicety, and more of a standard to incorporate into product development. Customers benefit from purchasing certified products, but the companies that sell them also see the benefits, both to their reputation and to their bottom lines.

By Curt Valva
Aubrey Organics
Winner of the 2012 NPA Industry Champion Award

Apply for Certification for Personal Care Products & Ingredients

Download: Product Application or Ingredient Application

Audit Protocol

1. Review NPA Natural Standard and Certification Program Materials.

Become familiar with the NPA Natural Standard to determine if all product ingredients are from natural renewable sources (flora, fauna, mineral), free of prohibited substances, and manufactured using only allowed ecological processes listed in the NPA Natural Standard.

2. Submit Application.

Complete the application and all other related documents. The application must be complete and include payment before a product will be sent to the third-party auditor for review. A complete application must include the following applicant information: the completed application, the signed Natural Personal Care Certification Program Agreement a Site Quality Summary for each manufacturing site, a Company Product Matrix, and the Company Product Lines Worksheet. The application packet must also include the following documentation for each product: a copy of the product label; product certification matrix; quantitative formula (raw material breakdown); ingredient documentation including tech/spec sheets, MSDS, COAs and product and/or manufacturing instructions where appropriate; citations of regulatory status for color additives; a signed affidavit attesting to their compliance with existing federal and state laws and regulations; and additional documents as requested by NPA or the auditor. An officer of the company should sign the Natural Personal Care Certification Program Agreement. NPA and the auditing company will sign a confidentiality agreement, if requested.

3. Audit Review Goal.

The goal of the review is to confirm compliance of the product to the Natural Standard and assign a percentage (%) natural to each product reviewed for the Natural Certification Program. The audit is based on a review of the product and ingredient documentation and therefore the documentation must be comprehensive and complete. NPA may request additional information from companies to verify products and ingredients do not contain prohibited substances and are manufactured using only the allowed ecological processes identified in the NPA Natural Standard.

4. Audit Review Process.

During the audit process, all pertinent product and ingredient documentation will be reviewed. If there are outstanding issues with the product, the auditor will notify NPA and NPA will contact the company. The company will address outstanding issues and submit necessary documentation to NPA that confirms that appropriate action has been taken. Once outstanding issues have been addressed, the auditor will complete a review report utilizing NPA’s audit report protocol. Compliance and deficiencies will be evaluated based on the NPA Standard and Certification Program for Natural Personal Care Products requirements. The completed review report and level of compliance (recorded as “% Natural”) to the standard will be forwarded to NPA for review. If the product is at least 95 percent natural based on the audit report findings, NPA will certify the product for two years.

5. Certification and Use of Seal.

NPA will issue a certificate for each product certified Natural under the NPA Natural Program and post the name of the product on the NPA Natural Seal website. NPA will make high-resolution copies of the seal available to those firms meeting the standard. The seal will be used in accord with the terms of use. Firms will notify the Natural Products Association in writing of the products and the representative batch/lot or identifying code which are incorporating the seal within fifteen (15) business days of the product and its representative batch/lot or identifying code being marketed.

Apply for Certification for Personal Care Products

Application available for download

Audit Protocol

  1. Review NPA Natural Standard and Certification Program materials. Become familiar with the NPA Natural Standard to determine if all product ingredients are from natural renewable sources (flora, fauna, mineral), free of prohibited substances, and manufactured using only allowed ecological processes listed in the NPA Natural Standard.
  2. Submit Application. Complete the application and all other related documents. The application must be complete and include payment before a product will be sent to the third-party auditor for review. A complete application must include the following applicant information: the completed application, the signed Natural Personal Care Certification Program Agreement a Site Quality Summary for each manufacturing site, a Company Product Matrix, and the Company Product Lines Worksheet. The application packet must also include the following documentation for each product: a copy of the product label; product certification matrix; quantitative formula (raw material breakdown); ingredient documentation including tech/spec sheets, MSDS, COAs and product and/or manufacturing instructions where appropriate; citations of regulatory status for color additives; a signed affidavit attesting to their compliance with existing federal and state laws and regulations; and additional documents as requested by NPA or the auditor. An officer of the company should sign the Natural Personal Care Certification Program Agreement. NPA and the auditing company will sign a confidentiality agreement, if requested.
  3. Audit Review Goal. The goal of the review is to confirm compliance of the product to the Natural Standard and assign a percentage (%) natural to each product reviewed for the Natural Certification Program. The audit is based on a review of the product and ingredient documentation and therefore the documentation must be comprehensive and complete. NPA may request additional information from companies to verify products and ingredients do not contain prohibited substances and are manufactured using only the allowed ecological processes identified in the NPA Natural Standard.
  4. During the audit process, all pertinent product and ingredient documentation will be reviewed. If there are outstanding issues with the product, the auditor will notify NPA and NPA will contact the company. The company will address outstanding issues and submit necessary documentation to NPA that confirms that appropriate action has been taken. Once outstanding issues have been addressed, the auditor will complete a review report utilizing NPA’s audit report protocol. Compliance and deficiencies will be evaluated based on the NPA Standard and Certification Program for Natural Personal Care Products requirements. The completed review report and level of compliance (recorded as “% Natural”) to the standard will be forwarded to NPA for review. If the product is at least 95 percent natural based on the audit report findings, NPA will certify the product for two years.
  5. Certification and Use of Seal. NPA will issue a certificate for each product certified Natural under the NPA Natural Program and post the name of the product on the NPA Natural Seal website. NPA will make high-resolution copies of the seal available to those firms meeting the standard. The seal will be used in accord with the terms of use. Firms will notify the Natural Products Association in writing of the products and the representative batch/lot or identifying code which are incorporating the seal within fifteen (15) business days of the product and its representative batch/lot or identifying code being marketed.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the process to have my personal care products certified Natural through the Natural Products Association Natural Certification Program?

