By  on August 10, 2007

Though the cosmetics industry is increasingly fond of the words "organic" and "natural," no standards currently exist for their use on items ranging from shampoos to eye shadows. For the time being, regulations in the U.S. require instead that beauty brands meet organic food guidelines.

If Jaclyn Bowen has her way, that will change—as soon as December. Bowen, a standards specialist at Ann Arbor, Mich.-based NSF International, has been overseeing the development of a U.S. organic beauty standard since 2004, when the beauty industry raised its hands in a collective surrender and approached her agency for guidance.

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NSF, which was at one time an acronym for National Sanitation Foundation, is now simply called NSF. It's a not-for-profit agency representing a spectrum of U.S. health interests, ranging from water safety to food equipment safety. Bowen says NSF got "lugged in" to the cause because it is a partner of Quality Assurance Institute, a subgroup of the National Organic Program under the USDA, which handles a majority of certifications for organic food products.

Bowen says members from many different beauty companies have had it "up to here" with the lack of regulation for organic beauty items. They are sick of products being touted as organic and natural while using parabens, sulfates and synthetics. They've had enough of consumer confusion and enough of not having a government-regulated standard that differentiates organic formulas from concoctions that haven't evolved within the past decade. Most of all, they've had enough of being behind the rest of the world—France, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the United Kingdom, for instance, all of which have had standards in place for years.

"A segment of the industry is not being regulated. Everyone's putting 'organic' on their products because no one is regulating against it," Bowen says. "As a standards group, we said, 'Let's see what we can do to create a level playing field for organic personal care.'"

Products such as Organix hair care and Aveeno Active Naturals that tout a natural or organic positioning but contain sulfates or petrolatum have given organic beauty makers a run for their money, say industry watchers.

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