Navigating the World of Private Label Organic Cosmetics

When looking for a private label manufacturer for your organic cosmetics line, things can get a little tricky. I’m going to tell you some bad news – and some goods news! – today, so hold onto your seats.

First, let’s start with the basics – terminology – to make sure we’re all on the same page before we dive in any further.

If you already know all this and you're just looking for a manufacturer, contact us to get a quote on custom or private label organic formulations for your cosmetic or skincare line today!

 

What is “Organic”?

First of all, not many manufacturers create organic cosmetic lines. Organic Skincare? Sure! But organic cosmetics? Not so much. Why?

For many, “organic” automatically means better or healthier, but for cosmetic manufacturers, “organic” sounds like “this is going to be a tricky project”. Okay.. but, why?

Any chemist will tell you that organic does not necessarily mean better. Organic is not necessarily easy to work with. Organic is not necessarily safe for skin. Organic is limiting – and not in a good way.

What does organic truly mean? 

Organic is a great marketing buzzword. It automatically conveys safety to consumers, but that’s not what it means. Lots of things are “organic” that can burn your skin off. (Eek!)

Organic Products, as defined by the USDA, means that the components inside are 70% organic or more. To be certified organic, the ingredient (flower / plant) has to be grown in accordance with USDA organic procedures, which means no pesticides or other "prohibited substance" can be applied to the ground for this year and the 3 prior. The procedures also includes sustainable practices to maintain the integrity of the soil (e.g. plants around the perimeter to reduce runoff / soil erosion) (source). 

Side note: these requirements are much easier for smaller farms than larger ones, as small farms don't have to become certified to qualify as organic - I would know. I used to grow organic ingredients on my farm and process them for my beauty brand, Amalie Beauty. It may pay to work with local farmers for ingredients. More about exemption here.

For your product to qualify as organic, it must have 70% or more organic ingredients inside.

 

What Cosmetics and Skincare Items can be made Organic?

For cosmetics, “organic” can make it very difficult to deal. You can choose organic pigments (limiting) with organic bases (limiting). The end product might not necessarily be what you want. You are not able to make everything, and make it organic.

Let's see what we can make organic and what can't be made organic.

Cosmetics that CAN be made organic:

  • Loose eyeshadows

  • Pressed Pan Eyeshadows (with organic solvent)

  • Lip Oil

  • Blush (Pressed or Loose)

  • Some Highlighters (Pressed, Loose, Balm, Liquid)

  • Lip Balm

  • Lipstick

  • Some brow products

  • Maybe mascara

  • Foundation (liquid, some powders, some creams)

  • Cream/stick blush/bronzer/concealer

Additionally:

  • Some face creams

  • Face Oils

  • Some eye creams

  • Some cleansers

  • Sunscreen

What Cannot Be Made Organic - not easily or not at all:

  • Matte liquid lipstick

  • Lipgloss

There’s just only so many makeup items you can make truly organic. 

This is why there’s so few organic makeup manufacturers period, let alone private label ones.

My Suggestion? We can make better, “non-toxic” choices for our skin by choosing ingredients that are not harmful to the body. You can look at the EWG reports to see how harmful an ingredient may or may not be. Set standards around the toxicity of ingredients – not the organic-ness of them.

Think long and hard about what standards you want to set for your products and formulations before starting. You may be asking for impossible standards without even knowing it. That could end up costing a lot $$ in the lab, without any tangible results (oof!).

 

How Can I Know For Sure That My Products are Organic?

Unfortunately, it’s hard to know what you’re really getting. The ingredients may be defined as organic in their original packaging, but once they’re out of the packaging – who knows?! There’s no set way to test whether something is organic; you just have to trust the packaging and the manufacturer.

Further, “organic” is defined by the country that you’re doing business in. If you have US company, but you work with a Chinese factory that sources ingredients from China, your “organic status” is up to the Chinese laws. You can’t say with certainty that your product is organic once it comes back to the US. In the US, the USDA regulates what is “organic”.  That’s what matters to your US company and consumers. 

For this reason, I simply would not suggest working with a manufacturer in China for your organic cosmetic or skincare line. What China deems organic may not be in the US, and if you’re not there to see all the ingredients and their packaging (not to mention the seller of the ingredients) how can you be sure that your product is organic? Again, you can test to see what ingredients were used, but there’s no way to test if the ingredients are organic or not. This boils down to trust.

(See also - 80% of organic imports from China refused at US border)

Work with a manufacturer that you trust. If you don’t (yet – at least I hope this is a temporary thing), most of the time, you can send your ingredients to them, so that you’re sure of their organic-ness. Just be aware that when you source the ingredients, you often take on some liability that you may not otherwise own.

For example, if anything goes wrong due to an ingredient being altered, or otherwise different in some way (viscosity, color, batch, etc) from the original sampling, then all of the liability falls on you. Any errors like this will render your batch utterly useless. You’ll have to throw it away and start over. Believe me – I’ve been there, on your side of it. It was not fun.

For this reason, as a manufacturer, I allow clients to send me their ingredients. It’s sometimes 10-15% cheaper for them to do so, but they take on a huge risk in the process. When I was a brand owner, after my first slip up, I just let my labs source ingredients for me.

It’s up to you and only you to decide how to run your business.

The final thing you should ask about is the facility's organic certification - whether they've gone through the process with the USDA or not, and if not, why not? Are they exempt? Are they only making label claims but not seals? 

Review the USDA's fact sheet on organic certification for businesses to understand the process completely, so that you can know the best questions to ask and what is most important to you. If you don't plan on using the USDA seal, just claiming organic on your product or ingredient listing, perhaps certification (and the facility's costs associated with that, which will get passed onto you) don't matter so much. Do your homework, decide what's right for you, then do it. :)

 

Who Can I work With for Private Labeling my Organic Skincare Line?

And here we are again.

Organic. It means:

·      Comprised of 70% or more USDA organic ingredients

That’s it.

It doesn't mean it's healthier, performs better, or is any way technically better for consumers. 

Now that you know more about “organic” and what it means in terms or organic makeup or organic skincare, you can decide if you still want to make an organic skincare line.

Unfortunately, just choosing non-harmful ingredients doesn’t come with it’s own term. Natural or non-toxic are not regulated. Chemical-free isn’t technically correct. You just have to do your best to convey to consumers just how good and non-harmful your products are.

When you search for a private labeler, check the ingredients, be diligent, ask questions.

Make sure that every product you're ordering is in fact organic, if that's what you want.

Again, review the USDA organic fact sheet and decide what you really need for your business, then pursue it.

 

Work With Us to Make Your Private Label Organic Cosmetic or Skincare Line

At Genie Supply, we can work with you to make custom formulations for organic or natural skincare and cosmetics, including any of the options we listed above as possible to make organic.

If you’re ready to get started on your organic or natural cosmetics/skincare line, give us a call or drop a line to discuss. We’ll be here.