We recommend you begin by reviewing the Natural Seal website and related program materials including the information about the certification steps. If you decide you are interested in pursuing natural certification for your personal care products, you should review the NPA Natural Standard and Allowed List of Processes and Ingredients to determine if your products fit the criteria established in the Natural Standard. The next step is to assemble the required company and product documentation [see the application packet and program templates] and submit your materials per the instructions in the Application Packet. If you have any questions about the process, please contact NPA at cyeo@npanational.org

How long does the certification process take?

Generally the certification process will take between 4-6 weeks once NPA has received ALL the required documentation necessary for the audit review. Complete transparency with NPA staff and providing the full documentation for each product and ingredient will facilitate the audit review and may shorten the time necessary to complete the certification.

What information do I have to submit for each product that I want to be certified?

The program Application Packet specifies what company, product and ingredient information must be submitted for natural certification. Company-specific information, such as the executive summary of the company’s organizational structure and the site quality summary, only needs to be submitted once. Product-specific information such as product labels, product processing information and/or manufacturing instruction, and quantitative formulas (raw material breakdown), are needed; additionally, for each ingredient: a complete composition statement, MSDS, tech/spec sheets, current COAs, natural source information, processing information/manufacturing instructions, must be submitted. NPA staff may request additional documentation to confirm natural sourcing of raw materials, processing of ingredients or master batch and manufacturing records.

If I have the same product in several different sizes, do I still have to pay a certification fee for each SKU of that product?

No; however you do need to submit documents for the different sizes to ensure that they are indeed the same formulation. Additionally, all product sizes maintain the original certification date and subsequent recertification date.

If I use multiple certified products in a kit or pack, do I still have to pay a certification fee for the kit/pack?

No; however you do need to submit documents for the different products to ensure that they are indeed the same formulation as the certified product. Additionally, the kit/pack would maintain the original certification date of the earliest certified product.

All my personal care products are natural. Can I get my company certified or do I still need to have each product certified?

The NPA Natural Certification for Personal Care Products is a product certification program, not a company certification program. Therefore, the program certifies products only and you must submit appropriate documentation for each personal care product you want to be certified Natural.

My operation is very small and the fees are too high, but my products would qualify for certification. Do you have a sliding or cheaper rate for small companies?

There is no quantity discount for the certification of multiple products through the NPA Natural Certification Program. The program fees cover both the cost of the audit review and licensing for the use of the logo for each product certified for two years. We understand your concern pertaining to the cost of the program, but keep in mind the value of natural certification to your company including the opportunity to have the Natural Seal on your certified products as well having your certified products listed on the Natural Seal website. There has been tremendous consumer outreach concerning this program, resulting in a lot of consumer recognition of the program seal and their confidence that a product bearing the NPA Natural Seal is in fact natural.

How do I know what raw materials and processes I can use?

Become familiar with the NPA Natural Standard and Allowed List of Processes and Illustrative Positive List of Ingredients to determine what ingredients and processes are allowed and prohibited.

What if my product has a natural ingredient in it that isn’t on the “Allowed” list?

The NPA Illustrative List is a good source of information as to whether or not ingredients are allowed, but is still illustrative. There are so many natural ingredients; it would be unrealistic to think we could list them all. Additionally, there are some ingredients on the Illustrative List that can be found both naturally and synthetically; only the natural version would be allowed for NPA certified products. The deciding factor as to whether ingredients will or will not be allowed in the Natural Standard is whether you have documentation that supports the raw materials are naturally sourced and the ingredient is processed within the allowed processes. If you have a question about a specific ingredient that is not on the Illustrative List or in the Natural Standard under the “Prohibited” section, please contact NPA at cyeo@npanational.org

An ingredient in my formulation was considered prohibited even though it is on the Illustrative Positive List of ingredients, why did this happen?

The NPA Illustrative Positive List of ingredients is a good source of information as to whether or not ingredients are allowed, but there are many ingredients on the Illustrative List that can be found both naturally and synthetically. Additionally, some ingredients have processing steps that can prohibit it from the Natural Standard. This is why all ingredients used in a product formulation require the proper documentation before the application is sent to the auditor for review.

Do you have a separate list of the “Allowed Synthetics?”

The Natural Standard includes an illustrative list of the allowed synthetics. If you have additional questions on which synthetic ingredients are allowed, please contact NPA at cyeo@npanational.org

Does NPA have a certification program for natural home care cleaning products?

Yes, the Natural Standard for Home Care Products was launched in February 2010.

I am not a U.S.-based business. Can I get my products certified?

Yes, if your company and products meet the criteria for natural certification we will certify your products through the NPA Natural Certification Program for Personal Care Products.