The challenges of certifying organic colour cosmetics

Continuing our celebration of Organic September, Georgia Barnes – Head of Business Development: Beauty & Wellbeing, Fashion & Textiles for the Soil Association and Paige Tracey - Business Development and Marketing Officer join forces to explain why it is harder to fill our make-up kits with certified organic colour cosmetics than it is with skincare.


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While there is a vast range of certified organic skincare to choose from, with the Soil Association listing over 80 of the skincare brands they certify on their website, certified organic colour cosmetics such as eyeshadow, lipstick and mascara are much fewer in number. Certifying these items to Organic standards can be much more difficult for several reasons.

Put simply, the colourants that are conventionally used in these products are prohibited in organic standards, such as dyes that are formed from petrochemicals. Conventional colour cosmetics can also use synthetic ingredients for texture and structure including paraffin, silicone and microplastics like acrylic copolymers. Microplastics are also needed to create waterproof mascaras; as a result, there are not currently any on the market that are certified as organic. While there are thousands of organic ingredients that can go into providing high quality skincare, those that are suitable for colour cosmetics are more limited.

Mineral Pigments

One alternative colourant that can be used under organic standards is iron oxides. These are naturally occurring minerals that do, however, contain heavy metals, which means the use of harsh chemicals is often needed to extract them. As a result, only 5 iron oxides are permitted under COSMOS Standards, and with certain percentage limitations. Other minerals such as zinc oxides and titanium dioxide are also limited because of their extraction methods and health and environmental hazards that are associated with them.

Organic colourants

There are organic colourants available such as beetroot and carrot extracts, saffron and turmeric. However, these are water soluble, which impacts the brightness and continuity of the colour and means a lot of raw material is needed to get the desired colour effect, affecting the product texture. As a result, experimentation is often needed to make them suitable for use in cosmetics.


While there are technical challenges involved in formulating organic colour cosmetics, some brands have found a way forward. Odylique has a full range of lipsticks, mascaras, eyeliners, and eyeshadows that are certified organic by The Soil Association. Managing Director Abi explains that their products are made with a mixture of “organic plants extracted as oils, butters, powders or waxes… pure minerals like iron oxides, and sometimes natural plant dyes.” To comply with organic standards, they only use minerals that have clean extraction methods of a guaranteed purity grade, and that come from certified ethical sources. This includes the zinc oxide found in their concealer, which is “antibacterial” and “actively helps spots go away”.

Abi believes that their certified organic range “reinvents the concept of makeup in that [by being certified as organic] the product can become both a decorative tool and beneficial skincare item in one. In Odylique makeup, we put at least 7 botanicals and other natural ingredients that actively care for the skin all day long.”

Odylique’s formulations are suitable for people with sensitive skin, because they don’t contain the synthetic ingredients found in conventional makeup, and reduce the toxic load one would typically absorb from makeup over a lifetime- e.g. by inadvertently licking off lipstick. The company continues to innovate new certified organic products in this space; after much trial and error, they will be releasing a BB Cream/ Foundation soon. Abi believes having the COSMOS Organic certification for their range is crucial because “it gives consumers an independent guarantee that what they are buying is really organic” and also guarantees that animal testing and the use of animal by products that are often found in conventional cosmetics are prohibited.

Manufacturers continue to innovate new ways of bringing out the best that nature can offer, with businesses and products being certified with us regularly. Abi from Odylique continues:

“There is a lot of trial and error involved and very often it’s a combination of natural ingredients. It’s taken us several years to develop a good BB cream / foundation but we are launching one soon…”

Watch this space!


Certifying Colour Prodcts nd costmetics presents a variety of challenges that are not impossible to overcome, but currently post a distinctive set of problems that the beauty industry and technology must tackle to make the task simpler.

Find out more

 Click here to learn more about other Soil Association Brands.

Click here to learn more about Odylique’s lipstick and concealer  

Our CBU Approved Brand Directory is also a great place to find in-depth detail about brands and their certifications.

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