What Do “Cruelty-Free,” “Organic,” and “Natural” Labels Actually Mean?

What Do “Cruelty-Free,” “Organic,” and “Natural” Labels Actually Mean?

Many period products are labeled as “organic,” “eco-friendly,” or “cruelty-free.” The labels correspond with the boom of the organic personal care product market, which is expected to grow 9.5% by 2025 in the United States alone. In recent years, as much as 85% of consumers have been leaning more towards sustainable products in general. 

That said, there is still some confusion as to what lies behind testing and certifying these “green” products. However, there are some ways to decipher period product labeling and choose what fits best for each eco-conscious buyer. 

The nuances of cruelty-free testing

In the European Union, testing cosmetic products has been prohibited since 2013, when 40 countries committed to following the National Cosmetic Testing Ban regulations. However, some countries outside the EU still allow animal testing. Studies suggest that the U.S. alone uses around 100M animals, specifically mice and rats, for tests per year.

Although materials for cosmetic goods need to be tested for any toxicity and harmful reactions, novel methods of cruelty-free testing have already been developed to avoid endangering any animals. To identify that no animals have suffered in making the product, consumers should look for the “Leaping Bunny” or any vegan-related certificate. 

Speaking of alternative options for testing cosmetic products, one of the cruelty-free testing means is the in-vitro method. It is performed in testing tubes, without the need for living organisms and screens materials for any toxins as well as determines whether the ingredients can cause skin or eye irritation. The method itself involves a range of laboratory tests performed on cells or models of human skin rather than on testing subjects, such as animals or people.

Another frequent cruelty-free testing method is finding willing human participants to do self-patch tests. This method helps to determine whether the materials used in the product can cause any allergies. 

Do eco-friendly and natural labels equal “safe”?

With more brands going the green route, some labels, such as ISO 14001 standard, which indicates that the product has been manufactured in compliance with the environmental protection regulations, do not confirm that the product is also safe for health. Therefore, people who menstruate should look for other certificates that prove to be good for both health and the environment—Oeko-Tex, GOTS, and others.  

Also, all brands’ claims that a product is “natural” should be taken with a grain of salt, as the word itself does not mean anything, and “natural” does not always equal “safe.” 

People who menstruate should keep in mind that only personal hygiene goods with recognized certificates will not wreak havoc on one’s intimate health. For instance, products might be labeled as “natural,” but the cotton used for them might have been sourced from non-organic farms, which use pesticides and fungicides.

Therefore it is worth choosing items that have labels  “organic”, “eco-certified,” or those provided by Oeko-Tex, GOTS, ICEA, USDA, EU leaf, Nordic Swan, or any other nationally-recognized authorities. When in doubt, it’s also a good idea to simply ask the manufacturers straight up whether they have renewed their certificates and if the testing for product safety has been done.

Organic materials might be a better choice for intimate areas

Organic and hypoallergenic materials are actually the most beneficial for intimate areas, which are more delicate and sensitive. Moreover, intimate hygiene products like pads and liners should not contain fragrances, dyes, chlorine-bleached materials since they can contain formaldehyde, heavy metals, phenols, phthalates, and other harmful chemicals. Even the absorbent layer can contain toxic substances, which is why it is so important to choose organic, eco-certified alternatives.

It is also recommended to switch period products if any side reactions, such as irritation or rash, are noticed. In more severe cases—pains or allergic reactions—it is better to contact medical specialists to more accurately determine the cause of health problems.

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