As I noted earlier in this Leaf Score series on shaving, shaving products are not subject to particularly stringent regulation in the U.S., meaning that the onus is on individual companies to seek out certifications for safety and sustainability. Thankfully, a few companies do just that.
If you’re interested in the kinds of toxic chemicals commonly found in shaving creams, oils, gels, foams, and more, I’ve covered that here. I’ve also looked at The Environmental Impact of Shaving, and talked about Alternatives to Toxic Shaving Products.
In this article, I’ll offer a quick summary of some of the key certifications to look out for when buying shaving products. These mainly apply to the things you yourself apply to your face, rather than blades, razors, brushes and so forth.
That said, when looking for an eco-friendly shaving brush, you might want to keep an eye out for wooden handles using wood with FSC certification. This is the Forest Stewardship Council seal of approval and means that the wood is sourced sustainably. As far as I can tell, only one shaving brush has this certification: The Body Shop’s Shaving Brush made with Russian birch wood.
As for other shaving products that are made with non-toxic, safe and natural ingredients, one of the main certifications to look for is USDA-certified organic. This means the ingredients used in the product have been grown without the use of herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides. If it just says ‘organic’ or ‘natural’, this is not certified organic and is more likely to contain these toxins.
More obscure shaving product certifications
The following certifications are a little less common, but worth looking for and asking companies about.
Oregon Tilth Certified Organic (OTCO)
Established in 1974, Oregon Tilth is a leading non-profit organic certifier in the U.S. They helped shape the standards for the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, launch sustainability programs, and help promote innovation in organic standards and practices. If a product is labeled with OTCO, it means that the ingredients are certified organic to USDA standards.
The SOIL ASSOCIATION
The UK’s leading organic certification organization, the Soil Association promotes sustainable food and farming through the use of local, seasonal and organic systems.
ICEA (The Ethical and Environmental Certification Institute) certification
The ICEA inspects and certifies firms respectful of the environment, workers’ dignity and collective rights. This organization is one of the most prominent inspection and certification bodies in the field of sustainable development.
SA 8000 (Social Accountability)
While not a certification as such, SA8000 is a social accountability standard for decent working conditions, based on global workplace norms of the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Nordic Ecolabel isn’t very common in the US, but some products also sold in Europe may carry this label. The certification shows that a product and/or company promotes a more sustainable consumerism with the goal of creating a sustainable society.
Certified B Corporation
As a big old pragmatist and the daughter of an economist, I’m a big fan of B Corporations. That’s because B Corps are companies certified as using the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. It is to business what Fair Trade certification is to coffee or USDA Organic certification is to corn.
Certification as a B Corp helps demonstrate an adherence to rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency, including how a company’s practices and products impact employees, community, the environment, and customers.
Companies that join the “Caring Consumer” program of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) demonstrate a degree of commitment to animal welfare. PETA are a leading international animal rights advocacy organization who certify of a company that, “neither they nor their ingredient suppliers conduct or commission any animal tests on ingredients, formulations or finished products, and that they pledge not to do so in the future.”
As a vegan, I know all too well that PETA don’t have the best track record for ethics, given that they arguably exploit women in their marketing campaigns, aren’t receptive to critical feedback, and have led some pretty sketchy animal rights actions over the years. They also endorse products that are vegetarian but not vegan, which is odd coming from an organization that claims to be the voice of animals.
Leaping Bunny is a much better organization for recognizing companies that take steps to support the welfare of all animals. Products bearing the Leaping Bunny mark are certified cruelty-free under the Humane Household Products Standard, managed in the US and Canada by the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. This is a coalition of eight national animal protection groups and participating companies are independently audited to check for adherence to the program throughout the supply chain.
Some reusable products sold in the US state that they are ISO-certified, which is misleading at worst and incorrect at best. There is no ISO certification as such. Rather, the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) creates standards which are then used by other organizations to confer certification. ISO management systems are recognized and practiced in over 160 countries around the world.
Relevant standards for reusable shaving products
Here are a few other standards that apply to reusable products:
ISO-10993, Biological Evaluation of Medical Devices Part-1: Evaluation and Testing (for repeat use devices–30 days or more– in contact with skin/mucosal membrane surface)
ISO 13485:2003 Certification, the Quality Standard Management System for medical devices – required by Health Canada for all medical device manufacturers worldwide.
ISO-10993 certification is not necessary for a product to get FDA approval. So, while ‘ISO-certified’ can sound good, it doesn’t always mean much, although it is nice to have.
If you spot products with these certifications, or that meet the standards mentioned above, snap them up; they’re few and far between. Organic standards are the ones you’re most likely to encounter, but don’t be fooled by products that have one or two organic ingredients but a whole raft of toxic chemicals too.
To give you a head start, I’ve rounded up some of the best Companies to Consider for Eco-Friendly, Non-Toxic Shaving Products, with links to product reviews from there.