What is IS0 16128?

The issues with certifying bodies

There have been a number of certifying bodies popping up in recent years – such as Ecocert, NaTrue, and COSMOS, just to name a few – in an attempt to add some clarity and assurance around natural and organic claims. The problem with these is that they all apply different standards and limitations so there’s no consensus, and not many are globally recognised. In addition, some of these restrictions are based on weak or flawed science. For example, parabens are on many exclusion lists, but there is no evidence that parabens, when used at low levels in cosmetics, are in any way harmful to humans. {Parabens} In fact, parabens were recognised as the ‘Non Allergen of the Year’ in 2019 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, an announcement that is at odds with the messaging from these types of certifying bodies.

Luckily, there is one type of standard – ISO – that is internationally recognised, based on rigorous science, and agreed to by experts. Tick, tick, tick! When it comes to ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ claims, one ISO standard in particular – ISO 16128 – is designed to set a universal framework, and puts a simple, easy to understand number to natural and organic claims, without placing unnecessary restrictions in the way of good science.

What is ISO 16128

While ISO 16128 certainly isn’t the catchiest name, it carries a lot of weight.

ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, which is an independent, non-governmental group comprising of 165 national standards bodies from around the world. There are ISO standards to cover everything from food safety, to environmental protection, to technology, even the way your sunscreen is tested, and each of these is developed over several years by people who are experts in the subject.

Consumer protection groups have long been calling for a globally recognised standard that applies to cosmetic ‘natural’ and ‘organic’ claims, so ISO 16128 is a very welcome (if a touch overdue) addition to the world of cosmetic labelling.

ISO 16128 outlines a way of calculating the natural content of ingredients, where each raw material is given a score between 0 and 1 – this is called the Natural Index. A score of 0 means it is completely synthetic, while 1 means it is of completely natural origin. Each of these indices are then multiplied by the concentration of that ingredient in the formulation, and then added together, giving a total score out of 100%.

Need an example? Let’s consider a simple cosmetic product with the following ingredients and natural indices:


Therefore, the naturally derived content of this formulation would be 86.5%.

This tool is simple enough to be easily used and understood, yet rigorous enough in its design to provide assurances about the accuracy of a product’s natural or organic claims.

etch&ethos natural content

Our hardworking Research & Development team have formulated the etch&ethos range to ensure that there’s a very high amount of naturally derived ingredients, whilst still maintaining the high standards and functionality expected from Ego products – that’s something we’ll never compromise on!

etch&ethos cleansers

etch&ethos lotions