A Complete Guide To Cosmetic Terminology

cosmetic terminology

If you are new to makeup or even have been doing it for ages, the new terminology of the cosmetic and skincare brands have been a cause of great confusion. Some say clean, some says vegan, some says cruelty-free, some says green, they might seem to have a similar meaning but that is absolutely wrong! They all have very different meanings to them. Today’s cosmetic terminology is vast and we do not know the exact meaning of it.

Buzzwords have often used the brands to market the products, and one could think this terminology used by the brands is another attempt to do so. However, that is not the case. They do have a meaning and brands have to comply with it. When any brand mentions these terms they have to prove it too. For example- brands need PETA approval to have cruelty free claims written on the label. That is why learning the terminology is important.

What seems to be a marketing strategy of many brands is actually quite an informative terminology. Every term has its significance and when a brand mentions one of these on their websites or labels they are talking about that thing in particular. It can be very confusing initially but once you know it, you have an exact idea of what message is the brand is trying to convey to you.

As people are becoming more and more aware of the environmental damages and animal cruelty, they are getting more concerned about their choices. They are checking every ingredient listed on the label. This has led them to pick up products that are not just safe for use on the human skin but also safe for the environment and animals. Brands have understood the shift in lifestyle and are trying to incorporate these new changes into their products. That is one big reason we see a high spike in the use of these terms.

The FDA has yet to regulate how brands can use these words. Definitions are subjective and often change from company to company, package to package.

This article will help you understand the cosmetic terminology used by makeup and skincare brands for better understanding and clarity.

cosmetic terminology

1. Vegan Beauty

Veganism is a lifestyle. When people sign up for veganism, they live a plant-based life. In this, they not only stop eating meat but also stop using any product which is made up of animal by-products including skin and fur. The product does not contain any ingredient sourced directly or indirectly from the animals if it is marked vegan.

Ingredients like honey, wax, tallow and lanolin are non-vegan products. However, vegan can be oftentimes confused with clean and cruelty-free. 

Vegan products may have a chance of containing ingredients that are not sourced organically or naturally. The production of which is also harmful to our environment and animals. Clean beauty is different and discussed below. A product can be vegan and still contain chemical ingredients in it.  

Although vegan products are not made of animal products, however, vegan does not guarantee that the product is not tested on animals.

2. Cruelty-free 

Cruelty-free is one of the labellings which every animal lover sees first. When no animal testing is done during any process of making a product, then it is labelled as cruelty-free. A cruelty-free feels and sounds a lot like a vegan but again they are different. A cruelty-free product might not be vegan and a vegan product might not be cruelty-free. 

As per the cosmetic terminology, a product may not have been tested on animals but could have ingredients sourced from animals. Therefore, cruelty-free shouldn’t be confused with veganism. 

3. Clean Beauty

When you read ‘clean’ on the label, it simply means that the product is manufactured keeping human and environmental health concerns in mind. Using non-toxic and plant-based ingredients which are safe for human use and environmental health is the main idea behind clean products.  Clean beauty or skincare products prefer to use natural ingredients but they still use some synthetic ingredients which are regarded as safe to use for both humans and the environment.   

4. Green Beauty

Green is often confused with vegan but they are not the same. A green product is eco-friendly and made up of a formula with consists of ingredients that are 100% natural. Since the aim is to be totally green, the packaging included in this is supposed to be eco-friendly and biodegradable. It is an umbrella term for any product that claims to protect the resources of the Earth. There is no 100% accurate definition available to this term yet. 

5. Organic Beauty

Labelling of ‘organic’ is dependent on how the ingredients used in the products are farmed. When an ingredient is farmed, to call it organic it should not have been cultivated with the use of pesticides, sulfates, chemical fertilizers and other toxic chemicals. However, the labelling of organic does not ensure that the product contains all the safe substances in it. Some plants are naturally toxic or allergenic even if they are grown organically. Organic doesn’t guarantee safety. To avoid pesticides, the clean beauty industry has initiated the use of organic, plant-based ingredients in products wherever possible. 

6. Non-Toxic 

Labelling of non-toxic as an in-depth meaning. It means that no ingredient used in the formulation of the product is toxic. But it just does not stop there, it also means that the formula derived after mixing the ingredients in different percentages doesn’t show any adverse sign of health risk. For instance, oxygen and water are two non-toxic ingredients but if mixed in the wrong proportions could lead to a toxic product.

Similarly in the formulation of makeup and skincare products, two non-toxic chemicals shouldn’t be producing a toxic product. When two safe chemicals combine it should be safe to use and it is labelled as non-toxic. 

7. Sustainable 

When any product mentions that it is ‘sustainable’ on the label it means that the is formulated and sourced in a way that isn’t harmful to the environment. Sustainable beauty products have packaging that is sustainable in nature too.

Sustainable goes hand in hand with green. A truly sustainable product has ingredients are that are ethically sourced and proven to be safe for the environment. Sustainable or no-waste packaging is defined as glass packaging, biodegradable packaging, post-consumer recycled packaging, or the ability to recycle empty bottles appropriately. Recyclable or reusable packaging is one of the ways of making the product sustainable

We hope we have cleared the doubts you have over the cosmetic terminology used by the brands these days. These terms often sound like they have a similar meaning and causes a lot of confusion. We tried to clear that confusion by defining these terms in the best way possible. Now when you see a label of your favourite product, you’ll know what the brand essentially trying to say. It’s not a marketing ploy, these words do hold meaning.