All About Organic
When it comes to organic there’s a lot of important information to unpack. What does it mean for a product to be organic? How do organic standards apply to soap and skincare products, and how do consumers distinguish true organic from organic claims?
Three Levels of Organic Certification
The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) has set the global standard for what makes a product organic. Within the NOP, there are three levels of organic certification. Classification within these levels is based on the percentage of a product’s organic ingredients vs. total ingredients, not counting water or salt. Here are the three organic levels defined:
Exactly what the name says. Dried organic herbs are a perfect example.
Products in this category contain a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. It’s usually a small amount of a natural preservative or processing aid that keeps them from reaching 100%. Many fixed oils (such as coconut oil) contain a trace amount of citric acid to increase their shelf life. Any trace ingredients must conform to the USDA’s list of ingredients approved for use in organic products. Both the “100% Organic” and “Organic”categories are allowed to display the USDA organic logo.
“Made with Organic”
Products in this category contain a minimum of 70% organic content, but don’t reach the 95% mark. The USDA has set 70% as the minimum percentage a product can have and still use “organic” in its labels and marketing. For consumers, this is the most important category to understand, since it’s often the one most misrepresented and the one most improperly marketed. This is especially true for soap and skincare.
Organic Levels and Soap
Soap is the result of a chemical reaction between oils and lye (sodium hydroxide or potassium hydroxide). Lye, by the way, is approved by USDA as an ingredient in organic products. Because of this, soap can never reach the 95% threshold and will always fall in the Made with Organic category.
Perhaps you've seen liquid soap claiming to be 95% organic. In these products, the water in the liquid soap has been replaced by organic aloe or organic fruit juice. The soap molecules themselves are not "more organic." Rather, the overall solution hits the 95% mark because the soap itself is floating around in organic liquid. At Botanie, our position is that is a gimmick. If the water is pure, replacing it with juice or aloe is unnecessary cost and nothing is gained by it.
Meeting organic standards isn’t easy and making products that qualify for organic certification isn’t cheap. Which is why it’s important to verify if a company’s products are certified organic or if their labels and marketing are simply using the word organic to cash in on its popularity. There’s only one organic proof – certification according to USDA standards.
At Botanie, our bar soaps are 84-85% organic depending on the blend. Our liquid soaps are 80-82% organic.
NSF / ANSI 305
In addition to USDA NOP, there is another organic standard: NSF / ANSI 305. At Botanie, we also carry NSF / ANSI 305 Made with Organic certification for our bar soap and liquid soap.
What's the difference? NSF / ANSI 305 is an organic certification standard specifically for personal care products. Like the USDA NOP, it has a category called "Made with Organic" for products with organic content above 70%. Like the USDA NOP, this certification process is a rigorous review of all ingredients, sourcing, manufacturing, and record keeping.
“NSF/ANSI 305 products make use of organic agricultural ingredients and non-GMO ingredients, provide assurances that manufacturing and storage is free from contamination or commingling, require quality record keeping to ensure traceability of ingredients, and only use environmentally benign processing methods for non-organic ingredients.”
Some industries and sales channels prefer USDA NOP. Some prefer NSF ANSI 305. We carry both so that you are covered wherever you sell.