Heading into the COSMOS

The COSMOS logo is popping up everywhere in bathrooms so you’d better get used to it. It was created just for the cosmetic and skincare industry and is recognised around the globe.

COSMOS is a certification that was developed by five European organic certifying bodies in leu of an organic accreditation that caters for cosmetics and skincare.

It’s not only loyal to organics – it has an organic and a natural scheme, which means you will see COSMOS Organic and COSMOS Natural logos on skincare and cosmetics. Not to be confused with other ‘natural‘ marketing.

What does COSMOS Organic mean?

  • Minimum of 20% organic ingredients including water and salt. Of the physically processed plant ingredients, 95% have to be certified organic. To compare, for food or drink to wear one of the Australian organic logos, they must have at least 95% certified organic ingredients. Most organic certifications exclude water and salt because, as naturally occurring substances, technically they can’t be classified as organic.
  • No animal testing
  • No nano materials
  • Strict factory environmental requirements
  • Maximum 0.9% GM content. European organic standards generally allow for accidental contamination of 0.9%
  • Annual audits.

The minimum requirements for organic ingredients is hard to swallow but consider how different cosmetics and shampoos are compared to food.

The complexity of beauty

Formulators have tough customers. We want conditioners and concealers that aren’t bad for our health or the environment and we want them to perform miracles like detangle our hair or hide spots.

Cosmetics and skincare need lots of ingredients to perform tasks that food doesn’t have to – moisturisers, emulsifiers, preservatives and minerals for colouring.

What does COSMOS Natural mean? 

It has the same rules as COSMOS Organic except that ingredients don’t have to be certified organic.

They do need to be from natural origins.

This means they’re sourced from vegetable, mineral or marine renewable sources. They can’t derive from GM or from synthetic chemical processing.

Why is Australian Certified Organic on the COSMOS logo?

It is not because the product meets the Australian Certified Organic Standard, it doesn’t. COSMOS relies on certification bodies around the world to assess products and approve them to the COSMOS standard.

The same for the Global Organic Textile Standard. Other certification bodies carry out assessments and inspections on its behalf.

COSMOS compared to other certifications 

COSMOS has come under criticism for being too relaxed. For good reason.

Sustainable Shopper has spoken to cosmetic formulators who, despite being certified to COSMOS, think it’s too lenient.

They’ve even refused to use some ingredients permitted by COSMOS because they don’t think they’re good for us.

On the other hand, we would rather buy a COSMOS product than one that didn’t have certification – at least you know a third party has checked the ingredients (which doesn’t happen in the conventional skincare and cosmetic industry).

If you’re an absolute purist, you would stick to products that wear an organic logo that’s based on a standard developed originally for food products (like Australian Certified Organic or NASAA).

This will give you the purist ingredients but it dramatically reduces your choices.

To COSMOS’s credit it does have stricter environmental requirements for factories and packaging. This is an excellent thing and something other standards could incorporate.

Enjoy venturing into the COSMOS!


New COSMOS logo

Since posting this story, Australian Certified Organic has asked its clients to use a new COSMOS logo which doesn’t include the words Australian Certified Organic (and hence give the impression the product has been certified to its strict standards – which it hasn’t).

Beauty and skincare companies printing new labels are now required to use one of the logos below which says ACO.

Unfortunately the bud symbol and the rectangle remain in this design, making it still closely resemble the same logo that appears on products that meet the more strict Australian Certified Organic standard. This could be confusing (and misleading) for shoppers who don’t recognise the difference.


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