Beauty buzzwords are nothing new. Companies and marketers have been throwing these terms around for decades, most with the sole purpose of selling their revolutionary, innovative and ground-breaking product to you, the ever wise consumer. Some buzz words make sense and are actually truthful. Others only insinuate or suggest a benefit without any backing scientific evidence.
In the natural beauty market, you’ll spot even more beauty buzzwords that are incorrectly used interchangeably, or don’t really explain anything. Others may sound obvious, but still confuse the average buyer.
Sustainability – According to the EPA, sustainability “calls for policies and strategies that meet society’s present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
The official definition is “of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged”. So, there’s no real definition, as it’s interpreted in many different ways.
In general, it refers to products that were made using techniques or ingredients that doesn’t destroy the source, and allows constant re-usability. Some people consider biodegradable products to be sustainable as well, or recyclable packaging.
Fair Trade – Fair Trade means “trade in which fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries”. When you participate in buying and thus supporting Fair Trade, you’re ensuring the farmers and producers of the ingredients that form your products are paid a fair and livable wage. This can drive up the price of the goods, but it’s worth it for many consumers.
Transparency – In the natural beauty industry, it simply means being completely and 100% honest, accountable and open about one’s practicies, mission, and most importantly, the ingredients in one’s products. Listing EVERYTHING, including the components of “fragrance”, means a company is transparent with it’s formulations. Beauty consumers who are more aware of what goes onto their bodies look for this aspect, so businesses should start to take note.
Natural – This is a big one. “Natural” is a vague term that can mean different things to different people. The term is unregulated and technically, anyone can throw the word around when describing their product. Here are the most common definitions:
Ingredients and products that are solely derived from nature or the Earth, like herbs, flowers, essential oils or other botanicals.
Anything not synthetic or created in a lab.
Any product or ingredient derived from nature that is unprocessed and without chemicals.
Organic - This term is constantly being misused. In general, “organic” refers to the conditions an ingredient or product was grown from. Officially it means “organic produce or ingredients that are grown without the use of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, genetically modified organisms, or ionizing radiation.” This term is also thrown around a lot since it’s tough to really prove. This is why consumers look for certification..
Certified Organic - Because a product or ingredient being claimed as “organic” just isn’t enough. Certification from organizations such as the USDA, ECOCERT, NSF and OASIS have requirements where a product must meet a certain percentage of organically grown ingredients before the business can claim the product itself as organic.
Each organization offer different thresholds, if any synthetics are allowed, and required minimum percentage of organic content, so it’s best to check each one separately to know what you’re getting into.
Australia Certified Organic (ACO)
Antioxidants – The best definition can be found at How Stuff Works and Phytochemicals.info: ”Antioxidants are nutrients (vitamins and minerals) as well as enzymes (proteins in your body that assist in chemical reactions). They protect our cells from damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are formed as part of our natural metabolism but also by environmental factors, including smoking, pesticides, pollution and radiation.”
The basic definition? Antioxidants are substances that fight, prevent and repair damage caused by harmful free radicals which come from the aforementioned, as well as UV rays. These free radicals are believed to contribute to illnesses, speed up the aging process, and interfere with our immune system. Most often found in fruits like berries, antioxidants are often included in natural beauty products. They’re good stuff!
Cruelty-free – It’s supposed to indicate that the ingredients and/or products were not tested on animals. This term is interchangeably used with “animal-friendly”. This term heavily preys upon the ethical and moral nature of consumers, especially those with a soft spot for animals. Because the term is normally meant for the final product, the ingredients could have been tested on animals.
However, this has recently made the news due to several beauty companies being called out for testing on animals, such as Avon and Estee Lauder. Because there’s no legal definition of the term “cruelty-free”, the ingredients used or the manufacturing of the product could have involved some animal testing. Recently, university researchers have challenged law makers to finally define the term “cruelty-free” to protect consumers.
(ingredient)-free - This could be anything. Paraben, phthalate, formaldehyde, preservative, chemical, synthetic – anything could be tacked in front of the word “-free” to indicate that the ingredient in question is absent from the final product. This is tricky, though – a company claiming to be preservative-free may use GSE or Vitamin E, so while they’re not official preservatives, they serve as a preservative.
Companies claiming to be chemical-free can also be misleading, as there is no single definition of the word. Normally, they mean anything derived solely from a lab. A company that clarifies it, such as “no chemical preservatives”, is much better.
Vegan - This is straightforward. A vegan beauty product contains no animal by-products. Milk, beeswax, honey and even lanolin would not be considered vegan. Vegan products are normally not tested on animals, either.
Green – Another term with a broad definition. A “green” beauty product just means it’s environmentally friendly in some way. It normally refers to the recyclable or post-consumer packaging, since it wouldn’t harm the Earth in any way. This term can also extend to the product’s ingredients and can be used interchangeably with “natural’, and even “organic”.
Greenwash – This is when a beauty business (or any business, really) gives off the impression via labeling, package design, marketing terms or even colors that they’re green and environmentally friendly. Oftentimes, they are not. They could say stuff like “Made with Ingredients derived from coconuts and lavender” with a picture of said coconut, along with a green bottle and flowy typography. At first glance, the product looks natural and safe, right?
Not so fast – always read the ingredients so you know exactly what you’re getting into.
DIY - An acronym for “do it yourself”.
Eco-Friendly - About the same as “Green”, eco, short for ecological, means any product that is friendly to the environment in some way. The “official” definition is “are terms used to refer to goods and services, laws, guidelines and policies claimed to inflict minimal or no harm on the environment.”
Holistic – In the natural beauty industry, the term holistic is defined as “the practice of applying natural methods of wellness and treatments for the mind, body and spirit of the whole patient, and addresses the social, emotional, and spiritual needs of a patient as well as their physical treatment.” Often used with aromatherapy and traditional methods of treatment or beauty related practices. Also used interchangeably with “alternative medicine”.
Patent Pending - Simply defined as “a warning that inventors are entitled to use in reference to their product or process once a patent application has been filed, but prior to the patent being issued or the application abandoned. The marking serves to notify potential infringers who would copy the invention that they may be liable for damages (including back-dated royalties), seizure, and injunction once a patent is issued.”
So, if a particular technique or cocktail of ingredients are patent pending, it means no one else can copy the invention. Doing do puts them at risk for getting sued.
Botanical – Usually means anything plant, flower or herb related. Derived from the term “botany”, or the study of plants.
Did you find this article useful? Others would too! Let’s spread the word and make sure we all know what these often confusing buzzwords actually mean, and decide whether it’s worth investigating or doing additional research on BEFORE spending money on a beauty product.
Source: Garden of Beauty