Pick up any product in your bathroom cabinet and you’re sure to find words on it that influenced your decision to buy it. Words like ‘dermatological tested’ ‘non comedogenic’ ‘natural’. These are terms that we have come to accept as meaning the product is good and we end up questioning less and sometimes only paying a cursory glance at the ingredient list.
But do you really know what those reassuringly sounding terms and symbols mean? Do they even mean anything tangible at all? I’ve put together a list of possible terms and symbols we find on product packaging to explain what they mean and delve a little deeper.
Whenever someone asks me ‘is this organic?’ I say ‘by who’s standards?’ Within the beauty and skincare industry there isn’t a standard definition of organic, so manufacturers are free to use the term as they please. However, any worth their salt makes some effort to establish that their claim is true. There are many different types of organic certifications, so you have to be clued up on which one a product claims to have followed. There’s UK, EU, US and Australian certifications – Ecocert (France), Soil Association (UK), COSMOS (EU), NOP (US), NATRUE (international), BDIH (Germany), BioForum (Belgium) to name a few. There’s many more. Hopefully one day there will be ONE set of worldwide guideline. Somehow though, the cynic in me says our confusion means the till ring louder.
This can be misconstrued that everything in the jar is natural. Straight from the ground. Hardly. It may have been natural when it was pull out of the ground, but to get it into the container, it would have undergone some processing or modification. Not so natural now, eh? Natural is another label that has no official guidelines for use. There only needs to be one natural ingredient in a product for the manufacturer to be able to claim the product is natural. Plus there are so many natural products that aren’t good for you.
A term that’s supposed to reassure but when you dig deeper you realise it could mean nothing at all to you. This is the manufacturer trying to tell you they’ve tested the product on human skin and there wasn’t a reaction. They may have well done a small sample test, but as there are no governing guidelines there is nothing to hold their results up against. You may just react to it as all skin is different.
This means a test was done to see if the product is irritable to the eye and surrounding area. On the test subject (s) there wasn’t any irritation but it doesn’t reveal anything about the efficacy of the product, nor whether you will have a reaction to it. It’s a cosy couple of words designed to make us feel reassured and part with our cash. I know I have used eye make up removers before that have stung my eyes so bad and left me questioning whether it was a human eye that was tested.
Your guess is as good as mine as to what it means. It’s a term that has been in use for decades and it comes very much from a marketing angle. It’s supposed to mean you are less likely to get a reaction from the product. With skin being so individual there’s no way of knowing who will react or not. It just gives a false sense of security.
Nothing beats patch testing in my book. If you’re unsure about the ingredients, especially in a new product you want to try, patch test a few several times if you have to.
This means the people who produce the raw material have been paid a fair price for their goods and effort. They haven’t been ripped off or forced to sell the raw produce for peanuts to a manufacturer who then goes on to unfairly make big bucks.
Generally this means that products doesn’t have any ingredients that are known to clog pores and cause comedones – whiteheads and blackheads. Generally it is aimed as a reassurance for people on the oilier or acneic side of the skin type scale. This is a good thing and a word I have a loose love for. The thing is new ingredients are being introduced all the time, so all of they have to be rigorously tested.
This means additional fragrances – synthetic or natural have not been added. You have to be careful with products that contain essentials oil though. They inadvertently add fragrance to a product and can cause skin irritation.
Well there you go, I’ve shed some light onto how confusing the skincare and cosmetic industry can be. The fact there is no one unifying guideline means that manufactures can claim pretty much anything about their product. A responsible manufacturer will make sure that whatever guideline they subscribe to, their product holds up against it.
As consumers we have to be sharp eyed, read ingredients list, patch test and ask questions direct from the manufacturer if we’re unsure. So many manufacturers, especially ones claiming organic and natural credentials make it easy for us to contact them either by phone or email, so no longer do you have to take any product claims at face value.